More than 30,000 electric vehicles are now on the road in B.C., where the provincial government has set goals of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by 60 per cent and allowing sales of only zero-emission new vehicles by 2040.
In 2019, 10 years after the first electric vehicles hit the road in B.C., they make up nine per cent of light-duty vehicles that are being sold in the province, according to the provincial figures. That’s from four per cent in 2018 and ahead of the targets set under B.C.’s climate strategy, which was released late last year. Five per cent of the electric cars sold this year were fleet vehicles.
The strategy, called CleanBC, had electric vehicles — which include battery electric and plug-in hybrid electric — making up 10 per cent of light-duty sales by 2025. The plan also stipulates that by 2040 all new vehicles sold in B.C. must be zero-emission vehicles.
“We expect that we’re going to be five years ahead of our own schedule,” said Energy Minister Michelle Mungall.
According to the New Car Dealers Association of B.C., more than half of the electric vehicles sold in the province were battery electric (65 per cent), with the rest being plug-in hybrid, with or without range extenders. Between January and October this year, 47 per cent of the approved applications for the provincial incentive were for Teslas.
Electric vehicle sales in B.C. are the highest per capita in North America, ahead of Quebec at seven per cent and California at eight per cent.
Although 30,000 vehicles on the road and nine per cent of new vehicles sold may not sound like a lot, New Car Dealers Association CEO Blair Qualey said compared to many other jurisdictions, B.C. is doing well.
“We’re rocking it here,” said Qualey.
The province set new greenhouse-gas emissions targets last spring. Compared to 2007 levels, the goal is to reduce emissions by 40 per cent by 2030, 60 per cent by 2040 and 80 per cent by 2050.
Mungall said the transportation sector is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse-gas emissions, and although larger vehicles tend to be the worst emitters, switching personal vehicles to zero emissions can help the province meet its goals.
“Emissions that we produce with our vehicles are often some of the biggest emissions that we produce as individuals and so that contribution that every single one of us can make is important to our overall reduction in our emissions,” she said.
Mungall attributes the increase in electric vehicles on the road, at least in part, to the rebates the provincial and federal governments are offering, which can reduce the price of a new electric vehicle by around $8,000.
“I think that the rebate really helped where people are making the decision they need to buy a new car, so are they going to choose between electric vehicle, which is what they would like to do, or do they choose between an internal-combustion engine vehicle that might be a little less expensive on the ticket price,” she said.
Neil MacEachern, program manager, sustainable transportation, for the Fraser Basin Council, which manages the Plug in B.C. program, agreed that rebates take the “sting” out of the initial purchase cost.
“I think generally British Columbians tend to be environmentally conscientious, and a good chunk of the population is interested in moving to cleaner transportation, and it has to fit in their budget and their needs,” MacEachern said.
According to the province, there are about 44 electric vehicle models for sale in B.C., with most of them priced in the $30,000 to $50,000 range, before rebates. Installing a charging station at home can cost between $700 and $2,000.
There are three vehicle incentive programs in B.C., plus a specialty-use vehicle incentive. The federal iZEV program offers up to $5,000 off a new battery-electric vehicle, $2,500 to $5,000 on a plug-in hybrid and up to $5,000 for a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. A provincial program offers up to $3,000 off a new battery-electric vehicle, up to $1,500 off a plug-in hybrid and up to $3,000 for a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. B.C.’s SCRAP-IT program offers incentives for up to $6,000 for a new and $3,000 for a used qualifying electric vehicle.
The province also offers rebates for installing high-speed charging stations in single-family homes, condo and apartment buildings and workplaces.
Qualey said cost is a key issue for consumers, and until there is parity between the cost of electric and gas vehicles, that will continue.
“That’s why the incentives and continuing them are so important,” he said, noting that incentives will be key to the province achieving its goals.
While buying an electric vehicle and installing charging infrastructure can be expensive, owners will save on fuel — about $1,800 a year, according to the provincial government — and maintenance compared to gas vehicles because there are fewer moving parts. Electric vehicle drivers who apply for and receive a special permit can also drive in HOV lanes, even if there is only one person in the car.
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