British Columbia

Incentives for new electric vehicle in B.C. could add up to $16K

A new $5,000 federal rebate for people buying new electric vehicles under $45K adds to provincial programs already in place in B.C.

A new $5,000 federal rebate for electric vehicles under $45K adds to provincial programs

A new federal rebate will take $5,000 off the price of a zero-emission vehicle, adding to the B.C. incentives already in place, but only on vehicles under $45,000. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Malik Jamal has been saving up for an electric vehicle. He doesn't own a car now, largely because he doesn't want to pollute the environment with a gas-powered vehicle.

Jamal, 28, watched the federal budget announcement closely this week, making note of the $5,000 rebate that will be offered to people buying zero-emission vehicles under $45,000.

"I was excited about the plan," said Jamal. "I hadn't considered that it could go together with the B.C. incentives as well."

As a B.C. resident, he can access a similar $5,000 rebate for new electric cars costing up to $77,000. There's even a third program, Scrap-It, in which British Columbians can bring in old gas-powered vehicles that qualify, and get another $6,000 toward a new electric vehicle. 

Since Jamal doesn't have an old car, that option is off the table, but for many people wanting to get into the electric vehicle market, there are a lot of incentives on the table.

"That's going to bring it pretty close to being the same sticker price for a comparable gasoline car," said Dan Woynillowicz, policy director with Clean Energy Canada at Simon Fraser University.

"You have to put more money down out of the gates, and not everybody has the ability to do that, so that's where these rebates are important, and they kind of level the playing field," said Woynillowicz.

But not all electric car fans — or prospective buyers like Jamal — are entirely enthusiastic about the new rebate.

Few qualifying models

According to Matthew Klippenstein, an advisor for the non-profit program, Plugin B.C., the incentive is quite restricted.

"This is kind of an announcement where nobody's happy," said Klippenstein on Wednesday.

He originally counted just eight models out of 40 electric vehicles on the market that fall under the $45,000 threshold to qualify, so auto manufacturers are only able to have base models included.

On Thursday, Klippenstein learned that plug-in electric hybrid vehicles would, in fact, be included in the federal program, the details of which are still being worked out. That would increase the number of qualifying models to 19.

People like Jamal, who get excited about the technology, won't get a break off the sticker price on many popular electric cars, including the entire Tesla line.

According to Klippenstein, the market for electric vehicles may actually see sales drop as a result of the federal announcement, as consumers wait to see exactly when it will kick in, and whether manufacturers that have models just above the threshold drop their prices to qualify for the rebate.

Infrastructure concerns

Finally there's the question of infrastructure.

For Jamal, who lives in a Vancouver rental apartment, he may have to wait a little longer to buy an electric car, until his landlord decides to install a charging system, or he finds a different place to live that already has one.

"Thinking about the logistics, [the new rebate] gives me the affordability to buy it, but that infrastructure still isn't there for me to be able to maintain owning an electric vehicle," he said.

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Rafferty Baker

Video journalist

Rafferty Baker is a Video journalist with CBC News, based in Vancouver, as well as a writer and producer of the CBC podcast series, Pressure Cooker. You can find his stories on CBC Radio, television, and online at