Blog Posts | Pembina Institute

B.C. paves the way for cleaner cars

Blog - Nov. 7, 2011 - By Claire Beckstead

On a crisp, sunny Saturday, I joined about 50 people at Surrey City Hall to hear BC Ministers Terry Lake (Environment), Rich Coleman (Energy and Mines) and Kevin Falcon (Finance) announce a $17 million provincial initiative to have many more clean cars gracing the streets of British Columbia.

The big ticket items will be up to $5000 off the sticker price of battery electric, fuel cell, plug-in hybrid and compressed natural gas powered cars, and $6.5 million  for new charging stations across the province as well as upgrades to hydrogen fueling infrastructure.

It's an exciting day for climate-conscious British Columbians as an important step has been taken to reduce the greenhouse gas pollution caused by burning gasoline and diesel in our cars.

Where the rubber hits the road

Claire with BC Environment Minister, Terry LakeOver 1000 clean cars could be on B.C.'s streets by March of 2013, if not sooner, as a result of the point of sale incentives. For those that end up being electric vehicles, our analysis shows that switching from a conventional fossil fuel powered vehicle results in 80 per cent less greenhouse gas pollution over its lifetime.

And the impact of those 1000 vehicles will reach beyond their immediate drivers, as friends, neighbours and co-workers learn about them through word of mouth. The more people become familiar with the alternatives to conventional fossil fuel vehicles, the more likely they'll be to consider one for their own needs.

Charge away

As clean as electric vehicles may be, they aren't very useful unless they can be recharged. That's why the infrastructure investments that are part of the initiative are so important. The funds will help to develop a network of charging options that meets the needs of drivers. The initiative also includes a $500 rebate for household chargers, which is where the majority of charging will occur.

B.C. is in good company

British Columbia isn't the first province to provide

Chevrolet Volt charge plug

incentives for clean alternatives to conventional fossil-fuel vehicles.

As with the B.C. initiative, Ontario offers an incentive for electric vehicles, with their contribution offering up to $8500. Ontario is also developing infrastructure for electric cars, at GO transit stations and government building parking lots.

With a total investment of $50 million, Quebec provides $8000 off the sticker price of an electric vehicle, up to 50 per cent off residential charging stations as well as a province-wide electric vehicle awareness and promotion program.

Looking ahead

Getting from 1000 vehicles to widespread adoption of clean cars will be the next challenge and there are opportunities for all levels of government to help make this a reality:

  • Local governments have options such as investing in vehicles for their fleets, educating their staff and citizens, and working with local businesses to increase infrastructure investment.
  • The province could require new buildings to come complete with the ability to charge electric cars, just as the city of Vancouver has done. A first step could be giving other local governments the option to voluntarily sign-on to this type of requirement — much like B.C.'s recent solar hot water ready requirement.
  • The federal government needs to invest in this effort and raise the bar nationally.

As I got back in my co-op car to makeElectric Smart Car Logo the nearly 50 kilometre trip back to Vancouver from Surrey, I couldn't help but think of the emissions I was about to produce on the way, and how soon being a driver might not necessarily mean also being a polluter. With the provincial government now supporting the purchase of electric vehicles and improving infrastructure, I, like many British Columbians, may soon be able get from point A to B with a much cleaner conscience.

Caroline — Nov 17, 2011 - 12:58 PM MT

I agree with Marc's comments:
Freerider rates tend to be high for subsidy programs such as this. Given the high subsidy rate compared to others in the country, the rate might be lower (ie it might have convinced more people to purchase the vehicles that wouldn't have otherwise). And there are other benefits in terms of spreading awareness.
But we should treat subsidy programs with caution. In general, governments pay a lot of money for a relatively small amount of reductions.

Johan — Nov 09, 2011 - 03:45 PM MT

How are local governments in smaller or more remote communities finding ways to support including these new exciting technologies while providing the required service and parts for Fleet purchases? These debates have already begun in our region and form an important part of resolving the business case for investing in new technology.

Marc Lee — Nov 07, 2011 - 04:08 PM MT

What do you think the free rider rate on these will be? I'm guessing 95% or more.

Claire B — Nov 08, 2011 - 02:44 PM MT

Hi Marc,

Thanks for your comment. We haven’t done any analysis to predict the free rider rate on this program, but we still see it as a positive step in promoting green vehicle options in B.C. Individuals, businesses, municipalities and institutions can qualify for the point-of-sale rebate, which will help to get the vehicles on the road as cost effectively as possible for these buyers. This is important, especially for the fleet vehicles that may be purchased with taxpayer dollars.

Denis Lang — Nov 07, 2011 - 12:42 PM MT

The Neighbourhood Electric Vehicle (NEV) will not only change the way that you drive, but the way you live. It’s not a car, it’s a cause.

Isabel Chan — May 03, 2012 - 08:44 PM MT

Hi Denis,
Good to know you are still fighting this cause. Maybe we can touch base on the subject?

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