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The good, the bad and the ugly: how electric vehicles are doing in Canada

Today, we are releasing our second status update on electric vehicle (EV) uptake in Canada in partnership with Plug’n Drive. In last year’s report, we cheered on the increase in infrastructure and identified the need for people to have opportunities to test drive. This year, we can see that public awareness is climbing, and that ongoing support for EVs is needed – from governments, manufacturers and existing EV owners.

Two electric vehicles, Toronto.      © Lindsay Page / WWF-Canada

Two electric vehicles, Toronto. © Lindsay Page / WWF-Canada

This fall, we asked Canadians what they knew about electric vehicles, and how they felt about them. In just two years we have seen a striking increase in the number of Canadians who feel that EVs are a viable (or nearly viable) alternative to conventional gas cars (42% compared to 28% in 2012). We have also seen a doubling in the number of Canadians who have driven an EV – BC leads the country with 12% of residents having driven one.

In addition to this positive surge, we have seen the number of EV sales grow by 80% in Canada, with five new electric models available in Canada (making a total of 14 EV options in Canada).

Now for the not-so-good news. Canada currently trails California – a state with roughly the same number of conventional vehicles on the road – by 95,000 EVs. Meaning that in California, one EV is sold for every 34 conventional vehicles, while in Canada, one EV is sold for every 174 conventional cars. In Norway, that ratio skyrockets to one EV sold for every 8 gas or diesel cars!

Electric power cord recharging an electric automobile. ©  Istockphoto.com / WWF-Canada

Electric power cord recharging an electric automobile. © Istockphoto.com / WWF-Canada

Why are we behind? There are a few areas we could improve to increase EV uptake in Canada.

#1 – Competitive Pricing. In Canada, Ontario and Quebec have purchase incentives to help reduce the original cost of the vehicles (up to $8,500). Unfortunately, Canadians in other provinces do not receive incentives. Compare this to Californians, who receive up to $10,000 in rebates and tax credits, or Norwegians who receive a significant tax rebate which makes EVs comparable in price to a conventional vehicle.

# 2 – Charging Infrastructure. Compare Canada’s 1,850 public charging points to California’s 5,330 or Norway’s 6,000. Even within Canada, there is a great discrepancy, with BC having nearly double the number of charging points that Ontario has (700 vs 400).

#3 – Availability. While we do have access to a growing number of electric car models in Canada, it can be difficult to find a dealership with an EV on display or to test drive – at least in Ontario. A recent study by Plug’n Drive found that 46% of certified EV dealerships in Ontario did not have an EV onsite.

These are just a few of the highlights from our EV status update report. Check out our status update infographic to get informed about Canada’s progress and our recommendations going forward.

Download the full report here.

And check out our new web series “First Dates with David Miller” to see our president and CEO cruising around town in a shiny new EV while chatting with notable Canadians about sustainability, cities and nature.