Nova Scotia

Rising gas prices drive switch to electric vehicles in Nova Scotia

Hundreds of people have taken advantage of an incentive program announced this year.

Fuel costs combined with provincial rebate key reasons for increased interest, according to sellers

Dave Giles of All EV Canada says most of the people considering the switch to electric vehicles in recent months are motivated by soaring gas prices. (Submitted by Dave Giles)

Amid a trend of surging gasoline prices in Canada, more Nova Scotians are making the move to electric vehicles.

More than 300 people have taken advantage of a provincial rebate program to buy the vehicles since February, when it was announced. And with gas prices climbing over $1.40 a litre, there appears to be increasing interest in going electric.

"The industry is growing rapidly," said Dave Giles, an electric vehicle specialist at All EV Canada in Dartmouth, N.S.

He used to see people looking at the option of buying so-called EVs because they saw them as "cool and trendy," but he said a shift has been happening this year.

"The No. 1 question people ask is what kind of cost savings might I get on this vehicle by switching to electric," he said. Those costs, he said, can be less than a quarter of the expense of fuel.

Figures released by the province last week show 325 people have applied for rebates through Nova Scotia's electric vehicle program, which was unveiled on Feb. 24.

'A pretty steep increase'

The program offers a $3,000 rebate for the purchase of a new electric vehicle and $2,000 for a used one. There is also a $500 rebate available for some e-bikes.

"Pre-rebate, we believe there were about 600 electric vehicles on the road in Nova Scotia, and since the rebate we believe about 300 people have taken advantage of it, so that's a pretty steep increase in terms of growth," said Peter Porteous, the vice-president of business development at Steele Auto Group, which now owns All EV Canada.

While Porteous said electric vehicles remain a small slice of the market overall, he believes a trend is starting.

Both Steele and All EV are reporting they have lots of vehicles to choose from, despite a global supply shortage of new cars of all types due to a scarcity of computer chips.

Gas is shown at $143.9 a litre on Oct. 16 at a gas station on Young Street, Halifax. (Gareth Hampshire/CBC)

The Clean Foundation, which puts on mobile road shows around the province allowing people to test drive electric vehicles, said its events are booking up quickly.

Transportation manager Sarah Balloch said Nova Scotia is in what she calls the "early adopter phase" of electric vehicles, but she sees the market speeding up as today's gas prices make filling up a tank increasingly costly.

"You see fuel savings and you also see maintenance savings, so when people start looking at the total cost of ownership they see a huge amount of financial savings," Balloch said. She notes, for example, there are no oil changes on electric vehicles.

While electric vehicles can be more expensive to buy, Balloch said the prices are getting closer to parity, with manufacturers coming out with more models.

On top of the provincial incentive, there is also a subsidy of up to $5,000 from the federal government for electric vehicle purchases.

CAA Atlantic working on electric vehicle strategy

Another barrier that has made people reluctant to make the switch is the concern about running out of power.

But that's something that gets overplayed, according to those who drive the cars.

"You almost never think about it, only on longer trips," said Kurt Sampson, who recently drove to Ontario in his vehicle, stopping several times to charge it. Sampson is a co-founder and chair of the Electric Vehicle Association of Atlantic Canada.

"It requires a little more planning, I think, than you would have with gas stations. We use an app to find charging stations," he said. "It's really no big deal stopping every two or three hours."

With most electric cars now having a range of up to 400 kilometres on a full charge, Sampson said charging happens most of the time at home overnight.

Kurt Sampson is shown by Lake Ontario where he drove his electric car earlier this month. (Submitted by Kurt Sampson)

With more of the vehicles on the road, the roadside assistance organization CAA Atlantic is developing an electric vehicle strategy. 

"The marketplace is very quickly evolving," said Steve Olmstead, the director of public and government affairs.

CAA is surveying its members and training its technicians who provide roadside assistance on the specific needs of electric vehicles.

"One of the key things we do is service vehicles at the side of the road that might have a flat tire or have run out of gas. With an electric vehicle, they won't be running out of gas but they may need a charge," Olmstead said. "What we can do is put an electric vehicle on one of our flatbeds and take them to a charging station."

In addition to its incentive program, Nova Scotia said it will work with the auto industry to try to get more electric vehicles on the road.

Its target is for zero-emission vehicles to make up 30 per cent of vehicle sales by 2030. The provincial government is also committing to offer rebates to help businesses with charging station installation costs.