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Premier Wynne shows what female leadership can do for climate

This week has been a whirlwind for the provincial government. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s is in Mexico City to discuss environmental and international relations, all the while promoting women within these industries.

The premier made the trek down south to discuss the importance of climate change and the economy with Mexican leaders, exporters, and potential investors and to host the first-ever Women in Leadership Climate Change Panel Discussion. The participants of this panel discussed the role that women can play in the economic transition to a low-carbon economy and explored the unique experiences of the Indigenous people in the fight against climate change.

Several other prominent women leaders were present as well, including the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate, Her Excellency, Patricia Espinosa. Espinosa was elected executive secretary in May 2016 at the Paris Climate Change Conference. She is originally from Mexico and has worked in foreign affairs between the Americas for several years. Espinosa was joined on the panel by Tanya Muller Garcia, the Minister of the Environment of Mexico City. Garcia actively promoted cycling programs throughout Mexico City and played a large part in integrating the region’s transit system.

Wynne has had a large impact on the climate change agenda in Ontario, most recently with her adoption of cap and trade in Ontario. Part of her agenda in Mexico is to promote an open trade relationship with Mexico City, who has recently adopted a pilot project cap and trade program themselves. An interworking relationship of cap and trade with Mexico would have a significant economic impact on Ontario’s new climate change incentive, and would integrate will with the programs in California and Quebec. Recently, cap and trade has come under fire because Quebec and California have failed to sell all of their emissions, leaving both governments in debt. Many worry Ontario will suffer the same fate.

The climate change conference is a good opportunity for Wynne to show that Ontario is not concerned with the xenophobic agenda that Trump followers and the US is currently leading towards, and is instead open to creating trade partnerships involving climate change. It is inspiring to see a representative of the Canadian political fabric represent women interests, tackling environmental concerns, and promoting healthy international trade relations in the midst of struggling global unity.

It is easy to see this week as a win for Wynne.

 

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Section 37 vs. inclusionary zoning: Which would you choose?

What is the best solution for affordable housing?

The city and province are at an odds yet again, with the City of Toronto rejecting the inclusionary housing proposal the province is pushing towards. Instead, the city wants to continue using Section 37 benefits, a part of the provincial planning act that allows cities to give developers permission to build outside of zoning laws in exchange for providing funding for a project that contributes to the community. In conjunction with Section 37, the city has been working on the Open Door policy that pairs up with voluntary developers who are willing to provide affordable housing in exchange for various incentives.

On the other hand, inclusionary zoning would mandate that any new development being built in cities across Ontario would have a certain portion built as low-to-mid-income housing. The province plans on giving the cities the power to mandate how to implement the inclusionary zoning policies in their respective regions. Though this is a complimentary policy for affordable housing, there is one small problem. The province has mandated that Section 37 cannot be used in conjunction with inclusionary zoning unless under specialized circumstances. They have not specified what the “special” circumstances would be either.

This policy is forcing Toronto to choose between providing essential community services and desperately needed affordable housing — and it appears politicians are at a loss on how to proceed. Quite honestly, both section 37 and inclusionary zoning have their pros and cons, but neither is sufficient to solve the plethora of housing and funding issues that plague Toronto.

Pros and cons of inclusionary zoning:

Inclusionary zoning has been a popular method of building affordable housing in many major US cities including Chicago, Montgomery County, Maryland and San Francisco. It speeds up the growth of affordable housing because it makes it mandatory for developments to build new units.  It also creates mixed-income neighbourhoods, which allows children of low-income areas to avoid being marginalized in poor areas. Many people are worried that inclusionary zoning would drive up prices of the other units, but a report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has determined that affordable housing doesn’t affect pricing as much as assumed. Critics are concerned that the cost of inclusionary zoning falls on new homebuyers rather than all of the taxpayers in a city, which they believe isn’t fair. Inclusionary zoning can also only be applied to new developments.

Pros and cons of section 37:

Section 37 gives the local councillor and community the opportunity to choose how to use development funds to benefit a particular neighbourhood, which makes the funding flexible. It helps to create good neighbourhoods and give people access to parks, public art infrastructure, and community centres. These types of infrastructure are often ignored by the city in light of other projects that need funding, and shouldering private developers with the burden is a good solution. On the other hand, section 37 can be misused if the local councillor chooses a project that isn’t effective in the community. Though community funding is important, families, seniors, and low-income individuals need homes to live in, and this trumps public art installations.

