British Columbia

'Perfect storm' of high gas prices and rebates driving B.C.'s EV explosion

Electric vehicles already account for 15 per cent of the car market share in B.C. and those numbers are expected to keep rising.

Electric vehicles already account for 15% of the car market share in B.C., almost twice the national average

An electric vehicle charging station is seen at the Volkswagen display during media day at the 2019 Canadian International Auto Show. (Chris Helgren/Reuters)

An economics professor at the University of Calgary says the combination of high gas prices and government rebate are set to trigger an explosion in the number of electric vehicles (EVs) on B.C. roads.

"It's the perfect storm in British Columbia right now," said Blake Shaffer. "You've got very high fuel prices — $1.70 at the pump — while at the same time you've got two levels of government offering pretty compelling incentives."

On May 1, the federal government started offering a $5,000 rebate on the purchase of an EV. That's in addition to the $5,000 already available through the provincial government's Clean Energy Vehicles for B.C., or CEVforBC program. 

In B.C., EVs already account for 15 per cent of the car market share, almost twice the national average.

In a new policy paper published by the University of Calgary School of Public Policy, Shaffer crunched the numbers around the economics of EVs and rebates, finding that drivers in B.C. stand to save a lot of money if they choose an EV over a popular model internal combustion engine vehicle — and not only because of the thousands of dollars in incentives. 

According to his calculations, driving 100 kilometres in B.C. in a top selling electric vehicle will cost between $2 to $4.

That's less than the estimated $12.07 it would cost to drive the same distance in a Honda Civic Sedan, the top selling car in Canada. And it's a lot less than the $18.02 it would cost in a Ford F-150, Canada's top selling truck.

Although EVs cost more than similar model gas powered vehicles, Shaffer figures that with fuel savings and the rebates combined, it would take only two years to pay back the extra expense.

He also created a payback period calculator app as part of his research project. 

Shaffer also suggests rebates do more in B.C. to reduce green house gas emissions compared to a province like Alberta where electricity is still 90 per cent generated from burning coal and natural gas. 

"You have 98 per cent clean [hydroelectric] energy," he said. "So switching over to an EV is a big GHG benefit. It's helping the transportation sector with GHG emissions reduction which is one of the largest areas that B.C. needs to tackle."

Shaffer says in the past, EV rebate programs weren't very equitable because they tended to benefit higher income earners who could afford an expensive new electric vehicle.

He says the federal government is taking a step in the right direction by limiting rebate eligibility to EVs priced under $45,000.

"It could go further by making the rebate a taxable benefit, imposing a larger cost on higher income bracket households." he wrote.