Low supply, high prices, long wait times and regional inequity for zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) are problems created by vehicle manufacturers and could be solved by enforcing ZEV sales targets with regulation, leading environmental groups say. Canadians overwhelmingly agree.
Toronto | Traditional territories of the Huron-Wendat, the Anishnaabeg, Haudenosaunee, Chippewas and the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, September 6, 2022 – According to an Abacus Data poll, commissioned by Environmental Defence, Équiterre, Ecology Action Centre and the David Suzuki Foundation, a sweeping 74 per cent of Canadians believe that vehicle manufacturers have a responsibility to increase zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) production, and shift away from producing gasoline-powered vehicles, even if it has a negative impact on their profits.
A further 58 per cent agree that vehicle manufacturers should face financial penalties if they fail to shift production and meet the government’s emissions reduction plan that would require all new vehicles sold in Canada to be zero-emission by 2035.
“It's clear that Canadians are ready to buy zero-emission vehicles. What is standing in their way are vehicle manufacturers who are dragging their feet in ramping up supply of more affordable clean cars. Automakers don’t want to shift towards making ZEVs instead of gas cars at the pace required by a net-zero emission pathway because it means they’ll make slightly less profit. Canadians agree - automakers have a responsibility to clean up their act, even if it means they take a hit to their bottom lines”, states Nate Wallace, Clean Transportation Program Manager at Environmental Defence.
Wait times are discouraging Canadians
Although the majority of Canadians are ready to buy an electric vehicle, dealerships have been reporting long order wait times due to a low supply of ZEVs, resulting in 70 per cent of Canadians say that wait times are making them less likely to consider buying an electric vehicle. Automakers not supplying affordable models is also a key factor for slow ZEV adoption in Canada. 86 per cent agree that we need policy measures that would result in automakers supplying ZEVs at more affordable prices.
“Quebec and British Columbia have already joined California and 15 other U.S. states in requiring automakers to shift their business plans to sell more zero-emission vehicles. Having the entire country join this North American market would send a transformative signal to automakers to better supply Canadians waiting to get their hands on a ZEV - benefitting jurisdictions which already have this policy in place, including Quebec, by increasing their overall production and lowering their prices. National ZEV sales requirements are a powerful and essential climate solution whose adoption we can no longer delay”, states Andréanne Brazeau, Mobility Policy Analyst at Équiterre.
A long awaited national zero-emission vehicle standard
The majority of the limited supply of zero-emission vehicles currently go to jurisdictions that already have sales requirements in place; British Columbia and Quebec. Without federal government intervention, this problem is expected to continue. 84 per cent of Canadians support a national standard for ZEV availability so everyone can have fair and equal access to ZEVs. In Atlantic Canada, where wait times for ZEVs can stretch up to three years, support for national availability standards are even higher.
“The Government of Canada should move quickly to implement a strong ZEV standard with provisions for supply equity. In bringing all of Canada under this regulation, the federal government needs to ensure that smaller provinces, including those in the Atlantic region, get our fair share of electric vehicles. Atlantic Canadians want to opt out of spiking gas prices and be certain that we have the same access to sustainable transportation that is afforded to people in larger provinces. It's clear - the Canadian public overwhelmingly supports national standards for ZEV availability which would allow every region of the country to get an equitable distribution of more affordable clean cars,” observes Thomas Arnason McNeil, Climate Policy Coordinator for Sustainable Transportation at the Ecology Action Centre.
With federal sales requirements currently under development, Canada will soon join a growing list of climate-leading jurisdictions–like California, the United Kingdom, the European Union and others–who have put in place measures to phase out sales of gas-powered vehicles by 2035, if not sooner. “A strong federal zero-emission vehicle regulation will help the Canadian car industry better compete in the electrified future that the global market is demanding. The U.S.’s recent Inflation Reduction Act, for example, will make electric cars widely available to Americans. For the climate and our health, it’s time for regulations that signal the internal combustion engine’s final days are just around the corner,” underlines Tom Green, Senior Climate Policy Adviser at the David Suzuki Foundation.
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The survey was conducted by Abacus Data with 1,500 Canadians aged 18 and over, from July 22 to 27, 2022. Oversamples were conducted in Ontario (n=1,000) and Nova Scotia (n=500). The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 2.53 per cent, 19 times out of 20. The data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s population of recent newcomers according to age, gender, and region. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.