What is a possible solution for the city and province? 

When the city rejected the inclusionary zoning proposal last week, they also said that if the zoning proposal were approved they would want a 10 per cent affordable housing mandate for the new developments going up, instead of just targeting inclusionary zoning at mid-to-low income households.

A potential solution is to have both options available for developers. By allowing them to choose between section 37 and inclusionary zoning, both community funding and affordable housing needs may be fulfilled. Most would choose section 37 as it stands, but if it were mandated that the community funding would have to equal the cost of building and maintaining 10 per cent affordable housing, it would even the playing field between the two policies. As well, Open Door could be maintained and continued alongside inclusionary zoning to the benefit of the  95,000 people on the affordable waitlist to obtain housing.

The state of affordable housing in Toronto is not of casual concern. It is a state of emergency. The staggering amount of people desperate for housing, and who are forced to resort to the streets or use most of their income to pay rent, is unacceptable. Instead of city and provincial councillors bickering over which policy is better, everyone need to bring all solutions to the table and create a viable plan to work together. After all, people’s lives depend on it.

My life through the words of The Tragically Hip

Over the years, I’ve often looked at a mountain view in Alberta or a downtown Toronto landscape, and at each of those moments, I think of one of the many of  Tragically Hip songs that really encapsulates how it feels to be there.

The iconic rock band The Tragically Hip defines the Canadian sound. It is as if Gord Downie and his bandmates took rocks from the mountains, soil from the prairies, and water from the Great Lakes to create a melodic elixir of Canadian essence and feed it to our starved northern souls. Canada was lost before this band existed, and boy, do they ever bring us home.

Along with 125,000 Canadians that watched the live streaming of CBC’s final Tragically Hip show on August 23, I cried, laughed, remembered, and mourned. It truly is the end of an era. Gord Downie’s tragic diagnosis of Glioblastoma, a rare form of brain cancer, has rocked Canadians to their core. The show was rumoured to be their final performance, and the band will be duly missed for their years of dedication to the local music community.

You could say I was born listening to The Tragically Hip. As the millennial daughter of two parents who were in their twenties in the 1980’s, “The Hip”, as they are commonly referred to, were all the rage. The band began their journey in 1984 and produced 14 albums during the course of their thirty-year career.  I am proud to say I have been listening to them my entire life.

My first memory of The Hip is when I was about six years old at our family cottage in Ontario. I have a fond memory of walking out to the campfire hearing “100th Meridian” blasting from the speakers and my dad and uncle rocking out in their blue jeans and mullet-styled hockey do’s. Later on, I would realize how much this song defined my own life. “At the hundredth meridian, where the Great Plains begin” is about the journey from east to west and the division between the two parts of our country. Spending my summers in Ontario with my dad and living the rest of the year in Alberta made me realize the contrast and tension between the two regions, and The Tragically Hip helped me identify with those differences.

I considered one particular Hip song the soundtrack to my life; “Wheat Kings”. This song is for the people in “the Paris of the Prairies” and reflects how it feels to cruise across the yellow sea to my home in the foothills of Alberta. I can recall listening to this song with my cousin and best friend, who was also forced to watch our dads rock out together to The Hip. Needless to say, she is as die-hard as I am when it comes to our love of the music. If I close my eyes while listening to “Wheat Kings”, beginning guitar riff and Downie’s haunting voice floating across the speakers, I’m transported home to a creaky prairie heritage home watching the mountains through the window with the curtain blowing in the wind.

My dream to see the Tragically Hip finally came true when I moved to Toronto and saw them play at a free concert in Dundas Square two years ago. I had just moved to Canada’s largest city, and what better way to celebrate than watching The Hip. When “Bobcaygeon” came on and Downie howled “that night in Toronto, with its checkerboard floors”, 10,000 people were singing along with him — I was one of them. Interestingly, the checkerboard floors are in reference to the Horseshoe Tavern on Queen St., a favourite bar of mine as well. This iconic tune has continued to be loved, now reminding me of what it is like to fall in love in Toronto. “I left your house this morning ‘bout a quarter after nine, it was in Bobcaygeon, I saw the constellations reveal themselves one star at a time” is a lyric I often sing to my partner. It reminds me of the first time he told me he loved under the stars at his cottage on Georgian Bay (cheesy, I know).

