The Canadian government is making smart investments in electric vehicles

Darlene Clarke, business development manager at Forseeson Technology, smiles as she test drives an electric car outside a global clean energy summit in Vancouver on May 27, 2019. File photo by Jennifer Gauthier

Last month, energy ministers and corporate leaders from around the world descended on Vancouver for the 10th Clean Energy Ministerial to discuss all things clean energy. But electric vehicles — from cars to buses to trucks — really stole the show.

To kick things off, the International Energy Agency released its new Global Electric Vehicles Outlook, the data-driven crystal ball of the electric future. The outlook predicts there will be 130 million EVs on the road by 2030.

EVs are among the most promising technologies for cutting pollution in one of Canada’s highest-emitting sectors. Roughly 25 per cent of our emissions come from transportation, with personal vehicles accounting for roughly half that. What’s more, we have a secret weapon that many Canadians aren’t aware of: our power grid is over 80 per cent non-polluting and getting cleaner every year. In other words, when we plug things into that grid, the pollution reductions are significant.

From Canada’s point of view, signs are looking good that we’ll ride the electrification wave. Canadian investment in EVs soared over the last few years, from next to nothing in 2010 to over $1 billion in 2017. More than 40 models of EVs are now available in Canada, a number that is rapidly ticking upward. Last year, the sale of new electric vehicles nearly doubled versus 2017. EVs now account for 2.5 per cent of all vehicles sold in Canada. And more and more Canadians believe their next vehicle will be electric.

What exactly is driving this trend? Canada’s federal government — supported by a couple of key provinces — is implementing many of the right policies and incentives to kickstart EV uptake. These measures will reduce carbon pollution while also helping Canadians benefit from lower fuel and maintenance costs. But some of these policies are pretty wonky. Do consumers and businesses know about the incentives on offer? As part of our series to help Canadians better understand the federal government’s climate policies, we’ve broken it down for you.

EVs are among the most promising technologies for cutting pollution in one of Canada’s highest-emitting sectors. Photo via Pixabay user MikesPhotos
National sales targets

Despite failed efforts to develop a national zero-emission vehicle strategy in co-ordination with provinces (a challenging feat when certain provincial governments are keen to roll back climate action), Canada has a target to sell 100 per cent zero-emission vehicles by 2040, with interim goals of 10 per cent by 2025 and 30 per cent by 2030. To help achieve these goals, the federal government will put $5 million toward inducing auto manufacturers to set voluntary zero-emission vehicle-sales targets.

Read more:

Tories pounce on carbon tax analysis that excludes cost of climate crisis

Canada becomes first country to sign pledge for zero emission commercial vehicles

Electric cars now over 1% of Vancouver vehicles

This, of course, stops short of a zero-emission vehicle mandate (that is, a requirement, as opposed to a target, that a certain percentage of Canadian automaker sales be electric by a certain date), like those in place in Quebec and now B.C. But it’s a step in the right direction and sends a signal to automakers that they need to start boosting production. If they don’t and supply lags behind demand, we could very well end up with a national mandate, as recommended by the federal government’s Advisory Council on Climate Action.

Consumer rebates

The federal government has also introduced a purchase incentive to make EVs more affordable. Rolled out May 1 of this year, consumers can access a rebate of up to $5,000 for electric-battery or hydrogen-fuel-cell vehicles. Fully electric cars with sticker prices below $45,000 are eligible for the full rebate, while plug-in hybrids can qualify for up to $2,500 off.

The rebate will also be available for higher-end versions of the eligible base models, so long as the final price after upgrades doesn’t exceed $55,000. This requirement led some carmakers such as Tesla to lower the price of their base models.

Provincial and federal rebates are also “stackable,” meaning B.C. residents can combine the $5,000 federal rebate with the $5,000 provincial one, and Quebec residents can stack the federal incentive with their $8,000 provincial rebate.

And make no mistake: these cars pay for themselves. The average Canadian driver could expect to save an average of $2,461 a yeari n fuel and maintenance costs. A new University of Calgary policy paper found that, with fuel savings and rebates combined, it could take as few as two years to recoup the higher purchase price.  MORE


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