Come 2040, every new light-duty car and truck sold in British Columbia (B.C.) will be a zero-emission vehicle (ZEV), Premier John Horgan promised on the Legislature’s steps on November 20, 2018. Flanked by Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver, Horgan said legislation will be introduced in early 2019 that will require 10% of vehicles sold in B.C. by 2025 to be ZEV, ramping up to 30% by 2030 and 100% by 2040.
Quebec is the only Canadian jurisdiction with a ZEV mandate. Several American states, led by California, also have ZEV mandates.
Weaver promised “a zero-emission vehicle mandate that is second to none in North America,” but Horgan provided no details of what the legislation might require.
Under Quebec’s ZEV mandate, which took effect in early 2018, automakers earn credits from the sale of ZEVs in the province. For the 2018 model year, automakers are required to earn credits representing 3.5% of their passenger vehicle sales, rising to 22% by 2025. The number of credits a vehicle earns depends on its range and efficiency. Automakers that fall short of their required credits will pay a price or may purchase credits from other automakers. A manufacturer like Tesla, for instance, which manufactures only ZEVs, may sell all its credits on the secondary market.
Automakers oppose ZEV mandates because, they argue, they force them to supply vehicles in excess of consumer demand. They say mandates reduce consumer choice and may encourage consumers to make purchases in neighbouring jurisdictions without a mandate, costing the government tax revenue.
Right now, though, it appears that in B.C., ZEV demand is outstripping supply, according to Clean Energy Canada. In summer 2018, it surveyed all 322 dealerships that qualified for B.C.’s electric vehicle rebate program and found that only 40% of them had electric cars on their lots available to purchase. Consumers were warned that wait times would range from three to as many as 18 months.
Horgan said that Ontario’s pullback on its ZEV commitment has freed up supply that B.C. can take advantage of. As part of its abandonment of the cap and trade program, the new Ontario government cancelled all purchase incentives for low- and zero-emission vehicles.
B.C. appears intent on travelling in the opposite direction. In the period leading up to the ZEV mandate, Horgan said B.C. will review its current purchase incentive program, with an eye to expanding it over time. B.C. currently pays up to $5,000 for the purchase or lease of a new battery electric or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, and up to $6,000 for a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle.
B.C. will also expand the electric vehicle direct-current fast-charger network to 151 sites from the current 71.
ZEV sales still represent little more than 2% of total vehicle sales in Canada, according to analytics firm FleetCarma, but ZEVs are quickly gaining market share. FleetCarma’s sales update for the third quarter of 2018 shows a year-to-date increase in electric vehicle sales of 158% over the comparable period in 2017.
In B.C., electric vehicles accounted for 15.4% of new passenger vehicle sales in the third quarter of 2018, making it the national leader by a wide margin.