Not all of my memories associated with Tragically Hip are happy and sweet. The band had a way of pulling at your heart strings in tough times as well. When a close friend died, I played “Fiddler’s Green” and at that moment, I think only Downie’s voice could soothe me. Later on, I found out the song was written in memory of his nephew that passed away. Downie refused to play it for 15 years, only to sing it at a show in Calgary much later.

In The Tragically Hip’s final show, “Grace, Too” was one of the final songs that caused an uproar of emotion to flood the Rogers K-Rock Centre in Kingston. Downie was visibly upset, and almost every person I know who loved this band cried along with him at that moment.  Belting out the lyrics one last time, I felt the unfairness of it all. How is an amazing musician cherished by his country condemned to get sick and die of terminal illness? I could talk about his legacy as others have done in their courageous soliloquies to Gord Downie, but honestly I am angry. Cancer seems to claim us all.

I will say though: one comfort that The Hip fans can have is the absolute immortality of the band’s music. The Tragically Hip will live on as I raise my child in Canada. It is my turn to wear acid wash blue jeans and rock out to the “Hip” at a campfire while my daughter dances too. [It is her turn to listen to “Boots and Hearts” and learn to line dance. It is my daughter’s destiny to close her eyes and think of our home in the prairies when she hears “Wheat Kings”.

“Does your mother tell you things? Long, long when I’m gone?”

I hope Downie can take comfort in his legacy — he surely has given the world something that will never be forgotten.

Ontario approves gender neutrality on official documents

As Pride Month came to an end, the Ontario government released some extraordinary news — a person will no longer have to indicate their gender on health cards or drivers licences.

Identification is a contentious issue for the LGBTQ community. Imagine representing and identifying as a specific gender (or gender-neutral) and not having your official government document label you as such? And why should people care what gender you are anyway? Will it make it easier to see a doctor if you are a woman instead of a man? Will a man get a ticket for speeding any more than a woman? If the answer to any of these questions is a yes — well, Ontario has a much bigger problem, doesn’t it?

The provincial government has finally clued in. As of — well now — Ontario health cards will no longer display information about a person’s gender. This decision has been active since June 13.

“The purpose of health cards is to show that the card holder is eligible for public health care. A person’s sex is not relevant,” said Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long Term Care, in a statement. “Ensuring that all people in Ontario feel comfortable and safe is especially important in health care settings, and removing sex designation from health cards is a step towards achieving that.”

It will take a bit longer to integrate driver’s licences into the system. But, Ontario is determined that by 2017, drivers be given the option to display an ‘X’ on their cards if they choose not to be identified exclusively as male or female.

Now that ID cards have been taken care of, what about government forms? This summer, Ontario will be launching public and stakeholder consultations to develop policy on the collection and use of sex and gender information.

“Many Ontarians do not identify as female or male. As society’s understanding of gender evolves, government must adapt. Part of that is being more thoughtful about how and when we collect gender or sex information, and how we use it,” said Minister of Government and Consumer Services, Marie-France Lalonde.

These are small steps, but they are also indicative of a government’s willingness to be inclusive and provide choice. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the media that the federal government is now considering the same gender-neutrality in identification documents. Who knows? Maybe the Canadian passport is next?

People who want a health card without a gender identifier before its renewal date can call 1-866-532-3161 or visit a ServiceOntario centre. There is no fee.

Ontario cabinet now consists of 40% women

Monday, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne announced a cabinet shuffle that is meant to integrate some fresh perspective into the Liberal government. Seven new cabinet members were added, including five women.

After Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed a federal cabinet consisting of equal parts women and men, provincial Liberal governments are under pressure to do the same. Ontario is now closer to that goal, with women making up 40 per cent of the cabinet and 50 per cent of the Priorities, Delivery and Growth Committee, which is responsible for steering Ontario’s economic plan.

Some of the highlights of the cabinet shuffle include: Deborah Matthews, who will be remaining Deputy Premier and who was also appointed the new responsibility of Minister for Digital Governance. Laura Albanese is now Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and Indira Naidoo-Harris is Associate Minister of Finance.

Luckily, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Glen Murray, was given an opportunity to implement the climate change plan he spent the last year putting together. Other ministers who will be staying in the same position include Charles Sousa, Minister of Finance and Steven Del Duca, Minister of Transportation.

