Sales of electric vehicles plummet in Ontario after rebate cancellation

TORONTO — Sales of electric vehicles in Ontario have plummeted since the Progressive Conservative government cancelled a rebate last year, hampering progress toward a national target.

In the first six months of this year, sales in Ontario were down more than 55 per cent from the same period in 2018, according to data from Electric Mobility Canada. In the second quarter of this year 2,933 electric vehicles were sold in the province, down from 7,110 in the same period last year.

Ontario is the only province not seeing increases in sales, year over year.

Quebec and British Columbia, which have their own provincial rebates, have long been leading in total sales. Ontario's figures had been increasing on par with theirs until the province's financial incentive disappeared.

Under the previous Liberal government, Ontario had offered up to $14,000 back for buyers of electric vehicles, but Premier Doug Ford's government cancelled it after winning the June 2018 election, saying it was going to people who could already afford expensive cars.

Shortly after that, Ontario's sales sharply dropped — and national sales did, too.

They rebounded after the introduction this spring of a $5,000 federal rebate, but national sales of electric vehicles are still only at 3.5 per cent, which is a far cry from the federal government's target of 10 per cent in 2025.

“It's going to be challenging for the federal government to meet that target...then even more by 2030 (when Ottawa hopes the number rises to 30 per cent),” said Al Cormier of Electric Mobility Canada.

“If Ontario was in the game again it would make the whole thing a lot easier.”

B.C. is now at 10 per cent of sales, with Quebec close behind at seven per cent. In Ontario, electric vehicle made up around three per cent of total passenger vehicle sales at its highest point, then dropped to below one per cent after the cancellation of the provincial rebate, then climbed to sit under two per cent after the introduction of the federal rebate.

Experts say rebates are key because the up-front cost of an electric vehicle can be anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000 more than a similar gas-powered car. Rebates take away some of that initial price shock, said Cara Clairman, the CEO of Plug'n Drive, a not for profit devoted to electric vehicles.

“The total cost of ownership, when you take into account that you're not going to be paying for gas and there's less maintenance,” she said. “The total cost of ownership today is actually lower for an EV than for most gas cars.”

Mark Nantais, president of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers' Association, said that right now the auto industry is taking a loss on electric vehicles of upwards of $10,000 a car. The cost of the technology is still so much higher than that of gas-powered vehicles, he said, but it won't always be that way.

“We see that gap, or that differential, there until probably where you see cost parity in late next decade,” Nantais said.

“We've been quite clear on the need to continue with the consumer point-of-purchase incentives. That's really critical until we reach price parity with internal combustion engines.”

© 2019 The Canadian Press

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