Quebec to ban sale of new gas vehicles by 2035
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Nov 16, 2020
Emma Jarratt

Canada’s second largest province joins British Columbia in setting a ban on combustion vehicles and puts itself on par with California with an ambitious deadline

Canada’s second largest province joins British Columbia in setting a ban on combustion vehicles

Quebec is taking pole position in Canada to drive the transition towards electric vehicle adoption, with the province’s Minister of Environment, Benoit Charette, announcing today new light internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles will not be sold in the province as of 2035. La Presse was the first outlet to report the details of Quebec’s new plan.

It’s the second time in 18 months that a Canadian province has committed to the EV market. In May 2019, British Columbia was the first out of the gate to set an ICE phase-out target, passing an emission law to ban new gas-powered cars and trucks by 2040. Quebec’s earlier target ties the province with California, which has North America’s most ambitious EV legislation.

“Quebec wants to stay the leader in EV adoption in Canada,” says Daniel Breton, president and CEO of industry association Electric Mobility Canada in an email to Electric Autonomy regarding the development. “If other provinces want to take advantage of the growing interest from the federal government regarding a Canadian EV industry, they should inspire themselves from what Quebec and B.C. are doing by offering EV rebates and adopting ZEV standards.”

“The earlier we stand out in this market, the easier our supply will be”

Benoit Charette, Minister of the Environment and the Fight Against Climate Change,
National Assembly of Québec

Quebec’s ICE ban is a move that is part of Charette’s larger five-year, $6.7-billion Green Economy initiative. It’s a tactic being looked at by other provincial governments and there is interest at the federal level to create a Canada-wide electrification minimum. But industry experts are concerned that without meaningful incentives supporting the headline grabbing rules, there will be little impact.

Setting strong goals to “stand out”

Brian Kingston, president and CEO of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association, says Quebec is “aggressive” and “ahead of others” when it comes to pushing EV adoption. The ICE ban will apply to light duty vehicles, cars, minivans, SUVs and pickup trucks. 

In his interview with La Presse, Charette called the 2035 deadline “a Canadian first” and noted “the earlier we stand out in this market, the easier our supply will be. Builders and retailers will want, first and foremost, to supply the Quebec market.”

Under the terms of the new law, the sale of secondhand ICE vehicles will continue to be permitted after 2035.

Breton believes Quebec is intending to send a strong signal to manufacturers. “With the recent election of Joe Biden, the move in Quebec and B.C. — plus the present discussions about a ZEV mandate in Ottawa — many OEMs will have to get more serious about building and supplying enough EVs for Quebec and [customers in the rest of Canada].”

Incentives give teeth to bans

While some countries, such as the UK, are mandating bans on new ICE vehicle sales as early as 2030, the Trudeau Liberal government only has a “goal” of 100 per cent zero-emission vehicle sales by 2040. But even at that, recent data from Transport Canada indicates the country is already falling behind on its timeline (interim milestones are 10 per cent by 2025, 30 per cent by 2030) and some speculate it’s because not enough is being done to incentivize and educate consumers.

The CVMA’s Kingston raises other considerations.

“We need to have an honest conversation about how much government is going to invest in this program if they want to hit their targets,” he says. “If they want to reach a target of 30 per cent by 2030, back-of-the-envelope calculation is if you keep the [federal] iZEV program at $5,000 … you are looking at a cost of in excess of $10 billion for that program.”

Adds Kingston: “Banning the sales of ICE vehicles is not going to speed up the transition to ZEVs. It’s symbolic, but it won’t achieve anything. If you don’t have people wanting to buy these vehicles the outcome is pretty obvious. Much attention gets paid to bans or ZEV mandates, but that’s not what’s driving adoption.”

“More to do”

Quebec is planning on continuing its $8,000 Roulez Vert rebate for new EV purchases. Keeping the rebate, Kingston says, is essential to a successful adoption program, but he hopes to see a doubling down on financial commitment from the governments instead of more bans.

“The evidence is pretty clear: the provinces who have done relatively well in terms of adoption have done so because they put in place consumer incentives. Compared to other provinces [Quebec is] on the leading edge with respect to incentives and they are investing in infrastructure and they are trying to raise awareness about EVs,” says Kingston. “They are definitely ahead of others with respect to boosting adoption and the numbers prove that. But there is more to do.”

Editor’s note: this story has been updated to reflect correct vehicle types affected by the policy

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