Strangely enough, Ted McMeekin’s position as Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing has been taken over by Bill Mauro, former Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry. Last week, McMeekin made a statement saying that he would be stepping down from his position to make room for more women in the cabinet. Imagine my surprise when his job was instead given to a man.

There are a lot of qualified women on the roster. Here is a list of the new Ontario cabinet:

  • Kathleen Wynne: Premier and President of the Council Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs.
  • Deborah Matthews: Deputy Premier, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development, Cabinet Minister Responsible for Digital Government.
  • Michael Gravelle: Minister of Northern Development and Mines.
  • Brad Duguid: Minister of Economic Development and Growth.
  • Jeff Leal: Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
  • David Orazietti: Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services.
  • Liz Sandals: President of the Treasury Board.
  • David Zimmer: Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.
  • Michael Chan: Minister of International Trade.
  • Reza Moridi: Minister of Research, Innovation and Science.
  • Yasir Naqvi: Attorney General, Government House Leader.
  • Charles Sousa: Minister of Finance.
  • Eric Hoskins: Minister of Health and Long-Term Care.
  • Glen Murray: Minister of the Environment and Climate Change.
  • Bob Chiarelli: Minister of Infrastructure.
  • Michael Coteau: Minister of Children and Youth Services, Minister Responsible for Anti-Racism.
  • Tracy MacCharles: Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues, Minister Responsible for Accessibility.
  • Kevin Flynn: Minister of Labour.
  • William Mauro: Minister of Municipal Affairs.
  • Helena Jaczek: Minister of Community and Social Services.
  • Dipika Damerla: Minister Responsible for Seniors Affairs.
  • Steven Del Duca: Minister of Transportation.
  • Mitzie Hunter: Minister of Education.
  • Laura Albanese: Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.
  • Christopher Ballard: Minister of Housing Minister Responsible for the Poverty Reduction Strategy
  • Marie-France Lalonde: Minister of Government and Consumer Services, Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs.
  • Kathryn McGarry: Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry.
  • Eleanor McMahon: Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport.
  • Indira Naidoo-Harris: Associate Minister of Finance (Ontario Retirement Pension Plan).
  • Glenn Thibeault: Minister of Energy.

What do you think of this new cabinet? Let us know in the comments below!

New climate change legislation puts emphasis on electric cars

The Ontario government has finally released the long-awaited Climate Change Action Plan — and it is jam packed with lots of incentives for electric vehicles and green home retrofits.

The strategy works in tandem with the cap and trade program finalized by the Liberals a few months ago. This strategy is expected to create around $1.9 billion in revenue through the auctioning of emission credits, which will then be invested into a new Greenhouse Gas Reduction account. These funds will be “responsibly and transparently invested into actions that directly reduce greenhouse gas pollution, create jobs, and help people and businesses shift to a low-carbon economy.”

One of the biggest concerns people had with the government’s climate strategy was that the plan would include a ban on natural gas and would negatively affect businesses and drivers that use a lot of carbon. The 86-page document addresses this concern by saying “it will not take away personal choice: no one will have to stop using gas in their home or give up their gas-powered car by a certain date. Rather, the plan creates the conditions that provide choice. It gives consumers and businesses more reasons to reduce their carbon footprint, and creates competitive conditions for the adoption of low-carbon technology.”

Here are some of the highlights:

  • A Green Bank will be established to help homeowners and businesses access and finance energy-efficient technologies to reduce greenhouse gasses. This includes a number of rebates for retrofits in social housing. Homes being sold after 2019 will be provided with a free energy audit.
  • More than one third of Ontario’s greenhouse gasses are created by transportation. Cars and trucks make up 70 per cent of this carbon. The Ontario government is offering rebates of up to $14,000 per eligible electric vehicles, including a $1,000 rebate for charging stations. The goal is to have every new home buying built after 2018 to include a charging plug in the garage.
  • The government will establish a four-year free overnight electric vehicle charging program for residents starting in 2017.
  • A “cash for clunkers” program will work with the rebates for electric vehicles to get older, less efficient vehicles off the road. Companies and drivers who buy green vehicles will receive a special license plate that will allow free access to provincial HOV and tolled lanes.
  • Focus on researching and developing new green technologies and transitional allowances for high-polluting businesses.
  • Emphasis on implementing more cycling and walking networks throughout the province to rid gridlock and therefore reduce the amount of carbon emitted by vehicles on the roads.

