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Evidence of meeting #42 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 vehicles.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Steve Clark  Director, Fleet Management, Canada Post Corporation
Todd Mouw  Vice-President, Alternative Fuels, Roush Cleantech
Cameron Stewart  President, Maxquip

9:30 a.m.

Director, Fleet Management, Canada Post Corporation

Steve Clark

Without adding up the numbers that I gave, about 150, or maybe a little more.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Do you think, given the price gap between gasoline and natural gas for a kilometre equivalent, there is an opportunity to increase that number dramatically?

9:30 a.m.

Director, Fleet Management, Canada Post Corporation

June 7th, 2012 / 9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Okay.

For the average family, it's hard at this stage to adopt natural gas as a fuel source because of the absence of infrastructure. There are very few filling stations in Canada. I think there are one or two in Ottawa, for example. The home refuelling technology does not appear to be ready for mass use across the market. But for fleets, infrastructure becomes a smaller problem. The economies of scale make it more affordable, and that's why we saw Robert Trucking, for example, doing this.

How does Canada Post plan to use the buying power of its operation to take advantages of the price advantages that some alternative fuels offer over gasoline and diesel?

9:30 a.m.

Director, Fleet Management, Canada Post Corporation

Steve Clark

We've already made a couple of investments, both in CNG and propane refuelling infrastructure. We have infrastructure in Ottawa and London for one of each of those fuels, and we're currently looking at two additional sites in future for propane. The cost difference is about 47% per equivalent litre between propane and gasoline, which is why we're looking at it. It makes sense for us in our larger dispatching facilities, where we're dispatching 100, 200 or 300 vehicles, to put infrastructure on site.

As you can imagine, in rural Canada there are a number of sites that have one or two Canada Post vehicles, so putting in a $50,000 refuelling infrastructure would never pay for itself. That's where we look to the communities, for example a Canadian Tire barbecue refill centre, to maybe have auto propane as well.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

The price advantage of propane is bigger than natural gas. Is that right?

9:30 a.m.

Director, Fleet Management, Canada Post Corporation

Steve Clark

I believe that natural gas is larger than propane, but I don't know off the top of my head right now what that difference is. I think they're both comparable. The cost for natural gas refuelling infrastructure is much more costly, though, than it is for propane.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Why is that?

9:30 a.m.

Director, Fleet Management, Canada Post Corporation

Steve Clark

Again, if we look at a Canada Post site that has, say, 200 trucks in it, for fast-fill application, which is what we would need to refill that many trucks every night, it requires multiple compressors to compress the natural gas into a very tight space in a tank. The refuelling infrastructure for fast-filling of 200 Canada Post trucks would cost about three-quarters of a million dollars. Doing the same for propane would cost about $50,000 to $70,000. Propane doesn't require as many compressors to pack the fuel. Propane is a liquid when stored under light pressure, whereas natural gas is a compressed gas, so it's harder to pack into a tank.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Okay, it's a matter of the treatment of the fuel before filling.

9:35 a.m.

Director, Fleet Management, Canada Post Corporation

Steve Clark

It's the state of the fuel, that is, its common state.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Okay. Do you see propane as the biggest growth area in your alternative fuels portfolio?

9:35 a.m.

Director, Fleet Management, Canada Post Corporation

Steve Clark

Yes, with the larger of the ones that we're piloting today.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

How long do you think it will be before you move from piloting to full implementation across your fleet?

9:35 a.m.

Director, Fleet Management, Canada Post Corporation

Steve Clark

I don't know if I can say that today, because I don't know that we would fully implement 100% of the Canada Post fleet onto one fuel. I think that would be, maybe, a little bit dangerous to have all of our eggs in one basket like that. Again, because there is no magic bullet answer, I think we have to be cautious and make sure that we investigate every avenue.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

How many electric and how many hybrid vehicles do you have?

9:35 a.m.

Director, Fleet Management, Canada Post Corporation

Steve Clark

We have 14 full-battery electric vehicles, and 23 hybrid electrics.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Why do you have so few?

9:35 a.m.

Director, Fleet Management, Canada Post Corporation

Steve Clark

To be honest, the technology is very new and it's changing as frequently as the technology in our cellphones is. It's about three times as expensive to procure an electric vehicle as it is to buy a conventional gasoline-powered vehicle.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Do you have any idea on the payback time from the fuel savings?

9:35 a.m.

Director, Fleet Management, Canada Post Corporation

Steve Clark

From the total cost of operation documents that we have prepared at Canada Post, at the current time there is no return on investment.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

There is none?

9:35 a.m.

Director, Fleet Management, Canada Post Corporation

Steve Clark

Not at this time.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

When you say there's no return on investment, you mean that if the capital cost of acquiring a gasoline versus an electric vehicle were identical, just hypothetically, then at an operating level there's no price advantage to a battery-powered electric vehicle?

9:35 a.m.

Director, Fleet Management, Canada Post Corporation

Steve Clark

No. If the capital cost were identical, then absolutely there would be an advantage to operating an electric vehicle over a fossil fuel-powered one. It's the capital cost that's the killer.