The end of the road is coming for gas-powered vehicles in Canada as Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault finalizes new regulations mandating the transition to battery-operated cars, trucks and SUVs.

Automakers will have the next 12 years to phase out combustion engine cars, trucks and SUVs, with a requirement to gradually increase the proportion of electric models they offer for sale each year.

The move fulfils a promise made by the Liberals more than two years ago to phase out the sale of combustion engine passenger vehicles by 2035. It was applauded by multiple environment groups Tuesday.

Automakers themselves are more skeptical of the plan, insisting more needs to be done to encourage people to opt for electric cars, including installing thousands more charging stations and upping the ante on government rebates of EV buys.

Guilbeault made the announcement of the final regulations for the Electric Vehicle Availability Standard on Tuesday at George Brown College in Toronto, which last year launched a new electric-vehicle service technician training program.

"They know electric cars are the future," said Guilbeault of the students and staff in the program.

He insisted it will ensure more electric vehicles are made available in Canada and at more affordable prices, as the companies that make the cars will have to manoeuvre to ensure their supply and demand fit the new mandate.

"There's no mistaking it. We are at a tipping point," he said, noting sizable growth in EV sales in Canada and demand that has previously outstripped the available supply.

The regulations say that in 2026, automakers must ensure one in five vehicles they put on the market in Canada are battery electric or longer-range plug-in hybrid models. That will rise slightly to 23 per cent in 2027.

The end of the road is coming for gas-powered vehicles in Canada as Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault finalizes new regulations mandating the transition to battery-operated autos. #CDNPoli #ClimateChange #ElectricVehicleMandate #ZEVs

After that, the increased share of EVs will begin to jump much faster, so that by 2028, 34 per cent of all vehicles sold need to be electric, 43 per cent in 2029 and 60 per cent in 2030.

That number keeps rising until it hits 100 per cent in 2035.

Gas-powered models sold before 2035 will remain on the roads for many years after that but no additional ones will be added.

At the national level, so far in 2023, about one in 10 new vehicles registered were electric, suggesting EV sales need to double within the next three years.

They already doubled in the last three years, growing from 38,425 EVs sold in the first nine months of 2020 to 132,783 in the first nine months of 2023.

"Two provinces are already above the 20 per cent threshold — Quebec and British Columbia," Guilbeault said.

However, no other province exceeds even eight per cent.

Electric-vehicle advocates say the provincial disparities are not an accident. Quebec and B.C. both have EV sales mandates at the provincial level, which compelled automakers to prioritize those two markets for the EVs they have for sale.

They have also had consumer rebates the longest, though they were joined by Yukon and Northwest Territories in 2020 and the four Atlantic provinces in 2021. They can all pile on top of the $5,000 federal rebate for EVs.

Since 2019, Canada has paid out more than $1.36 billion in rebates for nearly 300,000 battery-powered vehicles.

Guilbeault said all provinces should get "on board" with the EV plans, singling out Ontario as one of the laggards.

Ontario once had a provincial consumer rebate, but it was cancelled by Premier Doug Ford when his Progressive Conservatives won the provincial election in 2018.

EV sales in the province nosedived for a time after that, though they have started to pick up steam again in recent years.

"The federal government is making multi-billion-dollar investments in the EV supply chain (in Ontario)," Guilbeault said.

"There's no reason the government of Ontario shouldn't do what the government of B.C. is doing, or Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Quebec."

Cara Clairman, president of the EV adoption advocacy non-profit Plug'n Drive, said a national mandate will help "level the playing field" for EVs in every province.

Clairman said the chief concern she still hears when people seek out information about EVs is that it's still too hard to get one in Canada.

"Long waiting lists are definitely discouraging consumers," she said.

However, Brian Kingston, president of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers' Association, said inventory shortages are not an issue any longer.

The association represents Ford, Stellantis and General Motors, three of Canada's biggest automakers.

"EV inventories have been increasing exponentially," he said, noting inventories of such vehicles were 146 per cent higher in November 2023 than they were a year earlier.

Kingston said the government refused to listen to automakers that told it a mandate wasn't needed because they are already investing heavily in EVs.

"I've yet to see any evidence from the federal government that this regulation is necessary, because (inventory is) not a problem anymore," Kingston said.

"The horse has left the barn, electrification is happening, and so let's help Canadians switch as opposed to putting in place this redundant and frankly challenging regulation."

He said that for the first time, this puts Canada out of step with U.S. regulations for vehicles, a major problem when the two sectors are so intertwined.

The United States is pushing electric vehicle adoption federally with an emissions policy that will require more EVs to be sold so that overall emissions go down.

The federal Liberals in Canada, however, note that 10 states have EV sales mandates similar to Canada's, including California.

By 2027, they say, 40 per cent of the North American auto market will be covered by a mandate like Canada's.

Automakers are also concerned about charging capacity, noting it to be a barrier to EV adoption.

The federal environment commissioner said this fall that Canada was on track to meet the goal of having 33,500 charging ports by 2026, but said these are not evenly distributed or properly tracked for operational issues.

A Natural Resources Canada database on charging shows there are now more than 25,500 charging ports in 10,568 locations, which is up from 23,000 ports in 9,100 locations in mid-August.

However, 85 per cent of them are in Quebec, Ontario and B.C.

With 80 per cent of charging expected to happen overnight while cars are parked at home, residential charging capacity is among the most critical issues.

