Canada Stalling on Electric Car Adoption and Policy, Report Finds

Even if Canadians want to buy an electric car in the country, it’s not nearly as easy—or as enticing—as our neighbouring nations.

In a recently released report by Clean Energy Canada, the Simon Fraser University think tank found that Canada is lagging when it comes to fuelling the sales of electric vehicles and changing policies to promote adoption.

In Stuck in Neutral, Clean Energy Canada said the climate is right: battery prices are down 73 per cent since 2010, and the electric cars available in the country meet 90 per cent of Canadians’ daily driving needs. More so, Canada being a metal and mineral-rich nation will benefit from the anticipated jump in demand for lithium-ion and other rechargeable batteries.

“The electric car revolution will create huge opportunities in mining, in auto-parts and auto manufacturing, in cleantech—areas Canada excels in,” said Dan Woynillowicz, a policy director at Clean Energy Canada. “An ambitious and strong strategy could make Canada a global EV player, while also reducing pollution.”

But there are some setbacks. The B.C. think tank discovered that Americans have twice as many plug-in cars as Canadians—that is if you can even bother to get your hands on an electric vehicle to charge.

Clean Energy Canada’s report found it is five times more difficult to buy an electric car in Canada than in the U.S. Electric cars are not widely available in Canada, resulting in interested buyers having to wait months before getting keys. For example, it takes up to eight months to get a Chevy Bolt.

Last year, only 0.6 per cent of car sales in Canada were for electric vehicles, lower than sales in the U.S., U.K., China and other leading nations. By comparison, nearly a third of cars sold in Norway were electric, making up 29 per cent of the market share.

While Ontario, Quebec and B.C. offer provincial rebates, there are currently no federal incentives to switch to carbon-neutral cars. Clean Energy Canada noted the federal government’s Zero-Emissions Vehicle Strategy could help the country catch up to others who are embracing the switch to electric vehicles.

The think tank would like to see Canada commit to a binding adoption target for electric vehicles, and implement policies to support the goal. Offering point-of-sale rebates and charging stations close to home are also incentives Clean Energy Canada said will encourage adoption. Companies like FLO are trying to remedy this by putting charging stations in condo buildings.

“A growing number of Canadians want to choose electric for their next vehicle, and governments and the auto sector have the opportunity to make it easier for them to make that choice,” said Merran Smith, Clean Energy Canada’s executive director.

“Preserving the status quo is not the same as playing it safe—slow and steady won’t win this race,” she added.

While the predictions vary, Bloomberg New Energy Finance anticipates there will be 100 million electric cars on the road by 2030, about 50 times more than today. That’s fuelled by many G7 nations banning the sale of fossil-fuel-powered cars, including the U.K., France, and Germany. Norway and the Netherlands will halt sales the soonest, with the Nordic nation promising a ban by 2025.