Louis Bernard has seen the rising popularity of electric vehicles (EVs) first-hand. Bernard, the co-promoter of the annual Montreal Electric Vehicle Show held at the city’s Olympic Stadium, says over 25,000 people attended last year’s show, compared with barely 15,000 when he launched the event in 2017. When the show runs this year on April 22 to April 24, more than 30,000 people are expected to attend.
“I’d rather be busy than not busy,” he said with a laugh.
Indoor test track drives are a big part of the show, as well as conferences and exhibitions of EVs and E-bikes, E-scooters and hoverboards. Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Ford, Chevrolet, Kia, and Polestar will be among the many major brands showcasing the latest in electric cars.
Electric vehicles are very much on the minds of many Canadians right now because of concerns about greenhouse gas emissions, as well as soaring gas prices and the vulnerability in oil supply. According to a KPMG in Canada poll released in March, almost a third of those polled (30%) said they regretted not having bought an EV already. Three in five said that it was time to buy an EV and more than half said they would never buy a gas-powered car again.
Car companies and the government are eager to spur a rise in EV ownership. The federal government’s climate plan mandates that, by 2026, 20% of light-duty vehicle sales will need to be zero-emission cars, with the target rising to 60% in 2030 and 100% in 2035. In its April budget, Ottawa allocated an additional $1.7 billion over five years to support the purchase of more EV models via an extension of the Incentives for Zero-Emission Vehicles (ZEVs) program and a new $547 million incentive program over four years for medium- and heavy-duty ZEVs. There’s also $500 million allocated towards a large-scale urban and commercial charging and refuelling infrastructure.
But for anyone considering buying an electric vehicle, there are some pros and cons they need to weigh first, including the following:
- Range anxiety. Imagine that it’s a frigid, snowy day in February and you are planning a family drive from Hamilton, ON to the Muskoka region. You need to calculate the return distance of this trip, and decide how and where to charge your EV. You’ll need to find a charging station or equip yourself with a home charger. Many new EVs for sale today offer an estimated range of over 400km. But then, you need to consider traffic, as well as the effect cold weather has on the time it takes to charge an EV battery and that driving range decreases in cold weather. Owning an EV requires a lot more planning.
- The availability of charging stations. The infrastructure of charging stations is still very limited and they are nowhere near as available as gas stations. For home charging, you’ll need to decide between a Level 2 charger (which has a faster charge time) or if you can get by on a Level 1, which is a standard home outlet. A lack of charging stations, especially fast-charging ones, is one of the main reasons people are still hesitant to make the switch to EVs. Home charging stations are also not cheap, ranging from several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars.
- The price tag. The ticket price of an EV remains higher than its gas-powered equivalent. In an age of inflation, it becomes even harder to spend $10,000 to $15,000 more on a vehicle purchase. And, while the used EV market is growing, it is still in its infancy.
- No more high fuel costs. As gas prices continue to soar across the country, Canadians are spending thousands of dollars per year on gas for their cars. With inflation driving up prices on just about everything, budget-conscious Canadians are seeking other solutions. Clean Energy Canada published a study that analyzed a number of EV models and compared their total ownership costs with their gas equivalents, finding that lifetime costs averaged around $20,000 less for EV models.
- Lower maintenance costs. Internal combustion cars have more parts compared with EVs. Electric vehicles have no oil to change or sparkplugs to replace, for instance, which can mean EV owners are likely to spend about a third less on maintenance over the life of their vehicles.
- Fewer greenhouse gas emissions. The transportation sector is responsible for approximately 27% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which are a major cause of climate change.
- Government incentives. Federal and provincial governments have a variety of rebates and incentive programs to encourage Canadians to buy an electric vehicle. The federal government, for instance, is offering incentives of up to $5,000 for eligible zero-emission vehicles. The Quebec government offers a new vehicle rebate for individuals, businesses and organizations on the purchase or lease of a new EV. The amount of the rebate depends on the type of vehicle and factors like its model year, battery capacity and selling price. More details about the Quebec program can be found here.
- The future will bring even more pros. As the push for EV adoption grows, there will be more choice in EVs by car manufacturers (and eventually lower ticket prices and maintenance costs) and more charging stations across the country. According to Statista, Canada’s auto dealers sold about 66,800 electric vehicles in 2021, up 42.5% compared with 2020. GM Canada recently announced it would be installing more than 40,000 Level 2 EV chargers across its dealer network in Canada, for example. The country currently has about 15,000 public or semi-private chargers and Ottawa has pledged to build tens of thousands more in the next several years.
“When we started [the Montreal Electric Vehicle Show], we planned for seven years,” says Bernard, who also has an EV show in Quebec City. “But I can tell you there will be more. … People are starting to open up to electric cars now. It’s a permanent shift.”
Disclaimer: This information and the opinions expressed in this blog are based on research and interviews with the authorities identified, conducted on behalf of Allstate Canada. They have been provided for your convenience only and should not be construed as providing legal or insurance advice.