Just 1 per cent of vehicles on Canadian roads are zero-emission, new StatsCan data showsNews
Dec 2, 2022
Brian BanksEmma Jarratt

A new StatsCan publication of annual light- and medium-duty vehicle registrations through 2021 puts the current number of ZEV registrations in Canada relative to the total fleet in perspective

Together, the 248,581 BEVs and PHEVs registered as of the end of 2021 represent Canada’s entire zero-emission light-duty vehicle fleet. Image: Statistics Canada

A new StatsCan publication of annual light- and medium-duty vehicle registrations through 2021 puts the current number of ZEV registrations in Canada relative to the total fleet in perspective

Through the end of 2021, electric vehicles in the light- and medium-duty sectors made up just one per cent of all vehicles registered in Canada.

Statistics Canada released its cumulative database of annual vehicle registration data, updated to Dec. 31, 2021, with enhanced breakdowns that allow, for the first time, light- and medium-duty vehicles to be identifiable by fuel type.

“While 94.9% of all registered [light-duty vehicles] remained motor gasoline in 2021, there were 303,073 hybrid electric vehicles as well as 152,685 battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and 95,896 plug-in electric vehicles (PHEVs) registered,” reads the StatsCan release, in part.

It should be noted that while StatsCan’s statement mentions hybrid electric vehicles, it only classifies battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) as “zero-emission vehicles.” In turn, the latter grouping that does not reflect Electric Autonomy Canada‘s view, which considers only non-combustion engine vehicles to be zero-emission. However, where statistics below refer to ZEVs, we have adhered to StatsCan’s definition for consistency.

A clear picture

StatsCan’s statement also highlights the growth in BEV and PHEV registrations in 2021 versus 2020 — 48.1 per cent and 24.4 per cent respectively — but the real story in this new data package is a cumulative one.

Together, the 248,581 BEVs and PHEVs registered as of the end of 2021 represent Canada’s entire zero-emission light-duty vehicle fleet. When compared to the total number of light-duty vehicles registered, that amounts to 1.03 per cent of cars and light-duty pickups on the road.

At a time when the most recent quarterly new vehicle registration data shows ZEV market penetration approaching 10 per cent nationally (9.4 per cent in Q3), this cumulative total of ZEV registrations in Canada paints a clearer picture of how far the country still has to go to realize a true zero-emission vehicle future.

Yet it shouldn’t be surprising. In all, there were 1.6 million new motor vehicles registered in 2021. Even if every one of those vehicles had been a ZEV — i.e. 100 per cent market share instead of the actual value of 5.2 per cent — the cumulative share of registered ZEVs would still only be 7.6 per cent.

In short, turning over the entire existing fleet of combustion engine vehicles to ZEVs is going to take some time.

ZEV growth rate substantial

Looking at the year-over-year growth rate in ZEV registrations since 2017 using the StatsCan calculator, the pace of growth is substantial, though it is slowing in percentage terms as the size of the existing ZEV fleet increases.

In 2018, ZEV registrations eclipsed 2017 registrations by 75 per cent. In 2019, the total grew by 66 per cent. In 2020, it gained 43 per cent. In 2021, it was up 38 per cent. Unit volume over the same span grew from approximately 32,500 new ZEVs in 2018 to approximately 68,000 new ZEVs in 2021.

With the number of different new ZEV models coming to market set to accelerate dramatically in the next few years, with those cars and trucks serving more segments and price points, those figures will surely grow — as long as automakers are able produce and deliver enough vehicles to meet demand.

But even if the country meets the federal government’s current goals to see ZEVs make up 20 per cent of new vehicle sales by 2026 and 60 per cent by 2030, it’s going to be a lot longer still before even every other vehicle on Canadian roads is a ZEV.

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