Zero-emission vehicles | Encouraging progress

The federal government, which has pledged to halt the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035, is on the right track, but there’s still a long way to go, experts say.

Posted at 6:00 a.m.

Delphine Belzile

Delphine Belzile
The Press

Zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) accounted for 7.7% of newly registered motor vehicles in the first quarter of the year, according to Statistics Canada. Canadians purchased more than 26,000 new ZEVs in the first three months of the year, a 50.5% increase over the same period in 2021.

The proportion of new ZEVs on the road increased by 32% between the 1er quarter 2020 and the 1er quarter of 2021. It climbed to 68% between the 1er quarter of 2021 and the 1er quarter of 2022, according to the federal agency.

If the trend continues, growth in ZEV sales promises, says Daniel Breton, President and CEO of Electric Mobility Canada.

Remember that the federal government has set itself the goal of ZEV sales reaching 20% ​​of new vehicle sales in 2026 and 60% by 2030. Thus, 100% of light vehicle sales will be zero emissions by 2035.

There is no shortage of demand: some 71% of Canadians are considering electric cars for their next purchase, according to a recent survey conducted for KPMG. “Canadians are ready to make the transition,” says Andréanne Brazeau, mobility analyst at Équiterre, who believes that the rise in gas prices plays in favor of electric cars.

For his part, Robert Poëti, President and General Manager of the Corporation of Quebec Automobile Dealers (CCAQ), believes that it is still early to know if the government target will be reached in 2035. One thing is certain: automakers automobiles are unable to provide as much as they would like, he notes.

Market pressure

Transport Canada forecasts over 300,000 ZEV sales in 2026, some 1,200,000 in 2030, and over 2,000,000 in 2035.

Production issues continue to cause a drop in the supply of ZEVs, says Robert Poëti. A shortage of labor and parts has weakened the supply chain and delayed deliveries since the pandemic.

Wait times for the most popular models can be up to two years. Currently, this is not encouraging.

Robert Poëti, President and General Manager of the Corporation of Quebec Automobile Dealers

In addition to the shortage, the supply of ZEV is unbalanced in the country, says Daniel Breton. Automakers are prioritizing deliveries to regions where there are regulations, to avoid any supply penalties, he explains.

For example, Quebec, which regulates the market for zero-emission vehicles, receives nearly half of all electric vehicles sold in Canada, says Robert Poëti.

According to Daniel Breton, regulation of the Canadian automotive market on ZEVs would require manufacturers to supply territories and provinces with a minimum of battery-electric or plug-in hybrid cars.

Last spring, Ottawa unveiled its plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which provides for a Canada-wide “zero emissions” standard to force manufacturers to improve their ZEV offer. This standard must be adopted as soon as possible to ensure the electrification of transportation across the country, emphasizes Andréanne Brazeau. Currently, only Quebec and British Columbia have regulations on the supply of ZEVs.

Quebec at the forefront

Zero-emission vehicles accounted for 1% of auto market sales in Canada in 2017. That proportion surpassed 5% last year, says Statistics Canada.

In Quebec alone, the number of ZEVs has increased from 6,548 to 36,800 between 2017 and 2021. With more than 10,000 zero-emission vehicles registered between January and March 2022, the province ranks first in the country.

As part of its Roulez vert program, Quebecers are eligible for a $7,000 rebate on the purchase of an electric car, to which is added a $5,000 bonus from the federal government.

Obstacles related to infrastructure and technology are holding back consumers who would like to switch to electric cars. Charging time seems to be the main issue as more than half of Canadians refuse to wait more than 20 minutes to recharge their battery. Some 79% give up making the transition if the car cannot travel 400 kilometers without recharging, according to KPMG.

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  • 26,018
    Number of zero-emission cars registered in the first quarter of 2022

    Statistics Canada

    proportion of new zero-emission cars on the road in 2021

    Statistics Canada

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