With the world striving towards a more sustainable future and many drivers looking to reduce their carbon footprint, electric vehicles have grown in popularity. In recent years, the registrations of electric vehicles have been on the rise in Canada and more people are considering getting one.

This article explores the latest electric vehicle adoption statistics in Canada, including the number of registered electric vehicles, Canadian consumers’ attitudes towards them, and how the government is supporting the switch to more electric vehicles.

Electric Vehicle Adoption Statistics for Canadians

  • Electric vehicle registrations in Canada have increased from under 20,000 in 2017 to over 86,000 in 2021.
  • In the first quarter of 2022, 7.7% of all vehicles registered in Canada were electric vehicles.
  • Over 90% of new electric vehicles in Canada were registered in Quebec, British Columbia, and Ontario.
  • Between 2017 and 2021, registrations for non-electric vehicles in Canada fell by 23%.
  • 71% of Canadians would consider an electric vehicle when next purchasing a new vehicle.
  • 79% of Canadians would only consider buying an electric vehicle with a minimum range of 400 kilometres on a single charge.
  • Nine in ten Canadians would want to do more research before buying an electric vehicle.

Electric Vehicle Registrations in Canada

The number of electric vehicles registered is increasing year by year and 2021 saw a record number of electric vehicles registered in Canada. According to Statistics Canada, the total number of road motor vehicle registrations was up 1.9% from 2020, with 26.2 million vehicles registered in 2021 and nine out of ten vehicles were light-duty vehicles, making up 24.1 million of the total.

In 2021, 94.9% of all light-duty vehicles registered in Canada were still powered by gasoline. The number of hybrid vehicles was 303,073, battery vehicles 152,685, and plug-in electric vehicles 95,896. While that may not sound like much, it is a lot more than just four years earlier.

According to the Canada Energy Regulator (CER), there were 86,032 new electric vehicles registered in 2021. In 2019, there were only 56,165 registrations and in 2017, just 19,696 electric vehicles were registered. In addition, the registrations of electric vehicles reached a new high in the first quarter of 2022, when 26,018 electric vehicles were registered. This represented a record 7.7% of registrations within the first quarter.

Which Province Has the Most Electric Vehicles?

It is not surprising that the most populous provinces in Canada had the most new electric vehicle registrations in 2021. 43% of all new electric vehicle registrations were from Quebec, while British Columbia and Ontario represented 28% and 23% of the total registrations.

Registration of Electric Vehicles Almost Doubled Between 2020 and 2021

While the number of new registrations for electric vehicles fell slightly in 2020 because of the impact of COVID-19, they almost doubled from 2020 to 2021. And while the data for the last two quarters of 2022 has not been published yet, the records from the first half of the year indicate that it was likely to be another record-breaking year.

By the half-point of the year, the registrations of electric vehicles had already exceeded the total number registered in 2020 and were not far behind the total registrations in 2019. In contrast, data from CER also shows that registrations for non-electric vehicles fell by 23% between 2017 and 2021.

Battery-Electric Vehicles Are More Popular Than Hybrids in Canada

During the same period, battery-electric vehicles have proved to be more popular among Canadians than plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. In 2017, both types of vehicles represented just 0.4% of the total registrations, but by the end of 2018, battery-electric vehicles were increasing their share of the total more than hybrid vehicles. In the last two quarters of 2022, the share of battery-electric vehicles was 5.4% compared to 1.9% of hybrid vehicles.

The Contribution of Electric Vehicles to Canada’s Net Zero Target

In 2019, the transport sector accounted for approximately 25% of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada. 18% of the transportation greenhouse gases come from passenger cards, which represents 4.5% of the total emissions. Since electric vehicles emit very little or nothing at all if they are charged using carbon-free options, the increased adoption of electric vehicles will represent a significant move towards net zero.

Consumer Views on Electric Cars

While the increasing number of registrations is a clear sign Canadians are making the shift from gas and diesel-powered vehicles to electric vehicles, what are the Canadian consumers’ views on electric vehicles? Knowing how the consumers feel and think can help marketers and retailers to increase their sales.

Most Canadians Say They Would Buy an Electric Vehicle Next

According to a consumer poll, 71% of Canadians would rather buy an electric than a non-electric vehicle when they next purchase a car. Of course, this doesn’t mean that they will all end up buying an electric vehicle, but it is a good indicator of how opinions have shifted favourably toward electric cars.

In March 2022, internet searches for electric cars were up by 89% compared to the previous year. The number of inquiries Canadians sent to electric vehicle sellers shot up by 567% during the same period.

Canadians Are More Likely to Consider Getting an Electric Vehicle Than Before

The above statistic is supported by the statistic that almost half (49%) of Canadians in 2022, said they were more likely to buy an electric vehicle now than they had been the year before. In addition, 32% said their interest in plug-in hybrids had increased.

While there are a range of reasons for the increased interest, which we explore a little later in the article, one key factor for more positive views on electric vehicles has been the improved technology, which has made the vehicles better suited for the Canadian climate.

