Social Cost and Benefits of Electric Mobility in Canada

Project Description

Our Social Cost and Benefits of Electric Mobility in Canada is a five year research project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) through the Automotive Partnership of Canada (APC). The overall objective of this research is to develop a clear understanding of the wide range of costs and benefits that will emerge in Canada as electric mobility develops and to help prepare the automotive sector, electric utilities, government and other stakeholders for the future.

Currently, this project includes researchers from a variety of disciplines including geography, climate, economics, business, engineering. Our academic researchers are based at McMaster University and the University of Windsor. Industry partners include: the Ford Motor Company, the Canadian Automobile Association, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, Burlington Hydro and Electric Mobility Canada and Purolator.

Research Modules

The original proposal was conceived as a set of modules. Accordingly, the discussion of progress for the work to this point will be described on the same modular basis using the original proposal as a baseline.


National Consumer Stated Preference Survey

Develop a national set of consumer stated preference data for Canada to serve as input data for the quantification of determinants of EV vehicle purchases relative to other vehicle types.


Stated Preference Survey for Fleets

Develop a provincial set of stated preference data to serve as input data for the quantification of determinants of EV fleet vehicle purchases relative to other vehicle types. The survey work will be extended beyond Ontario for select organizations which will be determined as part of the research.


Public Transit Stakeholder Interviews

Arrive at an understanding of the drivers of EV adoption in the public transit context, as it relates to buses in particular, through interviews with leading municipal officials across the country.


Discrete Choice Analysis of Stated Preference Data

To use appropriate statistical modelling tools to quantify results of the stated preference experiments and derive measurable insight into the determinants of preferences among the general population and businesses.


Geodemographic Analysis of Electric Vehicle Adopters

To leverage information from the consumer stated preference survey and other relevant data sources to develop a national EV adoption segmentation system for small census areas. The outcome will be an applied software and data tool that will allow partners and other external parties to carry out basic forms of analysis on the consumer EV market.


Economic Impact Analysis of EV Adoption

To capture direct, indirect and induced dollar impacts on the national and provincial economies of varying EV adoption scenarios.


Metropolitan Estimations of Environmental/Social Impacts

To represent the localized environmental and health impacts of a shift to EV mobility for a series of Census Metropolitan Areas in Canada.


Optimization Analysis for the Locations of Public Charging Infrastructure

To provide a quantitative method to estimate where the charging facilities should be built, and with what capacities, given the service levels required by EV customers and based on scenarios derived from the earlier modules of this research.


Module Integration

To synthesize social, economic and environmental findings of the previous phases as it relates to aspects such as consumer, commercial and public transit demand and to derive insights for the overall impacts for Canada of a shift to EV mobility.

Project Details

For over a century, personal and business mobility in Canada has depended heavily on the internal combustion engine and the vehicles it powers. Implications have included a dependence on foreign oil, heavy greenhouse gas emissions and urban pollution that affects the health of those nearby. At present, we are in the very early stages of a major shift away from the paradigm based solely on gasoline-powered vehicles and towards one where vehicles powered by electricity will become more prominent. There is an opportunity for Canada to take a leadership position in the competition for jobs and investment which will be at stake as electric mobility further develops.

The overall objective of this research is to develop a clear understanding of the wide range of costs and benefits that will emerge in Canada as electric mobility develops and to help prepare the automotive sector, electric utlities, government and other stakeholders for the future before it unfolds.
This research is being led by the McMaster Institute for Transportation and Logistics in partnership with the Ford Motor Company, the Canadian Automobile Association, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, Burlington Hydro, Electric Mobility Canada and the University of Windsor and Get Clarity.

The McMaster Institute for Transportation and Logistics (MITL) led by Professor Pavlos Kanaroglou, was awarded $1.8 Million from Automotive Partnership Canada ( to pursue this five year research program.

As consumers and businesses become increasingly concerned with the environmental impacts of their own mobility and with reducing expenditures on high-priced gasoline, it is clear that the automotive paradigm based solely on the internal combustion engine has ended. The several million hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles that have been sold around the world may be paving the way to widespread adoption of vehicles powered by electricity alone. The adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) will be associated with significant economic, social and environmental costs and benefits relative to the status quo of gasoline powered vehicles.

Accordingly, the primary objective of this proposed research is to develop a clear understanding of these costs and benefits over a range of electric mobility scenarios in Canada. If electric mobility is aggressively incentivized by various levels of government, pursued by industry and embraced by the public, what will be the outcome for Canada including its automotive sector? Conversely, what could be the implications in the event of inertia to change?

