Is Canada ready to meet its ‘aggressive’ electric vehicle mandate by 2026?

Click to play video: 'Canada sets first national EV sales mandates for 2026'
Canada sets first national EV sales mandates for 2026
WATCH: The Canadian government announced its first mandate for electric vehicle sales, aiming for 20 per cent of all cars sold in Canada to be electric by 2026. – Dec 21, 2022

As Canada has mandated at least 20 per cent of car sales to be electric vehicles by 2026, some are questioning if the goal is realistic given supply levels and charging infrastructure.

The federal government has said that there will be penalties for manufacturers and importers that do not meet the 20 per cent sales target. After 2026, the government is aiming for 60 per cent of sales to be EVs by 2030, with all sales being electric by 2035.

Jason Slaughter, an urban planning advocate and the point person for the YouTube channel Not Just Bikes, told Global News that the government’s plan is “extremely aggressive.” He personally believes that it will not be possible since EVs are currently more expensive than gas vehicles, coupled with doubts on whether the power grid is sufficient.

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“There’s a huge amount of extra electricity that’s going to be required for all of us to charge all of those cars,” he said, also detailing the high cost to produce the vehicles that use more precious metals than typical gas cars.

“Where’s (the electricity) going to come from? We’re not going to be building more nuclear power plants. We don’t have a second Niagara Falls hanging around.”

According to a report from May 2022 by the Canadian Climate Institute, which researches climate change policy, Canada electricity generation capacity needs to be 2.2 to 3.4 times bigger in 2050 to meet its energy needs, and needs to grow three to six times faster to 2050 than in the previous decade.

Click to play video: 'Environmental responsibility ‘top of mind’ for Trudeau as he tours critical minerals facility'
Environmental responsibility ‘top of mind’ for Trudeau as he tours critical minerals facility

Charging infrastructure has come under scrutiny, with one analysis released in 2022 showing that Canada is nearly 1.7 million EV charging stations short of what is required to power an increasingly electrified vehicle fleet.

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David Adams, president of national trade association Global Automakers of Canada, told Global News that Canada’s electric vehicle infrastructure, including charging stations, is lagging behind other countries to the point of “not even being in the same ballpark.”

“If you want to have a hope of (meeting the goals), then set the table, create the right environment to do that. And that’s ensuring that all the infrastructure is built there first,” he said. “That’s a huge concern.”

He also pointed out that there will continue to be a shortage of electric vehicles in the foreseeable future and there is currently little inventory on the ground at dealerships.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, though, was hopeful during a three-day road trip of Canada’s battery supply chain that the country will be able to meet its targets for electric vehicles.

He admitted on Jan. 17 that waitlists are one of the challenges people are facing now in their switch to EVs, but said the federal government will focus on investing in production facilities in the country.

“We’re going to make it,” he said, referring to the goal of all vehicle sales being electric by 2035. “The world is going in that direction.”

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Trudeau said that the mandates are important to make those goals possible.

Since 2015, Canada has invested $1 billion to make EVs more affordable and chargers more accessible, according to a release last year from Natural Resources Canada. Ottawa’s 2022 budget proposes to invest an additional $400 million in EV infrastructure through March 2027.

Other electric vehicle advocates are also hopeful that Canada will achieve its goals and the switch to EVs will ultimately be better for the environment, despite the emissions in producing them.

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Tips when considering electric vehicles

Raymond Leury, president of the Electric Vehicle Council of Ottawa, told Global News that Canada will likely need 10-20 times more electric vehicle chargers available publicly if 30 per cent of cars are EVs, but said that most people will charge at home as they do short trips around the city, as opposed to long, cross-country road trips.

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Concerning supply, he said that automakers are already forecasting 30 to 40 per cent of their vehicles produced worldwide by 2025 to be electric, beating out Canada’s mandate.

“Supply will be there,” he said.

Some provincial leaders have questioned how the goal will be achieved given the current long waiting lists for some electric vehicles.

“How do you then mandate that 20 per cent of all vehicles sold in Alberta are going to be electric when they aren’t even going to be available?” Premier Danielle Smith asked on Jan. 10 while speaking in Calgary.

The Electric Vehicle Council of Ottawa has compiled a spreadsheet of delivery times for electric vehicle models that shows while some are available immediately, wait times for others vary from eight-12 weeks all the way up to more than 10 months.

— with files from Global News reporters Touria Izri and Aaron D’Andrea

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