Photo credit: Tim Oram Source:

Earlier this month, the B.C. government announced it would extend its Clean Energy Vehicle program, originally launched in 2011.

The provincial government has infused another $40 million into the program, which lets consumers save $5,000 on the purchase of electric and hybrid vehicles, and $6,000 on hydrogen fuel cell cars.

Combined with incentives from the province’s SCRAP-IT Program, buyers can save up to $11,000 on an electric vehicle or $12,000 on a hydrogen vehicle.

B.C. is the leader in Canada in terms of per capita electric vehicle (EV) sales, though Quebec has sold more EVs overall.

In total, nearly 30,000 electric vehicles have been sold in Canada. B.C. sold just over 2,000 EVs in 2016, up 38 per cent from the year before.

Clearly, subsidies help drive uptake of electric vehicles. Currently, B.C., Ontario and Quebec are the only provinces that offer electric vehicle purchase incentives. Together, those three provinces accounted for 95 per cent of EV sales in 2016.

Still, there’s a long way to go. In 2015, electric and hybrid vehicles made up less than two per cent of passenger vehicles on the road in B.C. It wasn’t until last fall that EV sales made up more than one per cent of all motor vehicle sales in the province.

In Norway, by contrast, EVs and hybrids made up nearly 40 per cent of newly registered vehicles in 2016. The country hit its target of 50,000 zero-emission vehicles on the road in April 2015, three years early, and there are now more than 100,000 EVs in the country.

A major difference between policies in Norway and B.C. is the range of perks offered in Norway to EV drivers, according to research from the University of Victoria’s Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS).

Those include free parking across the country, free access to ferries and bus lanes, and exemptions from road tolls.

“While the perks do not save consumers a large amount, the convenience they offer has a profound psychological effect,” the report found.

Norway has also built public charging stations across the country. According to the PICS research, there were more than 5,600 stations in the country in 2015, compared to fewer than 600 in B.C.

Still, developments in the EV industry may boost sales in Canada. The Chevrolet Bolt, priced at just under $45,000 in Canada before the incentives, is “poised to democratize electric driving,” according to the Globe and Mail. It’s designed to have a range of 383 kilometres per charge.

And Tesla is promising its Model 3 for a modest $46,000, with a range of 345 kilometres on a single charge. 

By Maura Forrest, 23 February 2017