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Electric vehicles 'front and centre' at Vancouver auto show

Supercars with huge, gas-guzzling engines are still among the show-stoppers at the Vancouver International Auto Show, but electric cars are enjoying prominent display locations as well.

Vancouver International Auto Show organizers say electric vehicles fill more floor space each year

Mitsubishi had a couple of its Outlander PHEV SUVs on display at the Vancouver International Auto Show. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

The supercars with huge, gas-guzzling engines are still among the show-stoppers at the Vancouver International Auto Show, but electric cars are now also prominently displayed, and they're edging out their fossil-fuelled counterparts.

The auto show kicked off Wednesday with more than 400 shiny vehicles for enthusiasts and consumers to check out at the Vancouver Convention Centre. 

Blair Qualey, president and CEO of the New Car Dealers Association of B.C., which puts on the show, said 115,000 people took in last year's event, and he expects even more this year.

Even companies that don't make electric cars were getting in on the trend at the Vancouver International Auto Show, like BC Hydro, which is involved in building quick-charge infrastructure in the province. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

He said the trend toward more and more electric offerings from car makers is still going strong.

"We have the biggest number of electric vehicles we've ever seen at the show, and ones that you can actually do a 'ride and drive' in," said Qualey.

Electric test drives

Charlotte Argue manages the program that makes the electric test drives available at the Convention Centre throughout the show. She's the program manager of Plug In BC, an organization that promotes electric vehicles (EVs) and infrastructure.

"It's just growing exponentially," said Argue of the EV market.

Plug In BC had a variety of electric vehicles from different car makers at the Vancouver Convention Centre for people to take out for a test drive. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

"For a lot of the auto makers, they're choosing to put the electric vehicles front and centre ... and I think that's partly in response to consumer demand and interest out there," she said.

"If they don't have an electric vehicle available on market, then they're missing out on a large group, and a growing group," she said, adding that there are about 9,000 EVs registered in B.C. Across the country, that number is closer to 50,000.

Ford had a prototype gas-fuelled Ranger pickup truck and a new Mustang Bullitt to show off, along with the usual range of heavy pickups, but you had to first pass by its electric hybrid cars to get to them.

To check out the array of Ford trucks at the Vancouver International Auto Show, you had to first pass by the company's electric offerings. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Over at the Mitsubishi area, the company was promoting its Outlander PHEV, which it calls "the first and only plug-in hybrid SUV with 4WD in all-electric mode."

Spokesperson Michelle Lee-Gracey said the SUV is a "game-changer," with a base-model price around $43,000. She said "electrification is at the core of our business at Mitsubishi Motors," calling the Outlander PHEV a pillar in the company's growth plan.

Mitsubishi Motor Sales of Canada's Phil Knechtel reveals the two motors under the Outlander PHEV's hood. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Niche car makers

But it's not just the big car makers touting EVs. There were smaller companies at the show as well, including Vancouver-based Meccanica, which has been marketing its three-wheeled, single-passenger Solo.

Meccanica also used the opportunity to unveil most of a new electric roadster, the Tofino. It had a chassis to roll out, with completion expected toward the end of this year. Meccanica says said the Tofino will be able to travel 400 kilometres on a single charge, hitting a top speed in the 200 km/h range.

Meccanica representatives unveil a new roadster chassis for the company's Tofino model on Wednesday. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)
Meccanica's Solo three-wheeler electric vehicle has only one seat. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Meccanica VP Chris Koch said EVs will keep getting more space at the auto show.

"Electric cars are coming. You know it, they know it and everybody else will know it," he said. "You will see more and more."

Follow Rafferty Baker on Twitter: @raffertybaker

About the Author

Rafferty Baker

Rafferty Baker is CBC Vancouver's mobile journalist. Follow him @raffertybaker

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