If Canada wants to meet its electric vehicle (EV) goals, experts say the federal government must tackle key “bottlenecks” slowing the adoption of emission-free vehicles.

The federal government has mandated that by 2035, every passenger vehicle sold in Canada will need to be electric. But despite Ottawa’s efforts to boost the sale of clean vehicles and Canadians' willingness to buy cars, data from market intelligence agency S&P Global shows the country’s adoption of EVs is inconsistent across the country and slow in most provinces. Experts said to get Canadians to buy EVs, monetary incentives like rebates need to be paired with provincial policies that address other concerns about green vehicles, like range anxiety and vehicle supply.

Meena Bibra, senior clean transportation policy adviser for the think tank Clean Energy Canada, said despite the dip in the rate of sales, Canadians were still buying EVs. About one in every 11 cars purchased in Canada were zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs), according to S&P Global.

“Sales did dip slightly but what really came to mind was to look at the overall patterns,” Bibra said. “It was a very promising sign of where the industry is headed and how it's going to continue to grow.”

The report from S&P Global shows the industry faced a “slight contraction” in the first quarter of the year: New vehicle registrations dipped about 1.1 per cent compared to the end of 2022. This was mainly due to a decrease in volume in Ontario and Quebec.

The number of rebates for EVs, however, soared. Data from Statistics Canada shows the average number of EV rebates issued per month jumped from about 4,200 to 5,800 in the first quarter, then above 10,000 for April, May and June.

During the first quarter, overall vehicle sales were up. According to market research company DesRosiers Automotive Consultants, during the first quarter of 2023, Canadians bought 3.7 per cent more vehicles than the previous year.

Werner Antweiler, an economics professor at the University of British Columbia, says the uptake of EVs is “a checkerboard” across the country.

“In some places, it's going well, like in B.C. and Quebec first and foremost, and in other areas, it’s clearly not,” he said.

Electric vehicle sales in Canada dipped slightly at the start of the year. Experts say it’s up to provinces to offer strong policies — not rebates — if Canada wants to meet its EV goals.

Canada’s EV transition is dominated by just three provinces. Just more than a third of Canada’s EV registrations are in Quebec, while Ontario and British Columbia account for nearly 30 per cent each. Alberta, in fourth place, accounts for only 3.7 per cent of new electric vehicle registrations across Canada.

Antweiler says the slow uptake is due to a few key “bottlenecks,” including the cost of EVs and a lack of charging infrastructure. He said the national federal rebate, which offers Canadians up to $5,000 on new ZEVs, can help Canadians, but only if other issues are addressed locally.

Bibra said provinces need to make sure residents have access to enough EVs to meet demand.

“Vehicle incentives are important. They bring down the higher purchase cost of these electric vehicles,” Bibra said. “But these incentives don't work when there aren't any vehicles on the lot to even purchase or to even lease.”

British Columbia and Quebec, the two provinces with the most EV adoption, both require automakers to sell a certain number of electric vehicles. British Columbia offers income-scaled assistance for purchasing clean cars and Quebec has an EV rebate, while Ontario ended its rebate program in 2018. Alberta has no provincial program to help residents pay for EVs.

Antweiler said in areas with less urban concentration, like the northern territories and the Maritime provinces, governments need to address range anxiety — the fear that people won’t be able to drive as far in electric vehicles — by increasing charging stations across the country. He said there is an effective policy in B.C., which offers rebates for charging stations and has cut red tape for strata corporations to install charging stations at multi-home units.

Currently, Canada has just under 9,000 charging stations — most of which are concentrated in the country’s south.

Automakers releasing new electric models might help EV adoption. The report from S&P Global notes that by next year, 41 new models of low-emission vehicles will be available in Canada, including several kinds of pickup trucks.

“That is absolutely crucial. We won't actually get to the electric vehicle transition without more choice,” Antweiler said. He said Canadians need a range of EV models — like trucks, minivans and sedans — to suit their lifestyles.

Instead of incentives, Antweiler said the best policy to get Canadians into EVs would be to penalize drivers of gas-powered vehicles with a carbon tax.

“The first best policy is to put a price on pollution,” he said.

At its current pace, Antweiler said it is unlikely Canada will meet the federal government’s targets for electric vehicle adoption. However, Bibra was a lot more hopeful.

“When you do look at the overarching patterns of what's happening in the country, they're pointing forward,” Bibra said. “Canada is moving forward; this situation is going to become more and more optimistic.”

