Most weeks, Leanne Hers drives an hour-plus from her home in Richmond, B.C., to Chilliwack to care for her grandchildren. With the current sky-high gas prices, each trip now costs the retired elementary school teacher about $60 in her 2010 Volkswagen Beetle, an expense she would like to eliminate.
She’s on wait lists for two different electric cars — a Prius Prime plug-in hybrid and a fully electric Chevy Bolt.
“I just can’t afford the ‘Bug’ anymore,” said Hers. “The turning point was when (gas) went from $1.90 to $2.10.”
“I’ve been told it will be six to eight months for the Prius Prime and eight months for the Bolt,” she said. “At this point, it’s going to be whoever calls first.”
Blair Qualey, president and CEO of the New Car Dealers Association of BC, said the global microchip shortage is making it tough for car dealers.
“All brands are impacted by this supply chain issue but we are seeing a pronounced impact on zero-emission vehicles, which are extremely popular and in demand by consumers in B.C.,” Qualey said.
Across Canada, the wait times for EVs can be between 12 and 18 months, said Joanna Kyriazis, clean transportation program manager for Clean Energy Canada, a think tank based out of Simon Fraser University.
“Since March, we have seen gas prices skyrocket, which has pushed more Canadians to seriously consider electric vehicles to help insulate their wallet from these $2-a-litre gas prices,” Kyriazis said.
“EVs are increasingly being seen as not only a solution to climate change, but also a way to address some affordability issues that Canadians are facing.”
Saving money on fuel is a big reason Canadians are opting for electric cars, a March 2022 AutoTrader survey found.
High gas prices have sparked huge interest in electric vehicles but the wait times can be as high as two years for some models. #EV #EVs #ElectricVehicles #GasPrices
For Hers, the appeal is strictly financial.
The hybrid Prius would cut the cost of each trip to Chilliwack in half, while the Bolt would reduce it to about $8 for the charge, she said.
B.C. government rebates, which offer up to $8,000 per electric vehicle purchase, were a big part of the attraction.
“Without the rebate, we couldn’t afford it,” Hers said. “I’ve never owned a new car before in my life.”
Larry Boldt, vice-president of the Mid-Vancouver Island Electric Vehicle Association, did an informal survey of Vancouver Island car dealers on June 16 to find out the wait times for electric cars. Most of the wait times he discovered were between six and eight months, but some, such as for the Ford F-150 Lightning pickup truck or the Hyundai Ioniq, were two years or longer.
In the first three months of 2022, EVs made up 17 per cent of all new cars sold in the province, said Kyriazis. The number of EVs on B.C.’s roads increased by 1,600 per cent to 85,000 in the past six years, the provincial government says.
Kelowna lawyer Tom Eaves, 44, was also lured by the rebate and the cost savings.
“The price of gas kept on going up. We hoped it would be somewhat better for the environment,” Eaves said. “Electric cars don’t need a lot of maintenance and we figured we could have this car for at least a decade and it would last us that long.”
Eaves is on a wait list for a Hyundai Ioniq 5 and has been told it could take as long as 18 months for the car to arrive.
Eaves and his family, including two children aged two and four, moved to Kelowna three months ago. His local dealer sold out the wait list for the Ioniq’s 2023 model year and is now taking names for the 2024 model. That means Eaves doesn’t know exactly how much he will have to pay for it or what colour it will be, but he’s willing to take that chance.
“(The rebate) makes it more competitive to buy than a gas car,” Eaves said.
Gary Morris, who lives in Edmonton, said the fuel savings nearly pay for an electric car, over time, if you drive enough. Morris owned a Tesla Model 3 until last week when he “lucked out” and got a new Tesla Model Y after only a three-month wait. If he ordered it now, the wait would be closer to six months, he said.
Morris drives a lot, taking his 11-year-old son to BMX races throughout Alberta.
“We have solar and some free charging at work so it all adds up to a pretty affordable setup. I kind of hate paying anyone anything. To me, it's better to be solar and EV so you're much more independent,” Morris said in an email interview.
In the past, he paid up to $550 a month in gas, and more for maintenance and oil changes, he says.
“EVs definitely don't work for everyone and we're lucky to be able to make these kinds of money choices. Lots of people can't. But honestly, it's nowhere near as expensive as many people think,” he said.
In B.C. and Quebec, there is a mandate on automakers to sell an increasing percentage of EVs each year, hitting 100 per cent by 2040, a target that will be pushed up to 2035. The federal government has a similar goal.
That mandate pushes automakers to increase supply in those two provinces, Kyriazis said.
She would like to see the federal government’s goal formalized into a mandate that would introduce financial penalties for not selling a certain percentage of EV cars.
“... That’s going to be a real impetus to make sure they are prioritizing the Canadian market when they are figuring out where to send and sell their EVs,” she said.
Kyriazis is optimistic Canada can reach its goal of all new cars sold in 2035 being zero-emission vehicles.
“I think it’s ambitious but realistic… Canadians want to go electric. They’re ready to do it. They’re knocking down doors, with some people willing to wait three years to get their hands on an electric vehicle,” she said.
“Now we need to solve Canada’s EV supply problem.”