Given significant negative externalities from road transportation emissions, high oil prices and a large share of electricity generation from clean sources that do not contribute to climate change, there is the potential for electric traction to have a very positive and considerable impact in Canada. Also, there is an opportunity for Canada to take a leadership position in the competition for jobs and investment which will be at stake as electric mobility further develops. Canada has a thriving automotive sector both in vehicle assembly and auto parts and a strong Canadian focus on electric vehicles can help grow this sector.

This research considers an array of scenarios from “business as usual” to aggressive adoption of electric traction across society. Related to the primary objective is the important goal of better engaging the general public with the concept of EV mobility and enhancing its understanding of all the implications, including the external costs that each gasoline-powered vehicle imposes on society.

To fulfill the primary objective of this research, a series of secondary objectives will be achieved. These are:

  • To characterize the preferences and motivations of consumers in their purchases of electric vehicles. What circumstances will lead to high adoption scenarios and which will lead to low adoption?
  • To characterize the preferences and motivations of firms and government entities as they contemplate replacing their automobile and light truck fleets with electric mobility. Again, what circumstances will lead to higher adoption rates?
  • To better understand the attitudes of municipal governments regarding public transit investments in EV technology.
  • To estimate the economic impacts in Canada, and across the provinces, of a variety of EV adoption scenarios. These impacts will be measured in terms of their direct, indirect and induced effects and in terms of how changes in one province affect outcomes in other provinces given the level of economic linkages.
  • To characterize the localized emissions implications of a range of plausible EV adoption scenarios within major metropolitan areas in Canada and to link changes in emissions to changes in health outcomes.
  • To derive optimal networks of public EV charging infrastructure given a range of EV adoption scenarios.

Much of the associated detailed information to be derived from achieving these objectives will be developed at the level of individual consumers, firms and government entities in Canada. With this bottom-up philosophy, this research is well positioned to develop a range of credible scenarios regarding EV adoption in Canada and its associated impacts.

The detailed research plan associated with achievement of the primary and secondary objectives is divided into nine distinct modules:

  • A national consumer stated preference survey on the attitudes of people towards new EV options relative to the status quo;
  • A stated preference survey for fleets designed to understand the attitudes of firms and government agencies towards EV deployment;
  • Public transit stakeholder interviews to better understand municipal EV adoption in the context of public transit buses;
  • Discrete Choice Analysis of Stated Preference Data to extract statistical insights from the collected stated preference data with respect to consumers and fleets;
  • A Geodemographic analysis of electric vehicle adopters to best package the EV and consumer insights for partners and potentially other stakeholders;
  • An Economic impact analysis of EV adoption to trace the dollarized implications of a range of EV scenarios;
  • Metropolitan Estimations of Environmental/Social Impacts to understand the urban impacts on emissions and health outcomes of potential widespread EV adoption;
  • An Optimization analysis for the locations of public charging infrastructure to determine how best to "refuel" a large and active population of EVs; and
  • a Module integration/project synthesis phase to focus on tying the results of the research together and on addressing the overall research objectives.

This research is led by Professor Pavlos Kanaroglou, Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Spatial Analysis and Director of the McMaster Institute for Transportation and Logistics (MITL). MITL is well suited to be the lead organization for this research as it is a significant part of our mandate to do transportation-oriented research with varied private and public partners. Since the establishment of MITL in 2007, there is an extensive compiled record of completed projects which testify to this capability. McMaster is already recognized as a significant research centre in the technological aspects of automotive research.

This research, with its social science emphasis, will also be able to draw on the expertise of parties at McMaster (the McMaster Institute for Automotive Research and Technology (MacAuto), the McMaster Manufacturing Research Institute (MMRI) and the McMaster Automotive Resource Centre (MARC) located within the McMaster Innovation Park) who focus on other aspects of automotive research. Dr. Kanaroglou and MITL will work with three different academic co-applicants on this research. These are: Dr. Kai Huang of the DeGroote School of Business at McMaster, Dr. Altaf Arain of the School of Geography and Earth Sciences at McMaster and Director of the McMaster Centre for Climate Change, and Dr. Hanna Maoh of the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Windsor. Each will be associated with particular modules of this research that are well-suited to their areas of expertise.

