Canada faces declining EV interest, report shows, despite push to boost sales

Click to play video: 'Auto report shows Canada faces declining EV interest, despite push to boost sales'
Auto report shows Canada faces declining EV interest, despite push to boost sales
WATCH: Auto report shows Canada faces declining EV interest, despite push to boost sales – Dec 11, 2023

As Canada continues its work towards net-zero carbon emissions, including through its mandate for at least 20 per cent of car sales to be electric vehicles (EVs) by 2026, a new report showing a declining interest in the products is raising questions whether that goal is doable.

On Monday, released its 2023 top search data into some of the most popular vehicles searched on their marketplace this year and while it showed a rise in popularity of trucks, the number showing an intent to purchase an EV has declined from one year prior.

In 2022, the data found about 68 per cent of car shoppers who did not own an EV showing an intent to purchase one amid the record high gas prices faced and the growing inflation. This year, that purchase intention has dropped to 56 per cent and while that’s still more than half of Canadians surveyed, it was still a major drop.

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“So higher gas prices, people are more interested in EVs, lower gas prices, that interest starts to soften a bit,” AutoTrader editor-in-chief Jodi Lai told Global News in an interview.

Among Canadians who said they had no plans to switch to an electric vehicle, 40 per cent said vehicle prices were the primary cause, with interest rates and inflation also top reasons.

According to AutoTrader, just one in 10 Canadians owns an EV and though it found alternate fuel interest showing a higher percentage than a year ago, searches for EVs account for less than three per cent overall on the marketplace’s website.

But as the report notes the decline, it raises questions about Canada’s plan to boost EV production and make it a majority of sales.

Greig Mordue, the chair of advanced manufacturing policy at McMaster University’s school of engineering, said though Canada’s uptake on EV is increasing there are still issues.

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“Our transition, we are still moving upwards, but our transition to electrification is going to be slower, quite likely than our most optimistic policymakers,” he said in an interview.

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He noted to Global News the planned years for car sales could be problematic because it’s a mixture of the federal government’s goals, industry expectations, and the Canadian marketplace itself.

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“We’re in the expectation of the government of Canada is that consumers will quickly turn on their and up their appetite for electric vehicles,” Mordue said. “The reality is the marketplace is saying we’re not quite ready. And the the automakers have said we probably won’t have them for you. And the government is left to say, ‘but we said.'”

However, Oliver Anderson, director of communications for Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault, told Global News in a statement that the issue is that EVs aren’t always available for purchase “on the lot,” but their numbers show interest on the increase.

“EV sales in Canada continue to rise and people are buying them at an unprecedented rate,” he said in an email. “For a number of years now, we continue to set records for EV sales as a portion of all vehicles sold in Canada.”

Anderson went on to say that EVs accounted for one in eight of all new vehicles in the third quarter of this year, up from one in 10 in the second quarter.

He went on to say the government is working to address the issues of finding an EV at a lot by supporting “robust supply chain and charging infrastructure.” This includes a plan to introduce regulatory measures to ensure EVs are made available for the Canadian market, instead of being sold elsewhere.

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While EVs showed decline in the report, Autotrader found among the top searched vehicles of this year, 60 per cent were comprised of luxury sedans and sports cars, while the Ford F-150 truck made its ninth appearance as Canada’s most sought-after vehicle. But the report also showed among the top sold vehicles of 2023, nine of the top 10 vehicles sold were functional, utility vehicles like trucks and SUVs.

Lai said it speaks to Canadians’ aspirations.

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“I like to think that it’s a very good reflection of how Canadians are feeling, what they’re dreaming of, what their more practical purchases are,” she said.

Depending where you lived in Canada, however, the type of vehicle Canadians turned to varied. Alberta and Manitoba saw an affinity for large vehicles, with the latter seeing a strong interest in sport-utility vehicles. The Maritimes, meanwhile, were backpedaling on “downsizing,” with trucks and SUVs also making up a large majority of that region’s most searched vehicles. For Quebec, it was economic styles like the Honda Civic and Toyota RAV4 among those most searched, while Ontario looked more at sedans.

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When it comes to car sizes, those, too, are also getting bigger. A report by the Global Fuel Economy Initiative showed SUVs now represented a majority of the new car market globally. According to the report, emissions could have fallen by more than 30 per cent between 2010 and 2022 if vehicles had not increasingly been growing in size.

Mordue said as governments and industry try to increase the electrification of our vehicles, more measures will need to be put in place further than what has already been done.

“This isn’t necessarily a Canada problem, it’s a problem and they’re swinging hard and it doesn’t seem to be enough, but they’ll continue to plug away at it,” Mordue said.

“But 2026 is a heartbeat away, 2030 is another major milestone. And 2035 is it, and so what does ‘it’ mean? Well, right now it means zero-per cent internal combustion engine vehicles and that’s going to be a big mountain. And it requires a lot of effort, focus and a lot of pivots by a lot of stakeholders.”

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