Quebec tests electric cars

QUEBEC CITY, QUEBEC - Low-speed electric cars will be allowed to travel on some Quebec roads as part of a pilot project to test the environmentally friendly vehicles, the government announced.

Electricity fuelled vehicles will be permitted to use roads where the maximum posted speed is 50 kilometres an hour, said Quebec Transport Minister Julie Boulet.

The goal is to test their viability and determine new traffic rules for their use, Boulet said.

The project also sends a clear signal to transport companies and manufacturers that "a serious interest for this type of technology and future products now exists in Quebec," she said in Quebec City.

Quebec produces two low-speed electric vehicles: the Zenn (Zero emission no noise), which has a maximum speed of 40 km/h, and the Nemo, an electric car.

The Zenn is manufactured in Saint-Jérôme, the Nemo in Sainte-Thérèse, north of Montreal.

Quebec's road security code was amended last fall to allow the vehicles to travel on public routes.

The Parti Québécois, which has said it wants to see the province lead the way in using and building electric cars, said the pilot project isn't ambitious enough.

PQ Leader Pauline Marois has said Quebec should be at the forefront of electric car development because of Hydro-Québec's technological capacities.

Party environment critic Camil Bouchard said it's time to push electric cars towards the mainstream.

"My feeling, and I think the feeling of the population, is that we have to go much faster from pilot project to real production of cars, which would respond to the usual norms of circulation on highways," he said.

Electric car technology is not up to par yet to produce efficient and affordable vehicles, according to Normand Mousseau, a physics professor at the University of Montreal.

Most electric cars don't roll fast and are not autonomous, he told CBC's French-language television service, Radio-Canada.

"The science isn't there to produce affordable and efficient batteries," he said.

"It's not easy to increase battery density, their shelf life or the speed at which they're recharged."


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