The purpose of all of these programs is to cut Ontario’s greenhouse gas pollution to 15 per cent bellow 1990 levels by 2020, 37 per cent by 2030, and 80 per cent by 2050.

The government is spending between $5.9 billion to $8.3 billion over the next five years on new programs, incentives, rebates, and green technologies. The $1.9 billion earned by selling emission credits through the cap and trade program will make up some of these funds.

The plan will add about $5 a month to home heating bills and 4.3 cents a litre to gas prices.

The Climate Change Action Plan outlines the provincial (and sometimes municipal) responsibilities for the next five years and will be reviewed and updated every five years after the fact. An implementation update will be provided annually for transparency.

Minister steps down to help Ontario make gender parity pledge

A cabinet shuffle is on its way, and a certain Ontario MPP is standing aside to make room for a more gender-diverse leadership.

Ted McMeekin, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, announced Monday that he will be stepping down from his position to make room for more women in the cabinet.

“I have three daughters, all confident and accomplished young women. With my wonderful wife, they are the joy of my life. Thinking of them, I’ve often dreamed of a day when the question of gender parity wouldn’t even arise, because it would just be taken for granted,” McMeekin wrote on his Facebook.

“But sometimes the best way for a man to advance the equality of women may be to step back and make room at the table. For me, this is such a time.”

While this may seem like a noble gesture, it’s likely that Minister McMeekin already knew there were a number of incredibly talented and well-credentialed women ready to take his place in the upcoming cabinet shuffle. It has long been rumoured that a cabinet shuffle will be announced after the legislature breaks for the summer (which is said to occur on Thursday), and it’s entirely plausible that MPPs were already given their notice. I doubt the Premier would have allowed him to say it if she didn’t know for certain the new Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing was going to be a woman.

Despite his good intentions, McMeekin has put himself in a strange position. It’s true that more positions of power should be opened up to women, but it’s a bit condescending for a man to say he stepped down to allow it. By phrasing it this way, it becomes less of an accomplishment for women, and more of a logistical issue to be rectified.

The provincial government has been under pressure to even out their cabinet after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau insisted on a federal cabinet consisting of equal parts women and men. “Because it’s 2016,” he said in a mic-dropping speech after the announcement. This will be a greater challenge for the Ontario cabinet, which currently consists of eight women (including the Premier) and 19 men.

McMeekin’s announcement came the day before the Ontario government announced a target to help reduce the gender gap that exists within government agencies. By 2019, Ontario wants women to make up at least 40 per cent of all appointments to every provincial board and agency. A lofty, but not impossible, goal.

“Ontario is also encouraging businesses to, by the end of 2017, set a target of appointing 30 per cent women to their boards of directors. Once businesses set the target, they should aim to achieve it within three to five years,” a press release stated.

Wynne made the announcement in the presence of representatives from Catalyst Canada and UN Women, the United Nations organization dedicated to gender equality, at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management Tuesday morning.

Hon. Minister Glen Murray deserves the spotlight

It seems like every week a new headline relating to climate change is gracing the front pages of the news.  Whether it’s the unruly weather or the destruction of a natural habitat, it seems like climate change is on everyone’s mind.

The Ontario government has made a number of promises to invest in green retrofits, electric vehicles, and renewable energy, and for that, Women’s Post salutes them. It’s impossible not to see the negative effects climate change is having on this planet, and it’s time for Canada, especially Ontario, to take action.

But all of these changes would not be possible without the leadership of one man — the Honourable Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Glen Murray.

Minister Murray is enthusiastic, driven, and level-headed — something all politicians can’t claim. His extensive political career began in Winnipeg, where he acted as city councillor before becoming Mayor in 1998. It’s worth mentioning that he was the first openly-gay mayor of a large city in North America, which was a big deal at the time.

After moving to Toronto in 2010, he was elected into the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Since then, he has held the position of Minister of Research and Innovation, Minister of Training, Colleges, and Universities, Minister of Transportation, Minister of Infrastructure, and finally Minister of the Environment and Climate Change.

