(The Canadian Press)

Feds’ electric-car rebate uses nearly half its three-year budget in eight months

Transport Canada reports that more than $134 million in rebates have already been issued to 33,000 Canadians

Transport Minister Marc Garneau is thinking about expanding the government’s rebate program for people who buy electric vehicles after eager car-buyers gobbled up nearly half the funds in just eight months.

Garneau launched the incentive payments last May, offering up to $5,000 off the price of buying new electric and hybrid passenger vehicles to try and bring their price tags closer to those on similar gas models.

Ottawa funded the program with $300 million, on a first-come, first-served basis, over the next three years.

As of Jan. 19, Transport Canada reports that more than $134 million in rebates have already been issued to 33,000 Canadians. At that rate of uptake, the funds will be entirely gone before the end of this year.

“It’s very encouraging to see how many people are now thinking about and actually going ahead and buying (zero-emission vehicles),” Garneau said outside the House of Commons Monday afternoon.

While the government expected the program to be popular, the briefing book prepared for Garneau after he was reinstated as the transport minister after the fall federal election, says “the program has induced more new sales than projected.”

According to Transport Canada, overall electric vehicle sales jumped 32 per cent after the rebates were launched, compared to the same period the year before. In 2019, electric cars made up three per cent of all vehicle sales, up from two per cent in 2018.

That is still a long way from the goals the federal Liberals set last year to have electric cars make up 10 per cent of all light-duty vehicle sales by 2025, 30 per cent by 2030 and 100 per cent by 2040. It is a significant part of Canada’s efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, with light-duty vehicles emitting 12 per cent of all emissions in Canada in 2017.

Garneau noted his mandate letter from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau instructs him to do more to meet those quotas, and he said looking at doing more with rebates is among the possibilities, including extending them to used cars as well.

“I’m certainly working very hard in that direction,” he said, though he wouldn’t speculate about the specifics about what an expanded program would look like. It’s likely any expansion would be included in the next federal budget.

Cara Clairman, CEO of the non-profit electric vehicle advocacy group Plug’n Drive, said a 2017 study by her organization found price to be the main deterrent for consumers when it comes to buying an electric car, so incentives are definitely helpful.

“There are people buying electric vehicles without them but definitely it helps,” she said.

READ MORE: Looking at buying an electric car? New federal rebates kick in May 1

She said a program in Ontario to offer $1,000 incentives to buy used electric cars spurred the purchase of more than 300 used electric cars since it launched in April. That program, run by Plug’n Drive with funding from the private M.H. Brigham Foundation, is expanding next month to add an additional $1,000 incentive to not just buy a used electric car but to scrap a gas-powered vehicle in the process. The scrapped vehicles will be disposed of by the Automotive Recyclers of Canada.

Canadian electric vehicle sales are still heavily concentrated in Quebec and British Columbia, which offer provincial rebates on top of the federal rebate. B.C. drivers can get up to $3,000 more back from the provincial government, and Quebec drivers can get up to $8,000 on top of the federal incentive.

Electric Mobility Canada reported late last year that 75 per cent of all electric cars sold in Canada were purchased in B.C. (29 per cent) and Quebec (46 per cent.) Twenty per cent were bought in Ontario, leaving the remaining seven provinces with just five per cent of all the sales.

Ontario had a rebate program until it was scrapped by the new Tory government in 2018, leading to a significant drop in electric car purchases in that province. Electric Mobility Canada says the sale of electric cars in Ontario fell 44 per cent in the third quarter of 2019, compared to that period in 2018.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Electric vehicles

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dragon boaters being sought for a new team in Ladysmith

Men and women just need to bring along their enthusiasm and dedication

Police encourage the public to register their bicycles

It helps to have pictures, make and model in the recovery process from thefts

UPDATED with VIDEO and PHOTOS: One person treated for minor burns in Crofton fire Monday morning

Firefighters were called out at 7 a.m. to a blaze at the Twin Gables Motel

Public engagement on North Cowichan forest reserve begins this month

Consulting firm presents engagement plan at North Cowichan council meeting

SD79 finalizes $106-million budget for 2019-20

$2.1-million increase in revenue from previous year

VIDEO: Illicit drug overdoses killed 981 in B.C. in 2019, down 38%

Chief coroner says figures were down about a third in the province’s fourth year of the opioid crisis

Trudeau revisits blackface embarrassment during Black History Month

Photos and a video of Trudeau wearing makeup to darken his skin surfaced during last fall’s election campaign

VIDEO: B.C.’s seventh coronavirus patient at home in Fraser Health region

Canada in ‘containment’ as COVID-19 spreads in other countries

B.C. takes over another Retirement Concepts senior care home

Summerland facility latest to have administrator appointed

RCMP pull office from Wet’suwet’en territory, but hereditary chiefs still want patrols to end

Chief says temporary closure of field office not enough as Coastal GasLink pipeline dispute drags on

Prescription opioids getting B.C. addicts off ‘poisoned’ street drugs

Minister Judy Darcy says Abbotsford pilot project working

Most Read