In addition to MITL and the other academic participants, a diverse roster of confirmed partners is in place to participate in and benefit from this research. The partners on this research are:

  • The Ford Motor Company - Ford has a significant presence in Canada and is one of the leading vehicle manufacturers in the world. The company has developed some compelling entries for the EV marketplace including the Focus Electric and the C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid. In early 2013, Ford announced a partnership in the U.S. with Eaton, Sunpower and Whirlpool to demonstrate that owning an EV can significantly reduce a household's electricity bill. With regard to the proposed research, Ford has a significant interest and stake in the insights which are expected to emerge with respect to the EV market in Canada.
  • The Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) - This organization represents 5.5 million members across Canada and is thus a key partner in our proposed detailed characterization of the demand side for both consumers and fleets. The CAA sees electric mobility as a very important theme and is quite interested in the advanced methods we propose to characterize the preferences/attitudes of Canadian auto consumers as these new trends unfold.
  • The Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) - The province of Ontario has a stated objective that one out of every 20 vehicles driven in Ontario by 2020 will be electrically powered. Accordingly, MTO has a substantial interest in the proposed research as it aligns perfectly with much of its work to realize the vision for 2020.
  • Burlington Hydro - One of the big impacts of electric mobility is that electric utilities would become much more involved in the transportation sector. There is growing interest among utilities to understand these new demands to be placed on their electricity grids. Where will localized pockets of new demand be coming on-line and at what time of day will EV owners be plugging in? Will this cause disruption at existing peak periods of demand? Burlington Hydro will play a significant role to inform the partnership about such issues.
  • Electric Mobility Canada (EMC) – This organization is the leading association for electric traction in Canada and represents a diverse group of stakeholders who can be tapped to support the proposed research. EMC and its technology roadmap are also the originators of the basic idea of the research. An extensive consultative process was used in the roadmap process to suggest the proposed research as a viable idea of high impact and of interest to many.

This project will generate important benefits for Canada. One of the most critical is that it will help to train seventeen highly qualified personnel. Specific research modules have been designed that will assist in the training of four PhDs, four Masters students and six undergraduate students. In addition, the research will help to advance the careers of three post-doctoral fellows.
This research will also:

  • help participants in the automotive sector prepare for a very different future where electric mobility assumes a leading role at the expense of the internal combustion engine;
  • make Canadians better aware of the contributions of gasoline-powered vehicles to global warming and negative health outcomes through vehicle emissions;
  • demonstrate how a clean electricity generation profile in Canada can be leveraged through EV adoption for the benefit of all Canadians.

Invitation to join the Industry Stakeholder Advisory Committee for the research project entitled: “Social Costs and Benefits of Electric Mobility in Canada”.

This important research is being led by the McMaster Institute for Transportation and Logistics (MITL) and is funded by a $1.8 million Automotive Partnership Canada (APC) grant for the next four years.  The founding partners include Ford, CAA, Burlington Hydro, MTO and EMC.

Our research team will be integrating industry stakeholder feedback into the research frameworks aimed at generating cutting-edge data related to the consumer adoption of EVs and hybrids. Core research objectives include producing:

  1. Canada's first nation-wide consumer adoption survey for EVs and hybrids;
  2. Canada's first nation-wide transit fleet survey

The idea behind these research themes is to generate consumer, dealership, and fleet survey data that explains how, why, and whether individuals and corporate entities are adopting electrified vehicle transportation technologies for personal or fleet use. The outputs of this study are being shared regularly with the Ministry of Transportation, as the MTO is a core partner in the project. In addition, we will be working with the provincial MEDEI (Ministry of Economic Development, Employment, and Infrastructure) and the MOECC (Ministry of Environment and Climate Change) in Ontario in the upcoming year to integrate their views, and to help generate relevant public policy outputs from the data we produce.

As the new Executive Director of this project, I would like to extend an invitation to industry leaders to join the Industry Stakeholder Advisory Committee for this study.

As a stakeholder committee member, your company gains access to the consumer adoption consultancy and data output reports produced by the team of researchers at MITL.

If you are interested, and/or would like more information, please contact Mark Ferguson at (905)525-9140 x22568 or

Executive Board

Electric Mobility Project Partners

Founded in 2005, Electric Mobility Canada is a national membership-based not-for-profit organization dedicated exclusively to the promotion of electric mobility as a readily available and important solution to Canada’s emerging energy and environmental issues.


Working together to move Canada’s transportation system to electric traction.