Minister Murray has thrived in each of these positions and has incorporated the sustainable practices he has learnt throughout his political career to push through impressive legislation. The minister was instrumental in the creation and adoption of the cap-and-trade regulations that passed through the legislature in mid-May. The policy will place a cap on carbon emissions and allow companies to sell or trade unused credits for profit. This will ultimately reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emitted from high-polluting industries. The government will be auctioning off a number of credits to companies that may have a hard time adjusting to the cap. In 2017, emission allowances are 142,332,000 tones, which will decrease over four years to 124,668,000 in 2020.

The program will take effect on July 1.

“Climate change is one of the biggest threats facing humanity today,” Murray said after the cap-and-trade policy was revealed. “Ontario is doing its part to reduce harmful greenhouse gas pollution by putting in place a cap and trade program to limit emissions and invest in the kind of innovative solutions that will give our kids and grandkids the sustainable and prosperous legacy they deserve.”

Through the cap-and-trade regulations, Minister Murray has ensured $1.9 billion in additional revenue for the provincial government. This funding will be used to support future green initiatives.

In the next few weeks Murray will unveil the provincial government’s ultimate climate change plan, which promises to help Ontario households and businesses adopt low- and no-carbon energy in homes and the workplace. It also puts an emphasis on incentives for electric vehicles and charging stations. The climate change strategy is said to cost an average household about $13 a month, but is meant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020.

And these are only a few of Minister Glen Murray’s accomplishments, just from the past year!

Later this month, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is expected to do a major cabinet shuffle — and all Women’s Post can do is hope that Minister Murray is given the opportunity to expand on his vision. He has spearheaded a number of environmentally friendly and revenue building policies over the last year. What is needed now is the strength, determination, and tenacity to implement them — and Minister Murray has that in spades.

If Ontario wants to prove that it is serious about fighting climate change and reducing greenhouse emissions, Minister Murray has proven his ability to steer this through. The political arena doesn’t support a rising star and we can only hope his cabinet supports him to carry out his role as Minister of the Environment and Climate Change. His consistent hard work, determination, and refusal to back down under pressure from private industries makes him the ideal candidate for the position.

Which Electric Vehicle should you buy?

Buying an electric vehicles (EV) is the way of the future. If you are looking for a new slick ride that is environmentally-friendly, there are a variety of well-built cars showing up on the market.

Picking through the plethora of EVs can be time-consuming and confusing, but considering a few main factors will help to narrow your search and find the perfect vehicle for you. The first thing you have to do is narrow down what type of EV you are looking for. There are several types of EVs, including Battery EVs Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles, Hybrids, and Fuel-cell EVs.

Battery EVs drive entirely on a battery and electric drive without a conventional internal combustion engine. They need a charging station and can also recharge their batteries through regenerative braking. Plug-in Hybrids run mostly on battery units, but are also equipped with an internal combustion engine that can recharge the battery or replace the electric drive if needed. Hybrid vehicles do not have a plug-in system and instead batteries are recharged from an electric motor driven by the engine in the vehicle. Fuel-cell EVs are the newest technology on the market and instead have a battery cell that creates energy from hydrogen and oxygen instead of a traditional battery charging pack.

Does that make sense? Next you have to consider how often you will be using the vehicle. If you drive a far distance, a Battery EV might not be the best option because it cannot drive more than 180 km without a recharge. A plug-in hybrid is a better alternative in this case because it has a back-up engine.

Your choice will also depend on the availability of charging stations in your region. If public charging stations are available, it is possible to charge a Battery EV during the day, but if not it may be better to have an internal combustion engine in the car for emergencies. Fuel-cell EVs were just released in February 2015 and there are currently only two hydrogen refuel stations in Canada. If you have money to invest though, this technology is due to become the future of EVs.

Currently, Plug-in Hybrids and Hybrids lead the EV market. As the popularity in EVs rise in the next 10 years, Battery and Fuel-cell EVs will take over because these two types of EVs are fuel-saving and have low environmental impact. However, they are more expensive than the other options. At the Green Living Show this year, the Chevrolet Volt, which is a plug-in hybrid, won the 2016 Green Car Award.

The Chevrolet Volt is $25,720 and is available for up to a $7,500 rebate from the government upon purchase. The Volt allows you to drive 85 km on the battery and up to 675 km with a full charge and a full tank of gas. The vehicle is also very sleek and looks like a regular vehicle, which is appealing to a buyer who is new to the world of EVs. The Ford Fusion Energi is another Plug-in Hybrid that can drive 60 km and ranges from $23,673 to $39,280. The electric battery also has a plug-in capability to charge the battery using a 120-volt outlet, which gives it more accessibility.

