By on June 11, 2019

2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV - Image: Chevrolet

If you’re stinking rich, few things stand in the way of any purchase. For plebs consumers of lesser means, pocketbook considerations factor much more heavily into all purchases. You author, by the way, feels pretty good about stockpiling discount meat in his freezer.

When it comes to electric vehicles, limited range and higher sticker prices serve as roadblocks to widespread consumer adoption, regardless of passionate lectures from politicians and online people. There’s progress being made on both issues, but spiffing new green rides remains a go-to method of stimulating sales. A pile of someone else’s cash on the hood goes a long way to sealing a deal.

In Canada, the U.S., and other developed nations, that EV cash comes from your friends and neighbors, not the manufacturer. And if Canadian data from May shows anything, it’s that the appearance of a modest rebate does little to get buyers in the mood to go green. Go big or go home?

We’ll set aside the debate about whether taxpayers should be subsidizing the sale of $50,000 private automobiles and revisit it at some other date. For now, we’ll take a look at one country’s response to a modest federal rebate of $5,000.

According to Transport Canada data published by Montreal’s La Presse newspaper (h/t to Driving.ca‘s David Booth), consumers only seemed willing to take advantage of the rebate if they can combine it with a larger rebate offered by a lower-tier government. In Canada, two provinces (British Columbia, Quebec) offer their own incentive. That rebate amounts to $6,000 for B.C. buyers and $8,000 for Quebec buyers, bringing the combined savings to $11,000 and $13,000, respectively.

Canada’s Incentives for Zero-Emission Vehicles (iZEV) program came into effect May 1st, providing a $5,000 rebate for buyers of eligible electric vehicle models with a starting price below $45,000. The incentive covers those same models optioned up to $55k. (You’ll recall Tesla’s 93-mile, Canada-only base Model 3, created solely to slide under the cutoff by one buck and make the Standard Range Plus model eligible.)

A lesser federal rebate of $2,500 is available for eligible plug-in hybrids.

Tesla Model 3, Image: Tesla

Between May 1st and May 28th (the final few days were a holiday weekend), Transport Canada recorded 3,496 rebate applications from dealers enrolled in the iZEV program. That number means nothing all by itself; indeed, finding accurate monthly EV sales data for separate provinces is impossible, but one figure stands out from Transport Canada’s breakdown: Ontario’s EV figure.

While incentive-flush Quebec sent in 2,998 rebate applications and B.C. 1,295, the more populous province of Ontario filed just 176 applications. In the third quarter of last year — a quarter whose beginning coincided with the elimination of the province’s $14,000 EV rebate — Ontario recorded sales of 5,808 plug-in hybrid and fully electric vehicles.

It’s a head-scratcher. The online form required to send the federal application went live on May 15th, though the rebate applies to all vehicles sold after the start of the month. Could Ontario really have sold so few zero-emissions vehicles in the absence of a larger rebate? According to Electric Mobility Canada, citing IHS data, plug-in sales in Ontario sank 15 percent in Q4 2018, reflecting the sudden lack of incentives. Data for this year in thus far unavailable.

Nissan Canada is on the record as saying the elimination of the provincial EV rebate hurt Leaf sales in Ontario; separately, the company also said the $5,000 federal grant, added to the two remaining provincial grants, led to a surge in sales in B.C. and Quebec last month.

One month’s figures does not paint a broad or definitive picture. Many buyers may have waited until after May 1st to purchase electric or plug-in vehicles in B.C. and Quebec. As well, Ontario’s data may not be indicative of a wholesale slaughter of EV sales — the Tesla Model 3 remains a status symbol among younger, well-off progressives. Maybe dealers were slow to send in those applications? More months will be needed to add clarity.

Still, with what we have to go on, it appears that relatively small incentives don’t do much to stimulate the sale of pricier, shorter-range electric vehicles, but big cash dumps can be counted on to keep up the flow of buyers. The increasing availability of electric vehicles that can actually get you to another city on a single charge helps that growth.

