I’ve been known to be critical of the Liberals – both provincially and federally – from time to time. And believe me, I’ll be critical of them again. But I’m also willing to give credit where credit is due, and Dalton McGuinty’s cash-strapped government deserves kudos for launching a $15 million incentive program for the purchase of hybrid and alternative fuel-powered commercial vehicles.
Such incentives are widely available in the US, and have helped edge hybrid vehicles closer to the mainstream. Without government incentives, very few fleets are going to shell out the extra $30,000-$40,000 a hybrid truck typically costs. The bean-counters are often too short-sighted to see the value that can be achieved long-term through the fuel and maintenance savings delivered by these types of vehicles. The government really does have a role to play in helping get the ball rolling and encouraging the adoption of environmentally-friendly commercial vehicles.
Thanks to the Ontario government’s grant program, announced yesterday, more fleets will have the opportunity to invest in environmentally-friendly vehicles and see for themselves just how much they save in fuel costs over time. I’m also pleased to see the program is retroactive to August, 2007. Early adopters should not miss out on the funding – companies that have already purchased hybrid or alternative fuel commercial vehicles should also be rewarded.
The details of the grant have yet to be released, but I have a feeling a lot of companies will line up for the funding when applications are accepted beginning at the end of November. The benefits of the incentives are two-fold. First, companies will see for themselves that there really is value in investing in ‘green’ commercial vehicles. Ideally the fuel savings will outweigh the purchase price premium and fleets will continue to purchase hybrid vehicles well into the future, even without government grants.
Secondly, the program will result in increased sales of hybrid vehicles, which will help drive down the purchase price as economies of scale make building hybrid vehicles more cost-effective.
I don’t think hybrid or alternative fuel-powered vehicles are the fix for all the industry’s challenges. But I do think they do have a place. In the right application, these vehicles can deliver substantial fuel savings for fleets and at the same time produce less emissions, which benefits us all. It’s been a long time coming, but the Ontario Liberals got it right with this program. Let’s hope some federal funding will follow.
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