Bradley wants zero-emission cars

TORONTO, ONTARIO - A Canadian manufacturer of electric cars has new hopes of getting them approved for use in Ontario after new provincial Transportation Minister Jim Bradley said he'd like to see the environmentally friendly vehicles on the streets "as soon as possible."

ZENN Motor Company of Toronto manufactures small, low-speed electric cars which have no greenhouse gas emissions, but has found it difficult to get the vehicles approved for use across the country, despite the seal of approval from Transport Canada.

Bradley said that he wants to meet with ZENN's executives and have Ministry of Transportation staff work with the company to address any outstanding safety issues to meet provincial regulations.

"Our government is certainly excited about the possibility of using low-speed cars with low emissions and a smaller environmental footprint," Bradley said in an interview.

"We certainly would like to see that happen as soon as possible, and I've asked MTO to work with ZENN and similar manufacturers to work through the safety issues. I'm optimistic we can work through them."

ZENN stands for "zero emissions, no noise," which perfectly describes the nearly silent urban cars, which can go up to 40 kilometres per hour. The company boasts the vehicles eliminate up to six tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions for every gas-fuelled car they replace.

"That goes an incredibly long way to meeting our Kyoto protocols and cleaning up our cities," ZENN Motor CEO Ian Clifford said in an interview.

"People are opening their eyes and realizing there's a Canadian product, (and with) that as a consumer, you can make a huge difference."

Ontario won't wait until the end of a pilot project with electric vehicles in provincial parks before exploring options such as ZENN cars, Bradley said.

Clifford called that "terrific news," noting that provincial bureaucrats had been saying nothing would happen on electric cars until the pilot project wrapped up in 2011.

"That was incredibly reassuring," Clifford said in an interview. "It's a breath of fresh air. It's great (and) it really, really gives us a lot of hope."

ZENN cars have received the National Safety Mark from Transport Canada, approving them for use in the country, but so far British Columbia is the only Canadian jurisdiction to make them street legal. Forty-five of the 50 United States have already approved their use.

"The number of states that we can sell in legally is the thing that's been driving me crazy in the last 18 months as we've been trying to sell in Canada," said Clifford.

"We have thousands and thousands of people across Canada writing and e-mailing us, inquiring after the product."

ZENN has shipped about 250 cars to the United States in the past year, a small number by automotive standards, Clifford admits, but "very significant" for a new company selling an electric car.

Bradley's office contacted ZENN Motor Company to find a time for the minister to meet with company executives, and Clifford said he was ready to bring a ZENN car to the Ontario legislature for the minister to try out.

"What we're finding is once the politicians understand what it is and what the viability is and the environmental imperative is, they totally get it."


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