Take away the government’s help, however, and the forces of high gas prices (B.C. and Quebec really nail you at the pump) and widespread environmentalism probably wouldn’t be enough to make the EV segment much more than a niche.

In the five-year span from 2013 to 2018, 97 percent of EVs sold in Canada went to buyers on Ontario, Quebec, and B.C. At the time, all three provinces offered incentives for their purchase. Home to most of the country’s population and its largest cities, the three provinces could be expected to garner the bulk of Canada’s EV sales. With the greater population and sales comes more public recharging infrastructure and a closer proximity to other cities, making for a more favorable environment for EV ownership.

Still, greenies exist everywhere, and so do comfortable incomes. Cities are not nonexistent in places like Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia. As well, chargers can be installed in private garages for not too much money; indeed, this is where the vast majority of EVs regularly fill up.

Clearly, cost is still a leading factor in the electric vehicle’s suppressed popularity (referring to both purchase price and fuel price). Case in point: British Columbia, which boasts the highest gas prices in North America, an $11,000 combined EV rebate, and a population of 5 million, sent in 1,295 rebate applications last month. Neighboring Alberta, population 4.3 million, and beneficiary of a brand new $5,000 federal rebate and the lowest gas prices in the country, sent in 10.

[Images: General Motors, Tesla, Nissan]

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27 Comments on “Make It Worth My While: EV Stats Point to an Ongoing Thirst for Subsidies...”


  • avatar
    285exp

    A lot of people can’t justify buying expensive cars unless you give them a lot of money?

    Who’d have thunk it?

  • avatar
    mcs

    Here’s a study that claims 70% of people that received EV studies would have bought an EV anyway. I’m in that category for sure. Actually I get oil subsidies too, but that hasn’t encouraged me to buy a fossil-mobile.

    http://gmauthority.com/blog/2019/06/70-of-ev-tax-credits-go-to-those-who-would-have-bought-an-ev-anyway/

    BTW, take both oil and EV subsidies away. Use the money for battery research.

    • 0 avatar
      tylanner

      There is a big push for using our climate change energy and resources to fund collaborative R&D….most notably from Bill Gates.

      I think this will come through eventually but it seems like a monumental challenge to guide and balance the needs and wants of participating nations…

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      “Here’s a study that claims 70% of people that received EV studies would have bought an EV anyway.”

      Lying is the least of the crimes against humanity committed by people who want to mandate EVs.

    • 0 avatar
      stingray65

      There are no significant oil subsidies. The oil industry is one of the largest tax paying industries, and almost all oil “subsidies” are things like depletion allowances, fuel tax exemptions for farmers and the military, and subsidies to the poor so they can heat their homes in the winter.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        Even the so called military subsidization of the oil industry is really just a subsidy of the military-industrial-complex and globalist efforts to destroy the last traces of self-government. The US has more oil than the world will ever need, which is God’s way of mocking evil progressives. Sorry for the redundancy.

    • 0 avatar
      285exp

      If 70% of people would have bought them without the subsidies, why are we subsidizing them at all?

  • avatar
    tylanner

    It is a delicate balancing act…the market incentives to keep on making the same ICEs are strong…

    It’s arguable that EV based transportation is inevitable for modern industrial societies. Investing in the products and infrastructure are a key insurance policy against being left behind when the transition comes….

    Climate conscious societies can only fulfill their goals by pushing their citizens out of habits which we now know may not be sustainable…doing things how we’ve always done them is our disease, an biological side-effect of our need to survive and provide and conserve.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      It is a delicate balancing act. When there are no real cars that are affordable by people in the top three-to-thirty-percent of wage earners, there will be no ready source of stolen money to subsidize EVs for people who can afford thirty-five-thousand-dollar toys that can’t be produced for a profit. How will they balance the illusion that EVs are any kind of solution while killing actual freedom of movement? I feel so sorry for the politicians who sold out to billionaires who want them to destroy the middle class. They’re not smart enough to perform the tasks they’ve agreed to.

