From purchase rebate programs to increasing charging infrastructure and promoting EV education, cities and provinces across Canada are negotiating the transition differently with varying results
With the federal government setting a mandatory 100 per cent new zero emission vehicle sales target by 2035, every provincial and municipal government has been sent a signal: time to enforce measures to curb the climate crisis.
At this year’s Electric Mobility Canada (EMC) conference, stakeholders from all levels of government highlighted some of the measures each of their jurisdictions is putting in place. The municipalities and provinces are notable as leaders in Canada for taking aggressive climate action with a specific focus on reducing emissions from transportation, which accounts for nearly 25 per cent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions overall.
During the “Measures needed to reach environmental and EV adoption targets” discussion panel held on Oct. 6, speaker Megan Nichols, director general of environmental policy at Transport Canada, said the federal government is looking at ways to increase ZEV uptake.
“We’ve invested in hundreds of millions and charging and refuelling infrastructure, half a billion in our iZEV program — our purchase incentive program for ZEVs — and large amounts in ZEV manufacturing capabilities.”
With these efforts, ZEV sales in Canada are expected to hit around 10 per cent by 2025, and between 18 and 24 per cent in 2030, said Nichols.
While the federal government has set up ambitious national targets, some provincial and municipal governments are also stepping up and discussing how each of their jurisdictions is taking responsibility in planning ways to reach lower emissions targets.
The Metro Vancouver region — which covers 21 member municipalities — has set climate targets to reduce emissions by 65 per cent for personal vehicles by 2030 from 2010 levels, and a target for all passenger vehicles to be zero emissions by 2050.
These are ambitious goals, said Morgan Braglewicz, air quality planner for Metro Vancouver, but the regional district has adopted a program called the Clean Air Plan that presents strategies and actions to help reach these targets.
In particular, the plan is taking action to reduce emissions by honing in on vehicle use and actual driving time by making transit ridership and active mobility more “convenient, comfortable, accessible and reliable.” It is also trying to push more drivers to switch from fossil-fuelled to zero-emissions modes of transportation to accelerate the uptake of ZEV sales.
“Some possible tools that could be used to achieve earlier adoption of ZEVs at a local level…are lower zero-emission zones, parking programs, transportation pricing or other regional-scale vehicle regulations,” said Braglewicz. “These are all promising approaches, but of course, very challenging to implement with significant equity and affordability considerations that require further thoughts.”
But even though B.C. boasts some of the most encouraging and aggressive EV policies in the country, there is not unanimous consent about the best way to achieve targets. Earlier this month Vancouver’s city council failed to pass a controversial proposal that would have, in a Canada first, taxed all-new combustion engine vehicles and enforced a citywide residential parking permit policy, as part of the city’s 2030 Climate Emergency Action Plan.
With an anticipated influx of ZEVs on roads in the near future, the Clean Air Plan is adding strategies to make ZEVs more affordable by working with senior levels of governments to develop a used EV market and lowering upfront purchase costs, said Braglewicz.
Boosting charging infrastructure is also a key to meet growing EV demand. In July 2021, new regulations were put in place in Vancouver to require 45 per cent of all parking stalls in new non-residential buildings have charging stations.
The municipal government of Montreal has a three-year, $885 million transportation electrification strategy in place to reduce GHG emissions by 55 per cent below 1990 levels and a goal to have 47 per cent of all vehicles to be electric in the city by 2030.
The city currently has over 4,700 registered electric passenger vehicles — making it one of the highest EV adoption jurisdictions in Canada — and 1,700 charging stations. In addition the city takes zero-emission, micro-mobility seriously and plays host to a robust network of electric Bixi bikes all year round and electric scooter pilots during the summer months.
Jonathan Robichaud, Montreal’s planning advisor said during the EMC panel that the city is focusing on testing out different modes of electric transportation, developing public transportation “as the backbone of the city” and increasing measures to facilitate access to charging stations for EV owners.
A “Low Emission Zones” pilot project is also expected to start in 2023, where areas in the city will be designated as emissions-free, noise-free spaces where only zero-emissions transportation modes will be permitted.
“We also have several actions that are connected to economic development and job creation through the electrification of transportation and I think we want to be continuing to be a good example for others,” said Robichaud.
“Regulatory tools are one of the main tools a Quebec municipality has to move things forward. But we need good collaboration between levels of government to have effective tools that will allow us to reach our climate goals in Montreal.”
In the last year, Nova Scotia has made significant strides to accelerate ZEV adoption in the province. The government is focusing on making access to clean transportation equitable for all residents, increasing EV education and engagement and workforce training and employment. In early 2021 Nova Scotia announced a new incentive program for both new and used EVs, which is a significant level in helping to advance equitable adoption.
“At the start of this year, we had about 750 EVs and plug-in hybrids in the province,” said Krista Phillips, acting manager of energy efficiency and sustainable energy for the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources and Renewables.
