Montreal

Quebec narrowly misses goal of putting 100,000 electric vehicles on the road

The Quebec government will fall short of its target of 100,000 electric or plug-in hybrids as of Dec. 31, 2020. But the news isn't all bad.

The province has 92,000 electric or plug-in hybrids registered, just short of the objective for 2020

There are 92,000 electric cars in the province, according to the Association des véhicules électriques du Québec. (Radio-Canada)

More and more cars on Quebec roads have green licence plates these days, just not as many as the province had hoped. 

The government's aim was to have 100,000 electric or plug-in hybrids on the road as of Dec. 31, 2020, it will close out the year with 92,000.

The figures were provided by the Quebec Electric Vehicle Association (AVEQ), which publishes up-to-date statistics on the province's transport electrification plan.

Even though Quebec narrowly fell short of the stated target, it's close enough for the president and founder of AVEQ, Simon-Pierre Rioux. He said "we reached our goal." 

Rioux said Quebec has come a long way since launching its first incentive program in 2012 to promote electric car sales in the province, now known as Roulez vert.

"There were a lot of obstacles to buying an electric car, whether it was the additional costs compared to a gasoline-powered car, the anemic charging infrastructure, the lack of availability at dealerships," he said, adding the COVID-19 pandemic slowed vehicle sales in the final months of the year. 

Robert Poëti, a former provincial cabinet minister who heads the industry group that represents the province's auto dealers, disagrees with that assessment. There's no real link between Quebec's failure to hit 100,000 and COVID-19, according to Poëti.

"From May until today, COVID has had no effect on vehicle sales in my opinion," said the president of the Corporation des concessionaires d'automobiles du Québec (CCEQ). "People shopped online at the start of the pandemic so that when businesses reopened, their vehicles were available." 

For Poëti, the real problem is most folks can't afford an electric car. 

"People who have [an electric car], they're men who are on average 46 years old," he said. "Their salary ranges between $70,000 and $80,000."

Among the other factors that may have curbed consumers' enthusiasm in recent years: a relatively modest number of charging stations, Quebec's sprawling geography and electric cars' limited range, which decreases during episodes of extreme cold, said Poëti. 

"I can't bring Gaspésie closer to Quebec and I can't bring Abitibi closer to Montreal," he said. 

Looking ahead

The good news is waiting lists for green cars at dealerships are getting shorter. 

"We've noticed in recent months that some manufacturers have gone to great lengths [...] and we are starting to see results," said the AVEQ's Rioux.

He acknowledged the cost of buying an electric car is still high, but it's become progressively cheaper for mulitiple car manufacturers to produce them over the past decade.

"Not only have we increased the range of vehicles, but we've managed to lower the cost," Rioux said. "They're the only vehicles on the market whose cost is dropping."

There are also federal and provincial government financial incentives of up to $13,000 for the purchase of a new fully electric vehicle.

Add it all up and Rioux thinks the provincial government's most recent goal of having 1.5 million electric cars on the road by 2030 is "doable."

Roughly 50 per cent of green cars sold in Canada are purchased in Quebec, which Poëti said indicates Quebec's is "the most conscientious" population in the country.

Since 2012, the Quebec government has spent more than $576 million to encourage the sale of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles through its Roulez vert program.

based on a report from Radio-Canada's Alexandre Duval

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