    • 0 avatar
      Asdf

      EV based transportation is NOT inevitable. On the contrary, the lack of technological innovation in BEV technology only serves to remind us of why electric vehicles were out-competed by ICE-powered cars all those years ago, and those reasons are still with us today. My guess is that the reality of the non-viability of BEVs will sink in as a result of Tesla’s imminent bankruptcy, and then people will go back to ICE-powered cars. (The “climate change” nonsense is of course just a collective fad, and will eventually go away once enough people realize they have been duped.)

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    An unbreakable law is this: You get more of what you pay for.

    This includes every subsidized industry, activity, population group, tax exemption, and behavior. It applies to government spending and parenting. One reason we have so much poverty is that the government funds it, in part.

    The same thing happened in Georgia a few years ago once their huge EV rebate disappeared, and it happened in Denmark when their ~64% subsidy went away. The smaller the subsidy, the smaller the impact when it is withdrawn.

    Personally, I would *not* have bought (leased) my 12 Leaf or my 19 Ioniq EV without the Federal subsidy – which, incidentally, was taken by the mfr at the point of sale. No waiting for tax time. But I won’t walk away from money on the table, either.

    Let’s recall one reason these subsidies are in place: Our elected leaders feel that the cost of an ICE’s pollution over its lifetime is higher than the cost of the EV incentive. Just like Cash For Clunkers, it’s an attempt (right or wrong) to reduce the number of polluting vehicles on the road. It has nothing to do with income, or a particular mfr’s offerings.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      You’re fooling yourself if you think our elected leaders care about CO2 ‘pollution.’ They corrupted you to serve the purpose of the people who corrupted them. Do better next time.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        I’m not defending them. I’m merely explaining the stated reasons behind the subsidies.

        Also, I never mentioned CO2. It’s not a pollutant, as I suspect you agree.

    • 0 avatar
      Asdf

      “An unbreakable law is this: You get more of what you pay for.”

      Therefore there shouldn’t be any incentives on current BEVs, for the obvious reason that ALL current BEVs are DEFECTIVE BY DESIGN with their short ranges and EXTREMELY LONG charging times. If government money is used to pay for this hopelessly bad technology, and we get more of what we pay for, then we will never have technological progress addressing the BEV defects, and BEVs will never become competitive. Therefore it makes no sense for BEV proponents to condone BEV incentives.

      • 0 avatar
        285exp

        You keep making this same point over and over, it still doesn’t make it true that charging times are some sort of fatal flaw that makes BEVs hopelessly defective. Millions of people could use BEVs as their only vehicle, with minimal impact on their daily lives, many more millions could use them in addition to an ICE vehicle that they could use for trips that would require multiple extended charging times if they had to use the BEV. It’s simply not true that being able to recharge them in 5 minutes is some sort of absolute requirement before they are a viable option for a large part of the populace. We know your position on this, give it a rest, you aren’t convincing anyone.

        In their current stage of development, the problems I have are price, the inability to charge at home, and the lack of standardized charging infrastructure. If money were no object, I’d love to have a Model S; unlike the Model 3, they are attractive, the instrument panel doesn’t look like they sourced it from Best Buy, and the rest of the interior is a step up from the 3. If I’m going to spend that much money, I don’t want to be sitting in a cheapo interior. Spending $50k+ on a car like the 3 just doesn’t interest me at all.

        Even though I own my own house, I don’t have a convenient place to install a 240v charger, and you can only add about 5 miles to the range per hour using the 120V mobile charger. Most days that wouldn’t be a problem, as you could add 40-50 miles overnight, and I don’t drive more than that regularly, but it could take a couple of days to recharge if the battery was very low. Many people don’t even have the slow charging home option, they may live in apartments or condos without designated parking places or power outlets, and many homes don’t have off the street parking either.

        The supercharger system is very nice, but not all recharging stations are superchargers, they don’t exist in many areas, and as Tesla sells more and more vehicles, the existing ones in heavily traveled corridors might not be available when you need one, adding even more time to get your car recharged, either because you have to wait for one to open up or that you might have to go to a slower option. It’s nice that you might be able to hang out at a WalMart while you wait for your car to charge, but that’s not what I want to do on my road trips.

