British Columbia

Gas prices fuel already hot electric vehicle demand in B.C. as wait-lists grow longer

Some buyers can expect to wait upwards of one year for a new vehicle, according to the Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association. Prospective drivers are encouraged to buy used, but even those can be tough to come by.

Demand for EVs only increasing as gas prices in B.C. reach unprecedented highs

Peter Miller says he won't even bother putting his Chevrolet Bolt on Craigslist or Kijiji because he already has a number of offers for the electric vehicle. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Peter Miller will be the first person to admit he has a battery-powered golden goose sitting in his garage.

The West Vancouverite is planning to sell his 2017 Chevrolet Bolt, a popular electric car that at one point was discontinued due to concerns over its battery packs spontaneously catching fire — a part that Miller has replaced.

He's yet to formally put his car on the market, but he's already fielding offers from a slew of suitors, including both GM and Tesla, while word of mouth has other potential buyers also in his ear.

"I've got people banging down my door [to buy this car]," said Miller, who doubts he'll even bother listing the car on sites like Craigslist or Kijiji before he sells it. He expects to resell it for at least $25,000.

Industry leaders say electric and hybrid vehicles are already hard to come by for prospective buyers in B.C. amid growing global supply chain challenges. And demand is only increasing as gas prices reach unprecedented highs.

A hybrid 2018 Chevrolet Volt car at an electric vehicle charging station in the GM lot. Industry experts say electric and hybrid vehicles are hard to come by for prospective buyers in B.C. amid global supply chain challenges. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

"Over the past six days, we've had a 150 per cent increase in inquiries alone," said Jon Wilson, manager at the Westwood Honda dealership in Coquitlam.

Wilson says the dealership continues to add more and more customers to its electric vehicle waitlist, as it's been unable to procure vehicles since last year.

"We've been out actually for six months," he told CBC News. "Typically we'd have 50 to 60 in stock at all times, and then throughout the summer we sold them all and we were unable to get more out of the U.S. market, or even locally."

Wilson says waitlists have also grown for hybrid vehicles.

Lying in wait

According to the Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association (VEVA), wait times for new electric vehicles and hybrids can exceed upwards of a year as supplies still reel from worldwide inventory shortages.

Coupled with growing domestic demand in Canada — about 13 per cent of new vehicles in B.C. sold last year were zero-emission — drivers expecting to make the switch to circumvent the pump might be in for a rude awakening.

An electric vehicle charger is pictured at a parking lot in Surrey, B.C. According to the Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association (VEVA), those looking to buy a new electric or hybrid vehicle can expect to be on a waitlist for at least a year. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Vancouver resident Curtis Wensley is among prospective drivers hoping to get behind the wheel of a new hybrid. He's been on the hunt since his previous vehicle was struck by a driver while parked outside his home.

"We did a lot of shopping around," he said. He put down a deposit for a hybrid KIA Sorento in November and was told by the dealership it would be about a month's wait.

"We were very skeptical," he said. "We called them in December, and they're like, 'It will actually be April,'" he said. "Gave it another month, gave them another call. 'How's April looking?' They're like, 'Well, more like June, or July.'"

Wensley says he's anticipating he may have to wait until 2023 before it arrives.

Go big — or go used

John Stonier, former VEVA president and current member, says the only way buyers are able to drive off the lot with a new electric vehicle is if they go with luxury models, which can cost upwards of $150,000.

"The prudent way to get into electric cars is to buy used," he said. "Because of the supply shortage, used vehicles are selling for about the same price as new ones."

John Stonier, former president of the Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association, says global supply chain challenges mean it's virtually impossible to walk into a dealership and buy a new electric vehicle, aside from costly luxury models. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Stonier says used electric vehicles tend to have fewer problems compared to their gasoline counterparts, largely because they run on fewer parts and require less maintenance.

B.C. has added a series of incentives to encourage residents to purchase zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs), including a provincial sales tax (PST) exemption on used ZEVs with at least 6,000 kilometres. ZEVs include include battery electric, plug-in hybrid electric and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.

Counting the pennies

Meanwhile, those who have found themselves lucky enough to get into the market over the past year are already starting to see the savings accumulate.

Robin Macqueen, a physics instructor at Langara College in Vancouver, has been measuring his mileage after securing a fully electric KIA Soul in August.

He says the cost of electricity to power his car will work out to about $460 for the year, compared to about $4,200 annually in gasoline at current prices hovering over two dollars per litre.

Robin Macqueen, a physics instructor at Langara College in Vancouver, records the mileage of his electric Kia Soul, which he says ends up costing about $460 for an entire year. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Still, the recent EV convert says B.C. needs to ramp up its infrastructure if it's to encourage more people to get behind the wheel.

"If over the next 10 years we're going to switch over to electric vehicles, we're going to need a lot more charging stations," he said.

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