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Reducing Barriers to Purchasing Zero-Emissions Commercial Vehicles

Focus Category: Green Economy
Published: October 6, 2023

Executive Summary

Despite considerable progress in lowering emissions in buildings in Vancouver and British Columbia (B.C.), transportation emissions remain a major challenge.

Zero-emissions medium- and heavy-duty vehicles (MDHVs) – the vast majority of which are commercially operated – continue to be one of the most difficult sectors to decarbonize, especially considering the many technological and workforce challenges in the broader transportation sector.

This report aims to assess existing Canadian policies driving the uptake of zero-emissions vehicles (ZEV) among businesses; review policies and programs in California, New York State, and Scotland, related to commercial vehicle decarbonization; identify key costs for commercial ZEV adoption; and conduct high-level financial modelling on possible pathways forward.

Zero-Emissions Commercial Vehicles Policy Overview

Canadian Policies and Programs

  • All levels of government have light-duty vehicle (LDV) sales targets and mandates, some of which will impact small businesses; B.C. is the first province to come out with a MDHV mandate that will mirror California’s.
  • B.C. operates several programs to support ZEV uptake for businesses.

Programs and Policies from California, New York State, and Scotland

  • California operates the largest number of programs, with generous grants that support vehicle purchase and lease, as well as infrastructure.
  • New York and Scotland have fewer, but many similar, programs, and New York has allied with California in setting ZEV MDHV mandates on top of existing ones for LDVs.

Local Context and Cost Considerations

  • The commercial vehicle population in Vancouver, as of 2021, is largely comprised of vans (>8,000), crewcabs (<5,000), and pick-up trucks (>3,900).
  • Whole lifecycle costing consistently models a lower whole lifecycle cost for light- and medium-duty ZEVs, with mixed cases for HDVs.
  • Most commercial fleets in Vancouver have fewer than 50 vehicles.


The findings in this report should not be taken as comprehensive to the point of being conclusive; however, they highlight several areas of work that VEC can consider undertaking to advance progress on commercial fleet decarbonizations. These include, but are not limited to suggestions that VEC could:

  • Undertake further research and financial modelling in hard-to-decarbonize vehicle categories and classes (e.g., garbage trucks);
  • Work collaboratively with the ecosystem to site and develop commercially oriented charging infrastructure;
  • Explore partnerships with organization such as CALSTART, the North American Council on Freight Efficiency, or the Race to Zero, to support local businesses; and
  • Continue engaging with the Government of Canada and Province of British Columbia on further incentives and capacity-building supports for commercial fleet owners.

Prepared by: Aigerim Akiltayeva, UBC Sustainability Scholar, 2023

Land Acknowledgement

The Vancouver Economic Commission respectfully acknowledges that it is located on the unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səl̓ilwətaɁɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.

Vancouver Economic Commission