Electric vehicle sales in New Brunswick well below predicted surge
Only 200 EVs expected on provincial roads this year, 80% fewer than projected
Kevin Rossiter bought an electric car earlier this month and drives it 100 kilometres a day between his house in Bloomfield and his job in Saint John.
It's still a novelty on the road in New Brunswick — although it wasn't supposed to be — and Rossiter turns heads as he silently speeds down the highway.
"I've had tremendous interest," said Rossiter "People asking all kinds of questions. People have actually wanted to come to my house to look it over — to drive it — and almost every reaction I've had is 'Wow!'"
Rossiter says he has dreamed of owning an electric car for at least 10 years and is happy he finally made the purchase.
The mystery is what happened to the hundreds of other New Brunswickers who were expected to go electric like Rossiter — but haven't.
Three years ago electric vehicles were expected to be more common in New Brunswick by now. Provincial policy planners charted an impressive market penetration that was supposed to surpass 1,000 vehicles on the road this year, 2,000 next year and 5,000 by 2024.
NB Power invested heavily building a network of charging stations to encourage sales and handle the demand but so far New Brunswick consumers have not played along.
Electric vehicle sales in New Brunswick, both battery electric (BEV) and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) cars, averaged fewer than five per month last year according to the website Fleetcarma.com — well below the 40 per month the province predicted as late as 2016.
Updated assessments now suggest there will be just 200 electric cars on the road in New Brunswick this year — 80 per cent short of the original prediction — with that figure rising to 2,000 sometime in early 2025.
Saves on commute
Rossiter bought an electric Hyundai Kona which has a base list price of $45,000, double the starting price of Kona gasoline models. With a federal government rebate of $5,000 plus the savings on gas on his daily commute, Rossiter decided he could make it work financially.
The Kona will travel 400 kilometres on a 64 kilowatt hour charge — about $7 worth of electricity when plugged in at home — compared to $35 in gas his old Toyota Corolla required to travel the same distance.
"People look at me like I'm driving a glorified golf cart — almost like I've made a compromise by going to an electric car — but as far as I'm concerned I've made a big leap forward," said Rossiter.
The failure of New Brunswick consumers to copy Rossiter and embrace electric vehicles as expected has left the province with an extensive system of charging stations and so far little traffic to support it.
Expensive charging network
NB Power has spent heavily to build a network of places consumers can charge their vehicles and expects to lose money on the investment until 2028.
Last year the utility was criticized by its regulator, the Energy and Utilities Board, for spending money on charging stations, suggesting it should leave that work to others.
"Developing these stations requires considerable up-front investment," said the EUB in disallowing a plan by NB Power to spend $1.3 million on expanding its network last year.
"EV [electric vehicle] charging stations are not within the core business of NB Power and are already provided by the private sector, without any ratepayer investment. Without a convincing business case, NB Power should not be expanding this program."
NB Power spent the money despite the ruling, saying it was too far along in the process to stop. The province now has more than 200 charging stations owned by a variety of public and private enterprises, more than the number of electric cars.
NB Power blames limited supply
Earlier this month NB Power President Gaëtan Thomas, who personally owns one of the province's few electric cars, blamed auto makers and dealers for restricting access to the vehicles because they require little after sale maintenance — like no oil changes.
"This is one of the issues with electric vehicles. They are not available. You might have one model in the yard. They're not available in most parts of the province of New Brunswick," said Thomas.
"The electric vehicles are low maintenance and the business model doesn't work as well. It will change."
Rossiter also believes electric cars will eventually catch on in New Brunswick, if not as quickly as expected.