Long wait lists, no provincial incentives keep Ontarians from buying EVs, advocate says
Trudeau, Ford announced opening of EV plant in Ontario but some say province needs to go further
Producing more electric vehicles is a step in the right direction but one that should push Ontario to help more people buy them, an advocate says.
The call comes after Premier Doug Ford and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau went to a General Motors plant in Ingersoll, Ont., Monday to talk about its conversion to assembling electric delivery vans — making it Canada's first full-scale facility to build commercial electric vehicles (EVs).
The federal government said the plant is expected to manufacture 50,000 EVs by 2025 — and while some advocates welcomed the announcement, they say that still doesn't address Ontario's "slow" progress pushing the market.
"More manufacturing is positive, I'm very supportive of that," said Cara Clairman, the CEO of Plug'n Drive, a non-profit facility in north Toronto that works to accelerate the adoption of EVs in Canada.
"The challenge is: where are those vehicles going to be sold?"
Clairman said the wait lists for EVs in Ontario are "still way too long," and despite the projected increase in production, many of them may end up being shipped to B.C. or Quebec, which provide rebates of up to $8,000 to lease or buy a new EV. In addition, the province has no current incentives for potential buyers to get an EV.
"The demand is there. It's the supply that's not there," she said.
As of this year, up to five per cent of all vehicles in Canada are either fully electric or hybrid, and that percentage is expected to climb in the coming years. By 2035, the federal government insists that all new vehicles in Canada will be electric. It's a projection that Ford agrees with, calling GM's commitment to the plant "a massive vote of confidence" in Ontario.
But when he was asked Monday if he would consider implementing an inflation reduction act or provincial mandates that would require car companies to sell a specific percentage of electric vehicles, the premier wouldn't say.
"The market dictates and the market's going to be EV," he said at the joint news conference with Trudeau.
In 2018, Ford's Progressive Conservatives cancelled the electric vehicle rebate program brought in by the previous Liberal government. When reporters asked him Monday if he would consider bringing back subsidies for Ontarians looking to purchase EVs, he didn't answer the question directly
"When I first got elected … the taxpayers of Ontario were subsidizing buying vehicles from everywhere but Ontario, so the money wasn't staying there," Ford said.
"We took a different approach. We've invested over $12.5 billion into long-term sustainable jobs."
Ford's move to cut the subsidy resulted in a "major drop" in EV purchases, Clairman said. She added the province should consider offering an incentive to more Ontarians to purchase zero-emissions vehicles (ZEVs) — one that would last up to five years to temporarily boost the market and provide greater supply.
"It doesn't have to be a cash incentive, you could have a tax credit," she said.
"If we agree it's a climate emergency, we need to speed it up. We need to do something [now] … not three or five years from now."
The opening of the Ingersoll plant is "historic," said.Raed Kadri, the head of the Ontario Vehicle Innovation Network, a provincial government program led by the Ontario Centre for Innovation.
"We need to produce more electric vehicles because they're not very many available," Kadri said.
Roughly one per cent of all vehicles on the road in the province are electric, he said.
There are more than 2,200 charging stations with over 6,000 charging ports across Ontario but as more EVs hit the road, there should be more infrastructure to support them, Kadri said.
"Ontario announced in the last budget $91 million to support new public charging infrastructure," he said.
"And as the province goes forward with their plan through the budget to launch the new fund to support public EV charging, that will increase."
Electric vehicle charging stations were also installed at most ONroute rest stops last summer, which Clairman said was a significant move.
"Soon we're going to have this ultra-low electricity price at night, which actually makes it even cheaper to charge your vehicle overnight," she said.
"But ... we're all taxpayers contributing to these manufacturing plants and those vehicles are not going to get sold here if we don't change some of our policies," Clarman added.
"So I think that's where we need to put our effort now."