Statistics show electric-battery vehicles in British Columbia accounted for 9.4% of all new light-duty vehicle sales in 2020, according to the provincial government.
If this trajectory holds, BC could reach and exceed its zero-emission target of 10% in 2021 — four years earlier than the original goal year of 2025, as established by the provincial government’s Zero-Emission Vehicles Act.
This is up from 0.8% in 2015, 1% in 2016., 1.5% in 2017, 4.1% in 2018, and 8.7% in 2019.
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The smaller increase in the rate of growth in 2020 compared to the previous exponential growth of prior years could be attributed to conservative consumer spending during the difficult economic conditions early in the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the slowdown in the production of the vehicles due to a global materials and parts shortage, which is expected to continue for years.
A recent BC Hydro survey also suggested there could be pent-up demand for buying electric vehicles after the pandemic, but the level of supply will be unable to meet the heightened demand.
The survey suggested about one-third of drivers in BC were considering purchasing an electric vehicle before the pandemic, but as of May 2021, 85% delayed their purchasing decision. Now that the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel is clearly visible, about two-thirds of survey respondents are considering purchasing an electric vehicle within five years, with the majority looking to buy one within two years. Much of this demand is also driven by the need to replace aging gas-powered vehicles.
Based on ICBC statistics, as of the end of 2020, there were about 54,500 light-duty electric vehicles registered in BC, including 29,000 within the Lower Mainland — up from 22,000 in 2019, 11,000 in 2018, 6,100 in 2017, and 3,600 in 2016.
Within the city of Vancouver, the number of vehicle insurance policies in force by electric models reached 890 in 2016, 1,400 in 2017, 2,500 in 2018, 4,800 in 2019, and 6,600 in 2020.
In Surrey, BC’s second most populous municipality, the number of vehicle insurance policies as electric models reached 480 in 2016, 780 in 2017, 1,400 in 2018, 3,200 in 2019, and 4,400 in 2020.
Here is a breakdown of BC’s leading electric vehicle population by make, with Tesla holding a strong lead against other manufacturers:
- Tesla: 18,830 in 2020 (12,586 in 2019; 5,034 in 2018)
- Nissan: 7,184 in 2020 (6,367 in 2019; 4,349 in 2018)
- Chevrolet: 4,466 in 2020 (3,833 in 2019; 2,452 in 2018)
- KIA: 1,763 in 2020 (1,320 in 2019; 733 in 2018)
- BMW: 968 in 2020 (963 in 2019; 785 in 2018)
- Ford: 874 in 2020 (800 in 2019; 640 in 2018)
- Hyundai: 2,810 in 2020 (1,531 in 2019; 272 in 2018)
- Volkswagen: 1,117 in 2020 (773 in 2019; 331 in 2018)
- Smart: 400 in 2020 (415 in 2019; 318 in 2018)
- Fiat: 271 in 2020 (232 in 2019; 160 in 2018)
According to the provincial government, despite the economic conditions, BC still had the highest uptake rates of electric vehicles in North America in 2020.
As stipulated by provincial legislation, after the 10% electric sales target for 2025, the next targets are 30% by 2030 and 100% by 2040 — when the sale of new gas-powered, light-duty vehicles would effectively be banned. Earlier this year, the federal government announced its own plan to establish a 2035 target for 100% zero-emission vehicles for new car sales.
The federal and provincial governments have introduced various incentives and programs to encourage the shift into electric vehicles, such as rebates reducing the costs of acquiring an electric vehicle and installing charging infrastructure at homes and workplaces.
The provincial government issued 8,621 electric vehicle rebates in 2020, down from 14,483 in 2019 but up from 6,265 in 2018 and 1,781 in 2017.
Within BC, prospective electric vehicle owners are eligible to receive up to $8,000 in rebates, including $3,000 from the provincial government and $5,000 from the federal government.
Both the federal and provincial governments have also been increasing their investments on public charging infrastructure.
Not only are electric vehicles zero-emission, but the average electric vehicle owner in BC sees $1,800 in annual fuel savings compared to an average gas-powered vehicle. Gas prices in the Lower Mainland reached all-time record highs earlier this summer.
While there are lower maintenance costs for an electric vehicle due to their fewer moving parts, they carry significant battery replacement costs for car owners looking to extend the lifespan of their vehicle.
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