Ontario studying electric vehicles

TORONTO, ONTARIO - Ontario has commissioned an independent safety study of low-speed electric vehicles, but is not ready to follow Quebec and British Columbia in allowing the environmentally friendly cars and trucks on the province's roads, says Transportation Minister Jim Bradley.

The main concern is safety features, said Bradley: Low-speed electric vehicles meet only a handful of the 40 safety standards required by Transport Canada, and Ontario wants to determine exactly what safety features may be required on the nearly silent vehicles.

"I want to see low-speed electric vehicles on the roads," Bradley said in an interview. "We want to make sure it's done so safely."

Two manufacturers – Toronto-based Zenn cars and Quebec-based Nemo – had their electric cars approved for use on roads in Quebec with speed limits under 50 kilometres per hour earlier this month.

The electric cars, which have top speeds of 40 km/h, will have to be equipped with an orange triangle in Quebec marking them as a slower vehicle.

British Columbia passed legislation last month to allow the low-speed vehicles on roads up to 40 km/h, but included provisions allowing municipalities to enact bylaws to permit the smaller electric cars on higher speed roads.

But Bradley said Ontario wants to wait for its own study and the results of recent extensive testing by Transport Canada before clearing the low-speed electric vehicles, which currently are approved only for use in provincial parks by government workers.

"We would like to get into a position where we see the low-speed vehicles on roads once we determine the precise conditions that would make sense in Ontario, both in terms of safety, and where it would be logical to have them used," he said. "The message there is: I certainly want to see them used in Ontario."

Bradley said he hoped to have Ontario's evaluation of the vehicles completed within months. Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory said there's no reason the province can't get the cars on the road by September.

"Ontario is dragging its feet and throwing red tape and obstacles and studies in the way of doing something that's good for the environment and good for people," he said.

Zenn – which stands for zero emissions, no noise – boasts that its $16,000 cars can travel 50 to 80 kilometres on a single charge. The Nemo, a small pickup truck that can carry a half-tonne load, can travel up to 115 kilometres, also at a top speed of 40 kilometres an hour.


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