British Columbia

B.C. passes law to increase sales of zero emission vehicles

According to a new B.C. law, 100 per cent of new cars sold in the province in 2040 must be zero emission. By 2025, the legislation calls for sales of zero emission cars to be 10 per cent.

Legislation calls for 10 per cent of new cars sold in 2025 to be zero emission

Hybrid 2018 Volt cars at electric vehicle charging stations in the GM lot.
According to a new B.C. law, all new light-duty car and truck sales in the province must be zero emission by 2040. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Zero emission vehicles are quickly gaining traction in B.C. — sales went from four per cent of new cars last year to six per cent in the first quarter of 2019 — but the provincial government is aiming for much more than that.

The Zero-Emission Vehicles Act (ZEVA), passed on Wednesday, sets a target of 10 per cent of all new light-duty cars and trucks sold in B.C. to be zero emission by 2025. By 2040, they'll all need to be emission free.

Zero emission vehicles include battery electric, plug-in hybrid electric, and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.

For Clean Energy Canada policy director Dan Woynillowicz, the new law is a welcome tool to make sure consumers can actually find the cars they're looking for.

"This is going to go a long way toward addressing a problem we've had in British Columbia, which is we have more British Columbians interested in buying electric cars than we have electric cars on dealership lots," said Woynillowicz.

He said often the stock just isn't there; buyers can't take test drives and have to wait for vehicles to be ordered.

According to Woynillowicz, the targets laid out in the new act will be subject to adjustments over the next 20 years, as officials keep an eye on the demand and availability of zero emission vehicles.

Luke-warm opposition support

The opposition B.C. Liberals voted for ZEVA, but environment and climate change critic Peter Milobar said he has issues with the law, arguing it will largely prove ineffective.

Milobar said the fact that consumers can take their business to Alberta if they aren't interested in zero emission cars isn't ideal. He also said the credit system for manufacturers who can't meet the targets is a loophole.

"The government can sell credits — there's no cap on the number of credits they can create — so manufacturers would be able to access those credits, pay the government a little bit extra money and still be compliant without actually having put any extra vehicles on the road that are electric vehicles," he said.

Milobar suggested the focus on emissions from cars over the next 20 years won't go too far in reducing the province's overall emissions, and combustion engines are making strides in reducing emissions, so they shouldn't be outlawed.

With long-range targets, the new legislation may be subject to plenty of change before 2040 rolls around.

"None of the reference checking dates will really be relevant until after the next general election," said Milobar.

Do you have more to add to this story? Email

Follow Rafferty Baker on Twitter: @raffertybaker