Electric Car

Range, price and charging. Why Canadians won’t commit to buying EVs

Canadians say there are plenty of reasons why they aren’t exactly charged up about electric vehicles. 

Roughly half of Canadians believe EVs don’t have enough range, cost too much and are a pain to charge, according to a new survey conducted by Leger for the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association (CVMA) and Global Automakers of Canada (GAC). The two groups lobby the Canadian and provincial governments on behalf of automakers.

Respondents were asked to choose as many reasons out of a variety of choices for not purchasing an electric vehicle. Range anxiety remains the biggest hurdle as 55 per cent of those surveyed said limited driving range is the top reason for not purchasing an electric vehicle. Fifty-four per cent said the higher purchase price compared to gasoline powered vehicles is reason not to buy. Lack of charging infrastructure and the time required to charge were picked by 47 and 45 per cent of the people surveyed. No ability to charge at home — whether at a house, condo or apartment — was selected by 34 per cent to round out the top five reasons.

“This is what we’ve seen consistently, survey after survey,” said Brian Kingston, head of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association, which lobbies on behalf of the Detroit Three automakers. “It doesn’t matter who does the survey, the same results are coming true. It’s concerns around charging and driving range, a lack of infrastructure, and then the purchase price.

“It’s concerning that we know this. It’s been proven again and again these are the barriers and yet we’re not having the conversation around how we actually address these challenges.”

Only four per cent said they “don’t see a reason not to purchase an EV.”

Looking at the results, the CVMA and GAC said in a joint statement that more needs to be done to increase consumer demand for EVs.

Kingston, along with David Adams, whose Global Automakers of Canada lobbies on behalf of all other automakers, said the debate over supply is over. 

General Motors is electrifying large and expensive SUVs while Ford is doing the same with the F-150 pickup, the best-selling vehicle in Canada year after year. “With auto manufacturers now spending billions on producing new electric vehicles, including right here in Canada, a more focused and collaborative effort is needed to inspire Canadians to go electric,” Kingston said.

Ford has pledged to build up to five electric vehicles at its Oakville, Ont., plant. General Motors is already retooling its CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ont., to build an electric commercial van.

“The debate about electric vehicle supply is over,” David Adams, CEO of the GAC, said. “With over 130 new electric vehicles coming to the Canadian market by 2023, we must address the well-known barriers to consumer electric vehicle adoption.”

To Adams’ point, concerns with EV inventory at dealerships or a lack of models to suit consumer needs were two of the three least-cited reasons for not purchasing an EV. 

EV consumer education remains a significant barrier to widespread adoption, with only 20 per cent of Canadians feeling they have done “sufficient research on EVs.”

Barely more than one third — 38 per cent — of consumers are aware that the government has a consumer EV purchase rebate of up to $5,000 available to them if they purchase qualified vehicles.

Kingston said there needs to be more attention paid to educating the public on what’s available.

“It’s everybody’s responsibility on EV adoption. When you look at addressing price concerns and infrastructure, there’s a big role for government there,” he said. “Education is a shared priority between government, automakers and non-profit groups that advocate for EVs.

“We’re calling for a bold, comprehensive strategy to bring all the players to the table. The challenges are big and real.”

Still, 16 per cent of respondents said government EV incentives would encourage them to consider making an EV their next vehicle.

Tax deductions, such as no HST or an income tax reduction, and free charging each garnered 12 per cent of the votes.

Kingston said the government doesn’t need to provide incentives and infrastructure indefinitely. He believes private business will eventually carry some of the charging load and that price parity will eventually end the need for incentives.

Adams, meanwhile, takes exception to the federal government’s plan to implement a luxury tax on new vehicles with a price tag of $100,000 or more.

The government says the tax will be a 10-per-cent fee on the total cost of the vehicle or a 20-per-cent fee on the amount exceeding $100,000, whichever amount is smaller. Ottawa estimates the measure will increase federal revenues by $604 million over five years, starting in 2021-22.

“I found it really odd there’s no exception mentioned for electric vehicles,” Adams said. “If you look at something like GM’s Hummer and a number of other vehicles that will cost more than $100,000, it seems to be contrarian on one hand wanting to support the uptake of these vehicles by giving incentives to people but on the other hand hitting them with a luxury tax.

“We’d certainly like to see an exemption there for electric vehicles.”

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