To support the efforts of our members in driving the adoption of electric mobility technologies by Canadians as key means of achieving sustainability in transportation and to position Canada as a global leader in developing and implementing electric mobility in all modes of transport.


Electric Mobility Canada supports the activities of its members by:

  • Communicating legislative, policy, technical and operational matters of key interest pertaining to electric mobility to our membership. This includes identifying the actions required to meet the needs of the members and proactively communicating these needs to policy makers and other stakeholders.
  • Establishing partnerships to accelerate the adoption of electric mobility through research, demonstration projects, policies, programs and strategies to increase market penetration.
  • Acting as a resource centre for relevant and contemporary information on electric mobility from across Canada and around the globe.

Ford focuses on developing vehicles that deliver exceptional value to our customers across global markets. No matter where we do business, however, our product strategy stays the same. All our vehicles sport bold exterior designs, while offering great handling and performance. Not only are they great to drive – with interior enhancements in comfort and connectivity – but fuel economy across every vehicle in our portfolio is a reason to buy.

From distinctively-styled midsize sedans, offering an unmatched combination of power, technology and safety on the road, to versatile utility vehicles and tough, durable trucks, Ford’s product development team delivers the balanced range of world-class vehicles that our customers want and value.

Ford of Canada employs over 23,000 talented individuals in the fields of finance, sales and marketing, information technology, manufacturing and engineering, and human resources. This diverse workforce is responsible for the manufacturing and assembly operations that bring 320,000 vehicles and 425,000 engines to market. At Ford we are proud to be Canada’s longest-established automaker and remain committed to building a strong future in Canada.

Honourable Steven Del Duca - Deputy Minister: Carol Layton

Ministry Vision

To be a world leader in moving people and goods safely, efficiently and sustainably, and to support a globally competitive economy and a high quality of life.

Burlington Hydro Inc. is an energy services company in the power distribution business. Serving approximately 65,000 residential and commercial customers, Burlington Hydro and its employees are committed to delivering safe, efficient and reliable electricity to the City of Burlington.

Burlington Hydro’s strategic focus is on achieving excellence and continuous improvement across all aspects of its business including: employee and community safety; operational efficiency and reliability; responsive customer service; and, conservation programs. The company is committed to maintaining a strong asset base through responsible financial management, system renewal and innovation to assure the availability of electricity supply to meet customer needs and growth.

Burlington Hydro maintains 32 substations and almost 1,600 kilometers of medium voltage distribution lines to deliver electricity. The company is wholly owned by the City of Burlington.


  • To efficiently deliver reliable electrical energy to our customers in the City of Burlington
  • To provide a safe and rewarding work environment for our employees
  • To assure that future supply is available to meet Burlington's growing needs
  • To provide our shareholder with a superior rate of return.
  • To be a community partner

The Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) is one of the largest consumer-based organizations in Canada. We help provide freedom and peace of mind to 6 million Members through 9 automobile Clubs and 140 offices located across the country.

CAA provides access to an impressive and ever-expanding range of innovative and reliable services that all you to travel with confidence – wherever life happens to take you – from your own backyard to just about anywhere your heart desires.

Your CAA Club offers exceptional Emergency Roadside Services, complete Automotive and Travel Services, Member Savings and comprehensive Insurance Services. We’re here for your while advocating on behalf of Canada’s travelling public.

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With over 3 million new records every month, getClarity identifies all of the critical success factors that are essential for competing faster, easier and more cost effectively than ever before.

At Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), our business is protecting the environment, conserving the country's natural heritage, and providing weather and meteorological information to keep Canadians informed and safe.

Environment and Climate Change Canada is building on its accomplishments with the environment through credible science, effective regulations and legislation, successful partnerships, and high-quality service delivery to Canadians.

We support sound environmental decisions. We work to repair the damage of the past, to collect and pass on knowledge, and to develop, implement and enforce policies to prevent future issues. We also work to ensure that Canadians have a safe, clean and sustainable environment today, tomorrow and well into the future.

Environment and Climate Change Canada is a diverse organization where our programs, services, and people lead the way in implementing the Government of Canada’s environmental agenda. We collaborate with our partners at home and abroad, to realize concrete progress on initiatives that will protect the health of our people and our planet.

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NRCan develops policies and programs that enhance the contribution of the natural resources sector to the economy and improve the quality of life for all Canadians.

We conduct innovative science in facilities across Canada to generate ideas and transfer technologies. We also represent Canada at the international level to meet the country's global commitments related to the sustainable development of natural resources.