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Electric vehicles key to driving down greenhouse gas emissions in Edmonton: City of Edmonton

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The City of Edmonton is trying to convince residents to go electric and consider alternative modes of transportation as the city moves towards a net-zero future.

Thousands made their way to the electric and hydrogen vehicle expo this week, an initiative by the city to get people thinking about electric vehicles.

The expo was free to attend. It was put on by the city with the help of $250,000 in funding from Natural Resources Canada's Zero Emissions Vehicle Awareness Initiative.

Zero-emissions vehicles, and electric vehicles (EVs), will play a major role in reducing energy use, improving air quality and reducing the city's environmental footprint, said Andrea Soler, senior environmental program manager for the City of Edmonton.

Transportation accounts for 30 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in Edmonton, said the city, and the weekend's event was part of the city's Community Energy Transition Strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050 by moving towards solar, wind power and active transportation.

"We always invite people to first walk, bike, take public transit as much as possible," Soler said. But, when driving is necessary, she added that EVs are a good option.

Soler said EVs produce 41 per cent less greenhouse gas emissions than gas and diesel vehicles. and added that the city has 60 electric battery buses and is running a pilot project looking at incorporating hydrogen buses into the transit system.

Ron Groves, a product specialist with Plug'n Drive, said the biggest concerns around EVs are cold weather, range and access to charging.

Public charging stations can be hard to spot, said Groves, but they are there.

"As the kids would say, there's an app for that," he said. It's called PlugShare, and it shows you all the public charging stations in your area.

Still, Groves added, more stations are needed because EV sales represent around eight per cent of new car sales in Canada.

They work in the cold too. EVs have heating packs to keep them warm in the winter, said Andrew Batiuk, director of the Electric Vehicle Association of Alberta, a non-profit that works to inform the public on EVs.

"They assume their cell phone that doesn't work very well in the cold, is going to equal their experience with an EV. And we try to educate them that that's not the case," Batiuk said.

Cold can reduce range by around 25 per cent, he said, but the benefit is that you can easily charge it at home for a fifth of what gas would cost. There are also hybrids that can be charged where stations are available and use gas when travelling to less EV friendly areas.

Plus, no waiting for the car to warm up.

"You get instant heat. Think of it like a hair dryer, you press the button you get heat, versus waiting for a gas engine to warm up to warm you up."

Shyamala Marimuthu visited the expo Sunday, and raised many of the same concerns over range and temperature. However, she said making the switch is worth considering.

"I have two kids. When I think about the future, I want them to live in a safe environment," she said. "So if we can reduce the emissions, then definitely it's going to help the next generation live longer."

"Maybe after I go through all the stalls I'll be convinced." 

WIth files from CTV News Edmonton's Joe Scarpelli