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A Tale of Two Articles, both written by CNO reporters:


“Currently, Canada has just under 9,000 charging stations — most of which are concentrated in the country’s south.”


“Currently, Canada has roughly 20,000 charging stations countrywide…”

Apparently, in one week, the number of charging stations dropped by half.

Another criticism is that the first of the above articles reads too much like a repetition of points of view of those interviewed rather than a critical evaluation of those points of view.

A further observation in a Aug 16 article:

“The number of rebates for EVs, however, soared…”

should be, it seems to me:

“The number of rebates claimed on new EV purchases, however, soared…”

A final note regarding the Aug 16 article:

“Antweiler says the slow uptake is due to a few key “bottlenecks,” including the cost of EVs and a lack of charging infrastructure.”

There’s no mention of differences in electricity rates, methods of generation, or civic norms. E.g. Quebecers utilize electricity – generated by hydro dams – for more things, such as home heating, than elsewhere. Quebec and BC generate 90% or more of electricity from hydro; Alberta less than 5%.


The biggest bottleneck as far as I am concerned, the big three automakers are dead slow at offering a selection of EV models. Take Fords for example, Ford Mustang and the F-150 EV, seriously give me a break, how about the popular Ford Escape as an EV than the hybrid. GM, kills the Volt or so I heard, reminds me of the original EV GM killed years ago.

I have zero interest in a foreign make for a few reasons, cost of ownership is one of them, but they are far ahead offering realistic vehicles than the big three automakers in Canada.

It seems I see more Tesla's on the road than anything being offered by the big three, but in this case, I want zero to do with Elon Musk products or his social media garbage.

It's time our government put some heat on Ford and GM to produce more realistic EVs and we know that volume typically helps drive down costs. At least GM advertises that the Blazor EV is coming next year, though the interior styling leaves a lot to be desired, the vents are so 50's.

Second is the propaganda being spread by the fossil fuel industry quietly in the background. Just more fodder for the free-dumber crowd to spread freely on social media. Some of the comments by the same group just show how naive they are and how they lack the ability to fact check anything.

EVs are evolving. Battery chemistry is also a moving target. In less than five years sodium and silicon will be on board with lower prices and more energy density and range.

Carmakers are now cooperating on standardizing charging infrastructure.

We must be patient.

Presumably it can be done. Last year China's auto sales were 25% EVs. And let's not even talk about Norway--the whole transition's basically a done deal there. So what's our problem?

The Big Three American automakers can (insert indecent and/or scatological action).

Unfortunately, China is constricting the supply of critical minerals used in all manner of electric components, most noticeably in EVs. This is deliberate, and is undeniably part of building its long term economic hegemony after first encouraging Western business interests to invest in China for a price: Hand over 50% of the company and transfer technology into Chinese company hands.

This was very smart and the West dutifully fell into line promoting business in China to the point of dependency. Today China has caught up in tech and makes very good, affordable products (e.g. batteries, solar PV panels...) and is now locking its doors to access.

This action helps explain why Japanese automakers are espousing moving to the tangential path of hydrogen and were caught with their pants down on making EVs. The other half of the explaination is that ex-Toyota and Honda executives ended up in government running big ministries and therein moving official policy away from supporting EVs, not unlike Alberta's government being captured by another industry to do its bidding. The problem with both the Japanese and Albertan circumstances is that they are too dependent on cars and oil and are not diversified enough to withstand disruptive economic influences.

It's clear that Western nations must work together to find and develop its own critical materials supply chains, and perhaps preferably do its own serious R&D into developing substitutes. I would also say that it's high time for Canada to eliminate its lazy addiction to raw resource exports and stand on its own feet and reshore industries that were farmed out to China, build up and electrify its own domestic economy and account for and protect Canadian critical materials.

China may have the upper hand today, but two things are working against it.

First, China's population peaked in 2021 and has entered a period of steep decline relevant to its fast aging demographics. Recent estimates place it losing about 50% of its population in just 30 years or so. Its economy and world influence will inevitably decline with it.

Secondly, the West very recently ramped up its efforts to strengthen its multilateral economy under the steep motivation to eliminate dependence mainly in the EU on Russian resources once Russia turned on its customers in a violent attempt at imperialist expansion. This was accompanied by the US bringing down the Inflation Reduction Act that injected one of the largest economic stimulation policies since the 1930s. It is producing a significant international influence in electrification, decarbonization and industrial reshoring.