The Vehicle’s Range is a Key Factor When Purchasing an Electric Vehicle

One technological improvement is the better range, which has a significant impact on Canadian’s buying decisions when looking for their next car. 79% of Canadians say they would only consider electric vehicles that can travel 400 kilometres or more on a single charge.

Other Reasons Some Canadians Would Not Consider an Electric Vehicle

There are additional reasons besides the limited range why some Canadians are not yet considering an electric vehicle as a viable option. While 90% of Canadians said they needed to do more research before they could commit to purchasing an electric vehicle, 64% had concerns about the vehicles being reliable during Canada’s harsh winters.

Some Canadians, just over half at 51% are also concerned about the availability of fast charging stations and say they would not want to wait for over twenty minutes to recharge. Others wanted even faster service. 18% said they would not wait more than five minutes to charge their electric vehicle at a public charging station.

Some Canadians Are More Likely to Consider an Electric Vehicle

Some demographics are more likely to get an electric vehicle compared to the population on the whole. Over 75% of millennials, 79% of households with two cars, and 75% of households with an annual income between $50,000 and CAD 150,000 would consider buying an electric car.

Canadians living in highly populated provinces are also more likely to consider an electric car. The highest percentages are in British Columbia and Ontario, with 77% and 74% respectively.

Why Are Electric Vehicles Becoming More Popular in Canada?

There are several reasons Canadians are more interested in buying an electric vehicle now than before, including the improved technology mentioned earlier. One key reason is that the prices of electric vehicles have fallen by 50% since 2012, making them more affordable.

In addition, there are financial incentives for consumers buying an electric vehicle. Others are also persuaded by the cheaper running costs of electric vehicles and the reduced environmental impact of electric compared to combustion engine vehicles.

Canada is Aiming to Reduce Vehicle Emissions by 2030

Canada has set itself a very ambitious goal to reduce emissions from light-duty vehicles by seven mega tonnes by 2030. In practice, this will mean replacing 1.8 million combustion engine vehicles with electric ones, representing roughly 7% of all light-duty vehicles.

To support this transition, the country has set new sales goals, which include 10% of electric vehicles by 2025, which would replace 3% of combustion engine vehicles. By 2030, the target is 11%, meaning 40% of all light-duty vehicles would be electric. The aim is to have 100% of light-duty vehicles replaced with electric vehicles by 2050.

How Could This Be Achieved?

To achieve the ambitious target, the Canadian government is offering financial incentives for consumers to purchase an electric vehicle. The incentive is up to $, 5,000 CAD and is valid for eligible electric vehicle models. Some provinces also offer their own incentives, besides the ones issued by the federal government.

Some examples of additional incentives include British Columbia and Quebec. British Columbia has a program based on household income. Depending on their income, buyers can get 1,000-4,000 CAD rebates for electric vehicles. In Quebec, residents may be eligible for a rebate of up to 8,000 CAD on electric vehicles costing less than 60,000 CAD.

What Are the Challenges to Canada’s Electric Vehicle Target?

Overcoming the hesitations of some Canadian consumers is not the only challenge to meeting the electric vehicle target set by the government. There are also long waiting times, up to three years for some cars, due to low stocks. In March 2021, 50% of dealerships in Canada had no electric car stocks and 31% of them had waiting lists of longer than six months.

While batteries in electric cars last 8-15 years, some are concerned about what happens with the batteries when they run out. In response, there will be programs to recycle electric vehicle batteries. Another key issue that needs to be addressed is the supply of electricity as more people switch to electric vehicles.

This will put the electric grid under pressure. Some Canadians, living in older homes, would need to upgrade their electrical systems, which can cost several thousand dollars. And when several households on the same grid would do this, it would blow the local transformer. More pressure on the grid will also come from the increased number of public charging stations.

Conclusion

The popularity of electric vehicles in Canada is increasing year by year and 2022 looked to be another record year for new electric vehicle registrations based on the data from the first half of the year.

The Canadian government has set an ambitious target for switching to electric vehicles and has set up incentives to reach it. However, the change is not without challenges, most notably the extra demand for electricity and the long waiting times for electric vehicles.

Frequently Asked Questions

Anyone can apply for government incentives for electric vehicles as long as the vehicle is eligible. Depending on where you live, you might also be eligible for additional financial incentives.

While most vehicles are still powered by diesel or gasoline, the number of electric vehicles is growing. Compared to 2017, when there were 19,696 new electric vehicle registrations, in 2021, there were 86,032 registrations. In addition, the portion of electric vehicle registrations was 7.7% in the first quarter of 2022, which was the highest percentage up to that point.

In 2021, the country with the most electric vehicles was Norway, with an uptake of 87%. This has been extremely quick adoption since in 2015 the adoption rate of electric vehicles was only 22%.

The rapid change was made possible by the Norwegian government stopping registration fees and taxes on electric vehicles. Other incentives include reduced road tolls, cheaper public parking, and access to bus lanes.

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