Lack of new electric vehicles on P.E.I. dealer lots likely to hurt sales, study finds

It can be hard to find a new electric vehicle to take for a test drive on P.E.I., and the author of a study on EV availability across Canada says that’s a concern for governments wanting to encourage people to drive them.

Consumers less likely to buy what they can’t see, says researcher

The study found just four electric vehicles on P.E.I. dealership lots. (Isabella Zavarise/CBC)

It can be hard to find a new electric vehicle to take for a test drive on P.E.I., and the author of a study on EV availability across Canada says that's a concern for governments that want to encourage people to drive them.

The study, by Dusky Energy Consulting on behalf of Transport Canada, found only four new electric vehicles on P.E.I. dealer lots in February of this year. That's down from six in November 2019. A December 2018 study found none.

"These numbers, they're a cause for concern," said Jeff Turner, senior research lead at Dunsky Energy Consulting.

"If we're looking to encourage the adoption of electric vehicles across Canada, it's hard to argue that shoppers on P.E.I. are able to really get a true sense of what's on the market."

Dealers contacted this month by CBC News said they had more new EVs on their lots now than they did earlier in the year.

More EVs in some provinces

The study found EVs are not evenly distributed across Canada.

It found 1,944 in Quebec and 692 in British Columbia. No province in Atlantic Canada had more than 25.

Measured by the number of new vehicles available per hundred thousand, most provinces, including P.E.I., had two to four. B.C. and Quebec had five to six times as many. Turner said provincial incentives have helped drive demand in those provinces, so dealers are more likely to have them available.

With the numbers so low on P.E.I. it is difficult to assess what the demand might be.

"If we want this to go mainstream, we need to appeal to customers that are maybe just curious about whether an EV might be a good fit and might want to take it for a test drive," said Turner.

"This is not going to work well if we don't have any EVs available on lots."

Offering provincial incentives could encourage dealers to increase the supply, said Turner.

That's something the PEI Auto Dealers Association has been lobbying for. Provincial officials say discussions are underway. EV incentives were one of the actions listed in PEI's Sustainable Transportation Action Plan, released in November 2019. 

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Laura Chapin


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