Lower emission, fuel saving goal of Transport Canada program

Transport Canada’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Program evaluates safety, fuel economy, emissions, and market potential of advanced technology vehicles. The program challenges Transport Canada regulations that keep some of these vehicles off our roads and encourages the adoption of new technologies by manufacturers. More

by Craig M. Lee

Up for something really new in a car or truck?

There are whole categories of vehicles commonplace in Europe and Asia, but you can’t buy them in Canada. These incredibly fuel-efficient vehicles are brilliantly designed and enviro-friendly – and an absolute hoot to drive. Unfortunately, government regulations, cheap gas, a lack of awareness and timid marketing conspire to keep these vehicles from the Canadian market.

But things could change in coming months. The federal government is evaluating some of the best in new vehicle technologies from around the world. It wants to ensure that standards and regulations keep pace with technological advances so promising vehicles can enter the Canadian marketplace.

Lee and Hrobelsky
Craig M. Lee (L) and Lui Hrobelsky. Photo: John Neufeld, Transport Canada. Click image to enlarge

Lui Hrobelsky speaks for Transport Canada. He’s the department’s chief of energy and emissions engineering.

“There is a lot of innovation and imagination in the vehicle industry,” says Mr. Hrobelsky. “We want to be flexible enough in the regulations to accommodate designs that can help Canada in its fight for cleaner air and a better environment. And we want to provide levels of safety, emissions and fuel efficiency the public expects.”

To help, Mr. Hrobelsky’s team may develop different categories for vehicles. Soon, you might be able to choose a vehicle from a whole new menu of choices. And delicious choices they are, too. Here’s a sampling of what tomorrow may bring.

BMW C1 Executive


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Hop in, and I do mean “in,” to the BMW C1 motorcycle. Fire up its 125- or 175-cc Bombardier Rotax motor, with its three-way catalytic converter. Accelerate away using the clutchless, continuously variable transmission (CVT). You’re protected by a full roll cage and twin shoulder harnesses.

Oops! Forget your seat-belts? If that’s the case, the vehicle won’t go, so in Europe, no helmet is required. Rain blows right over and there’s even a sunroof! Ninety-eight-pound weaklings can park it — no problem. Just pull one lever and a two-legged stand drops down. Pull another lever and the front wheel lifts up, leaving the scooter perched on its stand. Simply amazing!

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ZEM pedal cycle


This four-wheeled Swiss-made marvel weighs next to nothing, yet transports four people in aerobic comfort. You steer from the left-rear position. To park in tight spaces, just lift it from the front to a vertical position. The ZEM has an aluminum chassis, four-wheel hydraulic disc brakes and comes pedal-only, or pedal-electric hybrid-powered. ZEM also markets a two-seater.

Honda Acty SDX mini dump truck

If I were an urban landscaper, I’d want this truck. You could transport equipment or an all-terrain vehicle and plough driveways. Load capacity in its fully hydraulic dump box is close to half a tonne. With full-time four-wheel-drive and air-conditioning, it’s in the Japanese “Kei” class of vehicles.

According to Mr. Hrobelsky, “It’s attraction is the utility you can get from an engine that small (three-cylinder, 660 cc, mounted amidships).”

SMART cabriolet


Julien Lee sitting in the SMART cabriolet
Julien Lee sitting in the SMART cabriolet. Photo: John Neufeld, Transport Canada. Click image to enlarge

The joyous SMART two-seater spins heads everywhere. You just want to hug it. Originated by Mercedes and the Swatch watch company, SMART stands for Swatch-Mercedes ART. A turbocharged 600-cc gasoline three-banger gives plenty of urge. The six-speed sequential-shift transmission can be left in fully auto mode. A mere 730 kilograms, it boasts tremendous structural integrity. SMARTs come loaded, with front and side air bags, power windows and top, remote keyless entry, air conditioning, antilock brakes, traction control and stability control. And the interior is simply wonderful. What colours!

Pickups, stretched four-seaters and two-seat sports cars are coming soon. We tested a turbo-diesel hardtop version and found it smooth and stable at 125 km/h.

Corbin Sparrow


Lee and MacIvor with Corbin Sparrow
Lee, Citizen photographer Rod MacIvor and the Corbin Sparrow. Photo: John Neufeld, Transport Canada. Click image to enlarge

Made in California, this polka-dotted cartoon of a vehicle is the entry-level vehicle for a whole lineup that includes a gorgeous Harley-Davidson-powered Merlin Roadster. Legal throughout the United States as a motorcycle, it reaches new levels of practicality but can’t be sold here, as there are no Canadian standards for three-wheeled enclosed motorcycles.

The Corbin seems quality-built, with Corvette taillights and dimpled fenders, like a golf ball, for aerodynamics. Mr. Hrobelsky has had it up to 115 km/h on the test track in the rain. All the while, he was cosy and dry.

Audi A2


Audi A2
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This gorgeous car brings A8 flagship-model quality and build technology to the masses in an exciting entry-level car. But not in Canada. Yet. Roomy and comfortable, its all-aluminum body, frame and brakes keep weight to a mere 855 kg. With a 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo-diesel, this may just be the first true 100 miles per (Imperial) gallon car sold in Canada (3 L/100 km).

Says John Neufeld, an automotive safety engineer at Transport Canada, “It costs $3.80 to go from Ottawa to Montreal in the A2.” On the road, it doesn’t feel anywhere near as small as it is. To check all fluids and fill the windshield washers, just tip down a clever little panel atop the grill. No need to lift the hood.

EV Global electric bicycle


Lee Iacocca’s latest venture builds this beauty. You can pedal it or use its electric motor, or both at the same time. It accelerates with verve to 25 km/h for a thrilling, clean-air ride. Ontario Provincial Police in Perth are testing one of Transport Canada’s EV bikes in full police kit for community patrol.

More to Come

If these amazing little vehicles catch your attention, consider what else is on the horizon. Transport Canada is testing a Mitsubishi Dion, Nissan Gloria, Nissan Sentra CA and Renault Megane, all with direct-injection gasoline engines.

The super-clean Sentra CA is already on sale in California where “clean” gasoline to fuel this car is available. The testers have a Civic and a big Ford F-150, both powered by factory engines using compressed natural gas (CNG). Direct-injection turbo-diesels from Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Audi and SMART, and electric vehicles from Nissan, Ford and Solectria, are also being put through their paces.

Other innovations under the microscope are engines that vary their valve timing, compression ratio and displacement – and that open and close their valves using electromagnetic and electrohydraulic actuation. Energy storage technology under review includes nickel-metal hydride and lithium polymer batteries, flywheels and ultra-capacitors.

Read more about Transport Canada’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Program

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