Guilbeault said the government is working on a revision of the national building code so residential buildings constructed after 2025 have the electric capacity to accommodate the charging stations.

The new sales mandate will be regulated under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act using a credit system for each EV put up for sale.

Manufacturers that sell more EVs than they need to meet each year's target can either bank those credits to meet their targets in future years, or sell them to companies that didn't sell enough.

They can also cover up to 10 per cent of the credits they need each year by investing in public fast-charging stations. Every $20,000 spent on DC fast chargers that are operating before 2027 can earn the equivalent of one credit.

Automakers can start earning some credits toward their 2026 and 2027 targets over the next two years, in a bid by the government to encourage a faster transition.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 19, 2023.

Keep reading

There are some significant environmental concerns to consider.

They are difficult but sobering analysis of what we might be missing.

Poof Goes the Electric Car Dream, Nikiforuk A, The 2023-12-08:

The Rising Chorus of Renewable Energy Skeptics, Nikiforuk A, The, 2023-04-07, YouTube:

I Warned Against the Green Energy ‘Boom.’ It Sparked Debate, Nikiforuk A, The 2023-05-10:

I've read these pieces and find that Andrew Nikiforuk hits the nail on the head on major key points, such as the continuing presence of fossil fuels in electricity generation on a global basis, and in the use of certain metals and materials in batteries. There is also great value in his take on human-scaled, walkable urbanism. Many kudos on these points.

Where his logic gets a bit murky is in accounting for human nature. Degrowth (or for that matter, smashing capitalism like some Tyee commenters promote) is a simplistic answer that does not address the dependencies our complex human psychology has assumed. It would be far easier, in my view, to address car dependency (EVs and ICE) with zoning and transit than it would be to try to incrementally lower electricity demand overall.

The electrification process is absolutely necessary to address climate change by displacing carbon-based energy in everything, not just cars. However, electrifying the economy could follow a policy of decreasing the overall consumption of all energy through conservation, not necessarily by outright degrowth. But that will still require a net increase in electrical generation, both centralized and distributed, albeit not at par with fossil energy.

Nikiforuk goes off on battery chemistry without considering how fast moving this technology is morphing into safer, less rare and more affordable materials. Frankly, I am surprised that his 2023 research did not encounter or deserve mention of the fact that cobalt and nickel are being dropped in a major way for more common iron and phosphate, or that deep R&D in batteries is obtaining significant lab results using extraordinarily plentiful sodium and silicon batteries. Or that materials recycling from batteries and PV panels is gaining huge momentum and policy requirements right at the beginning of the process, mainly to limit / displace the need for new mines. Moreover, the largest lithium deposit in the world was recently discovered in Nevada, a jurisdiction that is not exactly a labour and environmental hellscape ... unless you include the nuclear weapons testing sites from last century.

Personally, I can take or leave EVs because my family gets by comfortably with a 2015 gas econobox that sits on the street 90% of the time while we put more transport effort into walking to hundreds of shops within a 15-minute walk of home. Our neighbourhood was designed this way since 1910. But EVs do have a couple of advantages: in BC they displace oil sands products with hydro power in a directly inverse relationship; and they have led to remarkable results in storing renewable energy in batteries in projects around the world.

Further, clean grid energy is arguably more vital to society than EVs. The development of non-lithium batteries like iron-air or flow batteries that can be stacked up to grid scales and retain a multiple megawatt charge for 100 hours are already appearing in many wind and solar projects, notably in Australia. Adelaide just attained 70% stable affordable renewable energy levels this year, causing coal plants to disappear very quickly. Is that not progress?

The world's population growth is slowing and will plateau at about 10-11 billion this century. World car dependency peaked in the 2015-2018 period, depending on the source. Coal demand and imports in China peaked in 2021. It is entirely possible that the world can live on less per capita energy consumption and generate a fraction of the emissions, and that concept is being assisted, unfortunately, by pandemics, pollution and climate change. Degrowth may not be a necessary policy when conservation and population stability (or even decrease) can do a lot of the heavy lifting.

A related aside. I discovered with shock that the Tyee censors some comments that meet all their community guidelines, but sometimes do not conform to a particularly narrow narrative and bias of editorial / moderator staff. This has happened a few times to me and others over the years, the last one with comments I posted that factually rebuff the narrative that BC Ferries' $18 reservation fee is not imposed to salve the egos of "elitist millionaires," but is crucial to those of us ordinary folk who must by necessity regularly travel on them under tight schedules and for genuinely important reasons. I also expressed the opinion that BCFs should try to move more human beings instead of floating traffic jams with 400 cars per boat, being that passenger ferries are smaller, faster, cheaper and don't require investment of tens of millions in parking lots and car ramps for passengers, and can dock in downtown harbours. That comment was deleted as "spam" probably by some dweeb moderator working on a laptop in the wee hours who didn't like her / his employer's biases to be called out.

Funny, because BCFs is actually considering passenger only ferries to take the operations pressures off the expensive floating traffic jams. Go figure.

I have little sympathy for vehicle manufacturers. They knew this was coming but have been dragging their feet to maximize the value of their investments in gas/diesel technology. The president of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers' Association said in an interview that they can't tell consumers what to buy. Ha! They spent $billions each year in advertisements doing just that. They've been bragging for years how they're going electric. Well, time to put up or shut up before Tesla eats all their lunch.