Saskatchewan

Federal government rolls out grants for electric vehicles, while more charging stations coming in Sask.

The latest federal budget introduced a grant for people to buy vehicles that run on electricity or hydrogen fuel, but Saskatchewan is a “wasteland” still in terms of infrastructure for these vehicles, says the co-author of Lemonaid.

Executive director of Automobile Protection Association says province is a 'wasteland' for EV infrastructure

The Cruickshank family — Emma, Jason and Alix, left to right — pose in front of their Chevrolet Bolt. They've driven it all the way to Edmonton and say it just takes a little more planning and preparation to go electric. (Submitted by Jason Cruickshank)

The latest federal budget introduced a grant for people to buy vehicles that run on electricity or hydrogen fuel, but Saskatchewan is a "wasteland" still in terms of infrastructure for these vehicles, says the co-author of Lemon-Aid.

George Iny writes for the consumer guide on vehicles, and is the executive director of the Automobile Protection Association. He says there's a couple reasons why Saskatchewan is lagging behind provinces like Quebec and British Columbia, where more people are making the switch to electric vehicles and where rebates are offered for purchasing these vehicles.

"The infrastructure isn't really developed," he said, explaining there's a need for charging stations in Saskatchewan. "You can't travel inter-city without level 3 [fast charging]; that's a 400 volt charge or higher."

That infrastructure is coming this year, according to Jason Cruikshank, the lead organizer of the Saskatchewan Electric Vehicle Club and owner of a 2017 Chevy Bolt.

An electric vehicle fast charging network across the Trans-Canada Highway will include 34 stations, each with three charging heads, connecting Ontario to Manitoba and Saskatchewan, according to the federal government's website.

The federal government is also offering people a "purchase incentive" of up to $5,000 if people buy a vehicle that runs on electricity or hydrogen fuel cells for $45,000 or less.

"I think it's a good start. I think the limit is a bit low," said Cruikshank, explaining that most of these vehicles start at $45,000 at a base rate.

Iny thinks the federal subsidy may, however, encourage car makers to make these vehicles less expensive.

"If they really want customers to leave with a car they'll be happy with, they will have to drop the price, at least, I think a few thousand dollars."

Iny notes that right now, electric vehicles are not the favoured option for most consumers. Even in British Columbia and Quebec, sales of vehicles running on electricity or hydrogen fuel only represent one to two per cent of the market, he said.

When hybrid vehicle the Toyota Prius came out in 2000, Toyota was predicting that by 2020, a third of vehicles would either be hybrid or electric, he said.

"And we're far from it. So at some point, we will hit a tipping point. We're not quite there yet."

with files from CBC Saskatchewan's Blue Sky

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