But after the government implemented the incentives program, Phillips said she noticed a notable rise in EVs sales in the province. “We’re well over 1000 EVs now, which is great. I know it’s quite small compared to a lot of other provinces, but we’re getting there.”
Despite a shakeup in Nova Scotia’s government in August when the Progressive Conservative Party unseated the incumbent Liberals, the new government has confirmed they are committed to achieving a 30 per cent EV sales target by 2030, which is in line with the federal Conservative Party’s 2021 platform.
Remaining provinces and territories
The many varied approaches trying to meet the specific adoption needs of each area bring challenges to advancing adoption. But one of the benefits is that it affords everyone the chance to learn and adjust to what was effective or not as tried by another group.
“As I’ve said quite a few times: it’s one thing to set a target, it’s quite another to reach it,” says EMC president and CEO Daniel Breton in an interview with Electric Autonomy Canada.
“For me, one of the biggest takeaways from the conference was that there was a lot of very positive and constructive discussions, but quite a few people were saying that they don’t know yet how we’re going to reach these targets. So it’s a learning process…but we’re all willing and wanting to work together and collaborate to make sure that we do get there.”
In order to see the whole picture, Electric Autonomy has compiled the full roster of initiatives and rebates offered in each Canadian province and territory:
Newfoundland and Labrador: The province completed its 14-station, fast-charging network that runs all across the province in August 2021, along the Trans-Canada Highway from Port aux Basques to St. John’s. As part of the “Electric Vehicle Accelerator,” program, the provincial government is also providing $2,500 in rebates on new and used EVs sales since September 2021.
Prince Edward Island: In March 2021, the province announced a $500,000 EV incentive program that will provide $5,000 towards any new and used EVs and $2,500 for new and used hybrid vehicles. For each new EV buyer, a Level 2 charging station will be included for free. In addition, the provincial government is partly funding the installation of 50 new Level 2 public charging stations.
Nova Scotia: Since March 2021, the provincial government offers incentives of $3,000 on new EV purchases, $2,000 on used EVs and $500 off e-bikes.
New Brunswick: The province is providing $5,000 in rebates to buyers of new EVs and plug-in hybrids, since July 2021. Customers can also get an additional $750 rebate for at-home installations for Level 2 chargers.
Quebec: Since 2012 and under the government’s “Roulez Vert” program, rebates of up to $8,000 are given to new EV purchases and $4,000 to used ones. EV owners can also get $600 off a Level 2 home charging station.
Ontario: Under Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government, the province offered rebates of between $3,000 to $14,000 towards the purchase of a new EV, but in 2018 the program was axed when Conservative leader Doug Ford was elected. The province then saw a 55 per cent drop in EV sales. Through the Plug n’ Drive Used EV Incentive program, drivers can get a $1,000 rebate for buying a used EV, plus another $1,000 off if they recycle their combustion engine vehicle.
Manitoba: The province does not provide a purchase incentive for electric vehicles, but ZEV registrations did increase during the first quarter of 2021, compared to 2020. The federal government, along with Manitoba’s Eco West Canada and municipalities is installing 31, level 2 chargers in Winnipeg and some rural municipalities in Southern Manitoba to provide more charging options for drivers.
Saskatchewan: The province does not provide a purchase incentive for electric vehicles, but they are imposing Canada’s first EV road user tax of $150, annually. The fee took effect earlier this month.
Alberta: The province does not provide a purchase incentive for electric vehicles, but Calgary has adopted an EV strategy plan, developed as part of its Climate Resilience Strategy and Action Plan. It’s working towards building an EV education program and implementing charging infrastructure. The city is also partnering up with cities such as Lethbridge and Medicine Hat to set up a Peaks to Prairies EV charging network.
British Columbia: Since 2019, the province has offered a rebate of up to $3,000 for new EVs purchased under $55,000, which was a reduction from the original $2,500 — $6,000 amount. The province provides a rebate of 50% or a maximum of $350 on the purchase and installation costs on Level 2 EV chargers. A provincial “Scrap-It” program also offers a $6,000 rebate for recycling a combustion engine vehicle that can be used to purchase a new or used EV.
Yukon: The Yukon government offers rebates of up to $5,000 on new ZEV purchases, including $2,500 off zero emission snowmobiles. This is part of the territory’s “Our Clean Future” plan to reduce emissions by 30 per cent by 2030, compared to 2010 levels, and to reach net zero by 2050.
Northwest Territories: Through the Arctic Energy Alliance, residents in nine communities can apply for a $5,000 rebate on new battery electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles, plus $500 off purchases of Level 2 home chargers.
Nunavut: The Territory does not provide a purchase incentive for electric vehicles and EV adoption rates are low. There are no charging infrastructure installation plans currently in place.