The Tesla Model X is the most well-known battery powered vehicle and sets the bar for Battery EVs. The Model X is $100,300 and is the arguably the best EV on the market. It can drive 412 km because of a supercharger network that can charge in a matter of minutes as opposed to hours. This helps extend the reach of the battery powered EV substantially. The Nissan Leaf is another contender as a battery-powered EV and is $32,698. It can drive up to 172km with a fully powered battery. You can also start charging the EV remotely through an app on your phone when it is plugged in.

EVs are the way of the future and are the most worthy investment if you are interested in buying a car. These vehicles are environmentally friendly, cost-saving, and have a variety of features that leave their fuelled competitors in the dust. Looking through the different options has me excited for the future of cars. EVs only seem to get better and better as larger companies such as Tesla and Chevrolet invest in a greener future for Canada.

What is your favourite EV? Post in the comments below.

Renewable vanity is the future

As Elon Musk, founder of Tesla Motors and SpaceX took the stage at the recent Model 3 unveiling, the world watched what many people claimed to be Tesla and Mr. Musk’s defining moment. They’d been building towards that moment since their inception; a relatively affordable, fully electric car that appeals to the masses. And they did not disappoint. The Model 3, like all of Tesla’s vehicles, appears beautiful and sleek, while promising to go far and fast on a single charge.

Musk, perhaps better than anyone, understands what it takes to get us to a future without the burning of fossil fuels and into the brave new world of sustainable transportation: people like nice things. That is a fact and not necessarily one we should stick our noses up at; it’s just the way we are. And Musk knows it: to have any chance at all of transforming an industry, a mindset and an utterly unsustainable addiction to fossil fuels, we need to appeal to the vanity that’s so innately baked into human nature.

This line of thinking should extend into all areas of renewable tech. The design process should encompass not just the visual appeal of things, but the function and usability as well. Tesla’s cars, while beautiful, are just as much about the entire experience. From handling to speed to software updates that help drivers avoid the costly regular maintenance found in traditional dealership models, they offer consumers the first real end-to-end all-electric experience that is actually exciting.

It’s as much an exercise in branding, communications, and marketing strategy as it is about the vehicles. They present themselves with all the appeal of a luxury car maker with the added benefit of sustainability. In fact, unlike other electric cars which sacrifice certain benefits such as speed and power, Tesla positions themselves as a contemporary to traditional luxury brands like Porsche, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW.

For other renewable energy sources to find success they must learn from Tesla’s approach. While the heart of any sustainable product needs to centre around its technology and environmental benefits, it still needs to appeal to consumers. And as they know, that appeal must drive straight into the heart of people’s vanity.

Here are a two other renewable products doing just that:

  • Solar Shingles: These shingles combine thin-film PV (photovoltaic, i.e. solar panels) cells with modules based on flexible CIGS (Copper Indium/Gallium di-Selenide) technology. Dow Solar’s version is designed to integrate inline with composition asphalt shingles, laminated architectural shingles, concrete and clay tile, cedar shake, polymer and traditional slate. Instead of attaching the shingles to a thermoplastic base with messy adhesives, Dow’s version features a mechanical interlock system to link the shingle-modules to each other. The system not only lowers installation costs, but also makes it easier to repair or replace a damaged module while integrating in a more visually appealing way to the over design of a home. Say goodbye to those traditional clunky solar panels.
  • Trinity Wind Turbine: this portable turbine converts into a three-blade, horizontal type wind turbine that comes in four sizes – the Trinity 50, 400, 1000 and 2500. These are basically larger versions with increasing size and levels of power generation, and which also convert from horizontal to vertical axis turbines. The Trinity 50, costing around $400, provides 50-watt generation and is only twelve inches high when folded. The minimum speed for the Trinity to work is 4 mph (6.5 km/h). Once speeds reach 25 mph (40 km/h), the turbine can be converted to the vertical setting. The Trinity also comes with a smartphone app, which allow users to monitor the battery level, turn the blades on or off, see how much electricity is being generated as well as the historical data of wind and energy generated. How cool it would be to have a wind turbine you can carry with one hand.

What do you think? Is vanity the key to a successful renewable energy technology? Let us know in the comments below!