        I also live on the Gulf coast, and we have these inconvenient things called hurricanes that periodically come through and can cause extended power outages that can last for days or even weeks, even for cities a hundred miles inland. You can just imagine how interesting it might be during an evacuation, with thousands of cars fleeing the area and limited numbers of places you can recharge on the evacuation route, and the lack of charging options at many hotels where you might have to stay.

        Finally, there’s no way my wife could deal with living with the limitations of BEV ownership, she can’t even manage the battery charge in her cell phone, and if we buy a $50k car, it isn’t going to be for me.

        • 0 avatar
          Asdf

          Your inability to charge at home should be a non-issue to you, and there’s no reason for you to complain about it, because you can charge your BEV at charging stations. How long it takes to charge it shouldn’t matter to you either, because otherwise you would have to concede that charging times DO matter, and obviously you cannot do that.

          • 0 avatar
            285exp

            One of the advantages cited by the owners and promoters of BEVs is that you can start every day off with a full charge, so range anxiety is much less of an issue unless you’re making a drive in excess of the cars maximum range. This is indeed a very attractive benefit, and I wouldn’t miss regular gas station visits a bit.

            Of course charging times can be an issue, especially if you’re making a trip that exceeds the car’s maximum range, it’s your insistence that BEVs are hopelessly defective unless they can be recharged in 5 minutes that’s silly. I can count on one hand the number of trips I made last year that exceeded 300 miles, and with a little planning I could easily have arranged to stop for 20-30 minutes, have lunch, and add enough range to finish the trip comfortably, assuming of course that there was an open supercharger station on the route.

            At the current state of BEV technology, my problem isn’t that it would add a few minutes onto the few long drives I make every year, it’s that they cost too much and the charging infrastructure is thin, and if I could just plug it in at home every evening, I’d only have to use a public or commercial charging stations a few times a year.

            I’m happy to admit that charging times can matter, it’s your obsessive insistence that BEVs are defective unless they can be charged in the same amount of time as an ICE vehicle that’s just dumb. If you make a lot of long drives, BEV charging times and the lack of associated infrastructure are significant problems, and the people who absolutely can’t or won’t plan ahead to minimize the problems should stick to ICE vehicles, but that doesn’t mean that many, many drivers couldn’t use BEVs with little difficulty.

          • 0 avatar
            Scott_314

            ASDF – you’re just lucky you have a gas station in your house. I guess it lets you buy lottery tickets and cigarettes too?

            The rest of us don’t like the fatal flaw that gas vehicles have – going to a gas station. Millions of American’s don’t live near a gas station and expecting them to drive a long ways to get gas is ludicrous.

            Gas cars are stupid and inconvenient. It takes 7 seconds a day to refuel your electric car.

  • avatar
    gasser

    IMHO, if you want to reduce pollution, re-institute some sort of “cash for clunkers” program. First, its gets the grossest of polluters off the road. Second, it gives the $$$ to people who need it more than Tesla buyers. Third, ICEs are already vastly improved. Will the move to BEV decrease pollution more, or will it just move smog to electric generation stations, not to mention land fill pollution with exhausted batteries in a decade or so???

  • avatar
    aja8888

    The basis of the Cash for Clunkers program was to stimulate new cars sales, which were in the tank due to the recession. It worked. It really wasn’t about reducing pollution.

  • avatar
    darex

    According to a German documentary I recently watched, EVs are twice as depleting of natural resources as ICEs to produce, and the required lithium for the batteries, 60% of which comes from one site in the Andean desert, is robbing the natives there of all their desperately needed groundwater, and will force them to abandon their meagre farming and llama-raising culture and livelihood, and move away. Enjoy those thoughts, while patting yourselves on the back for “saving the Earth.”

  • avatar
    darex

    https://youtu.be/b0kN81HW8t8

  • avatar
    Freddie

    Incentives for “green” cars should be technology neutral. Base them on EPA ratings. 50 MPG or 50 “MPGe” should get the same incentive.


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