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Industry urges governments to commit to ongoing EV rebates

Quebec government's planned phase-out of its EV rebates have industry players fearing B.C. could follow suit.
Rivian opened a showroom at the Amazing Brentwood in July

Automaker representatives, retailers and consumers are eager to see if the federal and provincial governments will use the rebranded Elevate Vancouver Autoshow to announce extensions to rebate programs that encourage drivers to buy electric vehicles (EVs).

B.C. Minister of Energy Mines and Low Carbon Innovation Josie Osborne did not respond yesterday to BIV’s request for an interview, but she is scheduled to speak at the Elevate Vancouver Autoshow this morning at 11:30 a.m.

Fears that rebates could be reduced and eventually killed stem from Quebec Finance Minister Eric Girard, in his March 12 budget speech, saying that his province would start phasing out rebates for EVs, and plug-in hybrid vehicles starting next year, with them fully ending by 2027.

Quebec’s rebates are up to $7,000 for new electric vehicles, and up to $5,000 for plug-in hybrids. Those who buy used EVs are eligible for rebates up to $3,500.

Rebates are seen as important because the B.C. government has legislated aggressive targets, including that by 2035, all new light-duty vehicles sold in B.C. by 2035 are to be electric or plug-in hybrid. Automakers that fail to comply to that rule would face fines. 

“[An end to the rebates] has not been signalled yet by the B.C. government,” Brian Kingston, CEO of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturer’s Association.

“The federal government has said that they are non-committal to recapitalizing the federal purchase incentive – the IZEV program, which is very popular and is running out of cash.”

The federal rebate program provides EV buyers with up to $5,000, and it is scheduled to end in March 2025.

Kingston said that the program’s genuine end date will be sooner than that, as the program will really stop when it runs out of money.


(Image: Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association CEO Brian Kingston was at the Elevate Vancouver Autoshow yesterday | Rob Kruyt, BIV)

The federal government in its 2022 budget allotted $1.7 billion to the program and has not topped up that funding since, Kingston said.

B.C.’s rebate program offers EV buyers up to $4,000 each on their purchases, based on income.

Those who make less than $80,000 per year and buy an electric-battery vehicle or a long-range hybrid are eligible for the $4,000, while those who make less than $80,000 annually and buy a plug-in hybrid with a range less than 85 kilometres are eligible for a $2,000 rebate.

Rebates get progressively lower until the buyer makes $100,000 per year, which is when it ends.

“Rebates do help sell vehicles,” said Hugues Bissonette, country manager for Swedish EV maker Polestar.


(Tesla's EV Cybertruck is on display at the Elevate Vancouver Autoshow, which runs March 20-24 | Glen Korstrom, BIV)

He told BIV his company sold “thousands” of EVs across Canada in 2023, helped in part by a new franchised store on Burrard Street, which opened last fall.

He is sanguine about his company’s prospects even if more provinces start ending EV rebates.

“With the volume of vehicle sales increasing, you can understand why this is happening,” said Bissonette, who is based in Montreal but arrived in Vancouver yesterday to speak with media in advance of the Vancouver Auto Show.

Polestar also operates franchised showrooms in Toronto and Montreal, he said.

“Montreal is our strongest market in North America by far, so [the Quebec rebates] did help,” he said.

Bissonnette added that he anticipates that his company will open four additional franchised showrooms in Canada by the end of the year, and then have between 10 and 12 franchised showrooms within three-to-four years.

The next Metro Vancouver showroom is likely later this year in a suburb, although no lease has yet been signed.

Polestar saw its Canadian car sales rise by about 50 per cent last year, Bissonnette said, adding that he expects similar growth this year.

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