Sold out: Report finds most B.C. dealerships don't have any electric vehicles

A recent study by Clean Energy Canada has found there aren’t enough electric vehicles in B.C. to keep up with demand.

Buyers are waiting up to 18 months for their new cars to arrive

While B.C. has developed a network of electric charging stations, there isn't enough supply to keep up with market demand for the vehicles. (Emotive)

A recent study by Clean Energy Canada has found there aren't enough electric vehicles in B.C. to keep up with demand. 

The shortage has led to buyers waiting up to 18 months for their new cars to arrive, according to the study.

"Only 40 per cent of dealerships had even just a single electric vehicle on the lot," said Clean Energy Canada policy director Dan Woynillowicz.

He says the government has done a good job promoting electric vehicles to British Columbians, but that "when it actually comes time to finding a dealership that has one available, it's pretty challenging."

Supply and demand

The report looked at 292 dealerships across the province. Of them, only 40 per cent had electric vehicles on their lot.

The Lower Mainland led in the number of lots with available electric vehicles at 54 per cent, while Northern B.C. had the lowest numbers at only seven per cent.

"Consumers need to have the choice and ability to go to a dealership and drive away with the electric car of their choice," said Woynillowicz.

In the Lower Mainland, most dealerships stated it would take a few months to a year to receive a new electric vehicle, according to the study. (Clean Energy Canada)

Because new electric vehicles fly off the lot as soon as they arrive, Woynillowicz says many people don't even have the opportunity to test drive a vehicle they may be interested in.

An April 2018 report from B.C. Hydro found that one in three drivers expect their next car to be electric.

The never-ending search for a new car

Two and a half years ago, Anna-Marie D'Angelo decided she was ready to buy an electric vehicle.

"I would love to be able to drive past those horrible signs with $1.61 a litre and not care one little bit," said D'Angelo, but she hasn't been able to find a vehicle she likes that is available.

"There are very few choices right now. There are long waits … the availability is not there."

Last year, D'Angelo had an electric charger installed in her garage. It has remained untouched.

"I'm just waiting for when they're going to meet the demand," she said. 

More affordable electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf are designed to entice entry-level buyers, but Dan Woynillowicz says they fly off the lot as soon as they arrive. (The Associated Press)

Where have all the electric vehicles gone?

B.C. is considering a new policy called a ZEV (zero emission vehicle) mandate, which would force manufacturers — not dealerships — to sell a certain number of electric vehicles every year.

The legislation has already been implemented in 10 U.S. states and in Quebec.

"Those are the first destinations for electric cars. So the fact that B.C. doesn't have that kind of policy means that we're not able to draw in the supply the way the other jurisdictions are," said Woynillowicz.

As part of the potential ZEV mandate, B.C. is considering targeting electric vehicle sales of five per cent by 2020, 10 per cent by 2025 and 30 per cent by 2030.

Woynillowicz says the new mandate will also signal to manufacturers the need to ramp up production on electric vehicles to meet demand.

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About the Author

Joel Ballard

Joel Ballard is an associate producer with the CBC in Vancouver. You can reach him at joel.ballard@cbc.ca