Evidence of meeting #38 for Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was vehicle.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Timothy Egan  President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Gas Association
  • Alicia Milner  President, Canadian Natural Gas Vehicle Alliance
  • Tim Sanford  Director of Sales, Compression Technology Corporation

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder London West, ON

No disrespect, but I was just at an event in Fanshawe Conservation Area, where a young man was killed driving a Zamboni some years ago. I don't know if that Zamboni was on natural gas or what the fuel was that he had in the vehicle.

9:50 a.m.

Director of Sales, Compression Technology Corporation

Tim Sanford

That's an excellent point. That's what spurred the city to convert to natural gas. It was gasoline-powered.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder London West, ON

I appreciate your clarifying that, because I think it was a fumes issue in a closed room that caused that tragedy.

9:50 a.m.

Director of Sales, Compression Technology Corporation

Tim Sanford

That's correct.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder London West, ON

That's why I asked.

There are no legal implications either. I talked about the insurance side. What I'm trying to get at here is, if it's a portable unit, you get rid of the issue we talked about in terms of filling stations, because every home or whatever number of homes are filling stations. I'm sure there are going to be some volume benefits as this becomes more profitable.

In London we have a very large taxi group, Aboutown Transportation, that runs on propane—all their taxis run on propane. Why natural gas versus propane? I'm not asking you to compete against the industry, because I think one of you said “right fuel, right price, right time”. That was you, Mr. Egan.

Why natural gas versus propane?

9:50 a.m.

Director of Sales, Compression Technology Corporation

Tim Sanford

I believe in the taxicab market a lot of it had to do with the lower cost on the actual conversion of the vehicles themselves. Propane was a little bit lower in cost.

The range of propane was probably a bit of an advantage for the vehicles. Propane is a little bit more costly than natural gas, but there's a little more range and availability of propane stations throughout the city of London.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder London West, ON

You see, where—

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Merv Tweed

Thank you. I have to move on.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder London West, ON

Okay. Thank you very much.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Merv Tweed

Ms. Morin.

9:55 a.m.

NDP

Isabelle Morin Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Thank you.

I would like to know whether companies or distributors are interested in selling natural gas vehicles directly, without a conversion being necessary.

Owing to a lack of time, I would not be interested in buying a conventional vehicle and going through the conversion process. At first glance, I feel that's a waste of time in my life. I wanted to know if anyone was interested in selling those vehicles directly. I know they can be bought in the United States, but we must go through customs controls to bring them back to Canada. Once again, I think that is a waste of time.

Mr. Sanford provided some recommendations for encouraging people to use natural gas vehicles, but I do not see anything about simplifying the process or encouraging distributors to sell natural gas vehicles.

Do you know whether any of them are interested in doing that? How do you mean to encourage them? What approaches are you considering?

9:55 a.m.

President, Canadian Natural Gas Vehicle Alliance

Alicia Milner

I guess I would go back to my earlier comment that looking broadly across Canada, we don't think the time is right for consumers.

That said, there will be small groups—for instance, a plumber or an electrician who drives a lot of miles—who will be motivated to go out of their way for fuel and be willing to go through the hassle of having their vehicle converted for that fuel savings. Definitely there will be that part of the market, and I think that's where Mr. Sanford's company has been successful, in finding those high-mileage drivers.

For the average consumer, though, I completely agree: I don't think we have all the pieces yet to offer this to the consumer in Canada. As mentioned, having those factory-built vehicles is a big part of it. We do see that this is coming.

To go back to the truck and bus example, that's something that is extremely powerful there. All those manufacturers have their own dealer networks. The beauty of that.... For instance, in the Robert project in Quebec, that particular dealer I believe covers half of the province for truck sales for Peterbilt. There are many fewer channels to go through to provide the product. In that case, the manufacturers have made it very simple. Their sales representatives can go in, just select the natural gas product, and it will get properly built at the factory, delivered, and all the rest of that.

So I think it's a question of timing, but yes, understand that right now those are a lot of challenges for the consumer.

9:55 a.m.

NDP

Isabelle Morin Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Could you tell me when those vehicles will be available to consumers?

9:55 a.m.

President, Canadian Natural Gas Vehicle Alliance

Alicia Milner

Yes. I would like to say that within the next three to five years I think is extremely realistic. The other thing we haven't mentioned this morning that we see as also encouraging is that we're starting to see more of the companies involved in the energy industry, the natural gas producers, trying to encourage their own employees to use the fuel. Some of them are offering incentives—better parking in the company parking lot, even free fuel for a year.

So we need some of these little steps first, to help fill in the spaces, before it starts to be close to the consumer, but the timeframe of three to five years I think is very achievable in North America.

May 17th, 2012 / 9:55 a.m.

NDP

Isabelle Morin Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Thank you very much.

I will move on to Mr. Sanford.

In your slide titled “How Can the Government of Canada Assist the Growth of Home Refuelling?”, you talk about the need for more visibility. With regard to that, you recommend “encouraging or mandating the use of alternative fuel vehicles in federal fleets”.

The Directive on Fleet Management: Executive Vehicles, says the following under item 5.3.3:

Executive vehicles must be: a. hybrid-electric, if available from the manufacturers; b. factory-equipped for natural gas, propane, or E-85 ethanol fuel, if available from the manufacturers, where fueling infrastructure exists or is planned; or c. factory-equipped with a 4-cylinder conventional fuel engine [...]

What do you want to change? Those characteristics are already being promoted. They are included in accepted vehicles. I don't see how more could be done. Do you want those characteristics to be mandatory? I don't see how your recommendation could be applied. You talk about encouraging or mandating the use of vehicles, but that is already being done.