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‘Government has really dropped the ball’: N.B. misses 2020 EV targets by wide margin

Click to play video: 'N.B. falls short on electric vehicle goals'
N.B. falls short on electric vehicle goals
WATCH: Just a few years ago, the New Brunswick government had the ambitious target of putting thousands of electric vehicles on the road. But as Silas Brown reports, only a fraction of the vehicles driving in New Brunswick are electric – Feb 7, 2020

New Brunswick has missed its targets for electric vehicles (EVs), according to numbers from the Department of Natural Resources and Energy Development.

When the climate action plan was released by the New Brunswick government in late 2016, it was hoped that there would be 2,500 EVs on the road by 2020. At the end of 2019, there were only 429 registered with the province. The 2030 target is for 20,000 EVs.

During an appearance before the committee on climate change and environmental stewardship, representatives from DNR said price continues to be the main barrier to those who may be interested in owning an EV.

“We’re optimistic that as the technology evolves … the price is going to come down for the average New Brunswicker. As you know, they’re quite expensive,” said Bill Breckenridge, the assistant deputy minister of Natural Resources and Energy Development.

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“We think that by investing in infrastructure, with the federal incentives, hopefully the technology continues to evolve and the price comes down.”

When it comes to the failure to meet the targets set by the climate action plan, the Conservation Council of New Brunswick is laying the blame squarely at the feet of the provincial government.

“The government has really dropped the ball on electric vehicles,” said executive director Lois Corbett in an emailed statement. “The time for lame excuses is over. Our charging station infrastructure is ready and our citizens want to take advantage of the federal government’s incentives, but the lack of action from the provincial government is holding us all back.”

“It is plain sad that most New Brunswickers who want to buy an electric vehicle have to turn to Quebec or car dealers in other provinces instead of buying from their local dealership. That’s because our government is not doing what governments that are serious about climate change and protecting their citizens’ health have done: introduce smart incentives that make it easier for citizens to purchase their first electric vehicle and encourage dealerships to bring them onto the lot.”

READ MORE: New Brunswick to expand electric vehicle charging stations to provincial parks

The existing federal incentive is a $5,000 rebate applied at the time of purchase of a non-emitting vehicle. Currently there are no provincial subsidies or rebates to further drive down the cost and provincial efforts have so far been concentrated in building the infrastructure required to support EV ownership.

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As it stands there are 134 level two chargers, 28 fast chargers and 48 Tesla superchargers. Level two chargers take between 6-8 hours to charge a vehicle, while the fast chargers and superchargers take about half an hour to get to 80 per cent charge.

“In 2017 we had 11 chargers in the province, so we’ve come a long way from an infrastructure standpoint which I think is critical to promoting or having an electric vehicle network, or a number of electric vehicles operating in the province,” said deputy minister Tom MacFarlane.

Click to play video: 'NB Firefighters take electric car fire training'
NB Firefighters take electric car fire training

Another barrier to ownership is availability. The general manager of one Fredericton area car dealership said they don’t stock EVs because they feel the interest isn’t there and that they only receive about two inquiries a year.

Minister of Environment and Local Government Jeff Carr agrees that availability and price have combined to box most people out of the market.

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“The price of them is another issue. The federal government had announced that they would be giving a rebate to those people that wanted to buy them, so I think it’s access, the supply isn’t there yet,” he said.

Carr said his government provided vehicle is a gas-powered hybrid, but eventually wants to personally purchase an electric car. But he says the price makes it prohibitive.

“I can see myself at some point in time when I can afford one and one becomes more readily available, jumping at the chance to own one,” said Carr.

READ MORE: NB Power to create electric vehicle charging network for province

Government adoption of EVs is stalled as well. DNR says they have no electric vehicles in their fleet at all.

“Electric vehicles are fairly expensive and fairly pricey and with rebates it’s a challenge to purchase even for government,” MacFarlance told the committee earlier this week.

Liberal MLA Andrew Harvey said it’s up to the government to introduce subsidy measures that will allow New Brunswickers to take advantage of the infrastructure that has been built by NB Power.

“We need to be there as government provide incentives,” he said.

“The infrastructure of the charging stations, the fast charging and slow charging stations around the province. I mean we probably need to do more, but now the next step is to have incentives to put people over the top.”

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