December 20, 2023 – The Canadian government has unveiled its Electric Vehicle Availability Standard (EVS), mandating that all vehicles sold after 2035 must be electric. The move aims to make clean, zero-emission vehicles more accessible and affordable for Canadians, leading to a cleaner environment and significant cost savings.

The announcement, however, sparked a range of reactions, with some expressing concern about the feasibility, the timeline, and potential downsides of this mandate.

Timeline of the Plan

The ambitious timeline sets forth a comprehensive plan for the phased transition to an all-electric vehicle future. Commencing in 2026, the plan targets an initial milestone of 20 percent of all vehicle sales being electric, progressively escalating to 60 percent by 2030 and ultimately culminating in a complete shift to 100 percent zero-emission vehicles by 2035. This strategic timeline aims to gradually acclimate the automotive industry and consumers to the growing electric vehicle market but also aligns with global efforts to combat climate change.

The proposed timeline has elicited concerns from various quarters, with critics arguing that the pace set by the government may be too fast. Industry experts, including Tim Galbraith, the general manager at Cavalier Tool, contend that the plan’s goal to phase out gas-powered vehicles entirely by 2035 is overly ambitious. Some skeptics suggest that the aggressive timeline might be more of an incentive for rapid transition rather than a realistically achievable target.

Affordability Argument

Minister Steven Guilbeault emphasized the long-term savings of EVs for families, saying recharging costs can be as low as $10 per 400 kilometers. Recent pricing reductions, combined with government incentives, bring the cumulative ownership cost of an electric vehicle hatchback to $48,943 over ten years, compared to $82,515 for a gas-powered alternative.

However, critics of this mandated shift have raised substantial concerns regarding the initial upfront costs which remain a significant barrier for many consumers. The higher purchase price of electric vehicles compared to traditional gasoline-powered cars, even with government incentives, may pose challenges for individuals and families with limited financial flexibility. Critics argue that, despite potential long-term benefits, the immediate affordability of electric vehicles needs careful consideration to ensure a fair and inclusive transition, preventing economic disparities among Canadian consumers.

Economic Impact and Industry Skepticism

The new regulations, despite aiming to boost the electric vehicle market, are causing uncertainty within the Canadian automotive sector. David Adams, president and CEO of Global Automakers of Canada, stressed the challenges faced by automakers, stating that economic and geopolitical factors outside their control could complicate the transition to zero-emission vehicles.

Flavio Volpe, President of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association, expressed concern that the rapid progression of the mandate could open the door for Chinese automakers to establish a significant presence in the Canadian market. Volpe warns, “The environment minister is creating an overly aggressive adoption scheme that can only be met by importing vehicles from China… If you do that, you’re undercutting your local value proposition.”

The fear is that the stringent targets and aggressive timeline might incentivize importing electric vehicles from China, where they are more readily available, potentially leading to job losses and disruptions in the Canadian automotive supply chain. The 25 percent-plus tariff on Chinese cars imposed by the U.S. is a deterrent which Canada does not have, which may make Canada more appealing for Chinese automakers, potentially harming the local auto industry’s competitiveness. The risk of outsourcing production to meet the EVS targets raises questions about the resilience and competitiveness of the local automotive manufacturing sector.

Provincial Pushback and Infrastructure Challenges

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith has vehemently opposed the new federal manadate, characterizing it as “bizarrely impossible” and pledging to do “everything within its legal jurisdiction” to prevent its implementation in the province. Smith, who has already clashed with the federal government over Clean Electricity Regulations, contends that the EVS is a disastrous approach that neglects the unique challenges faced by Alberta. She argues that the electric grids in the province are ill-equipped to handle the surge in demand necessitated by a full-scale transition to electric vehicles. Moreover, Smith predicts that the regulations will lead to a shortage and rationing of traditional vehicles, particularly affecting those in smaller municipalities with long commutes. Her strong opposition reflects broader concerns about the feasibility and economic repercussions of the aggressive EVS targets, emphasizing the need for a nuanced approach that considers regional variations.

Conclusion: Striking a Balance

While the move towards an all-electric vehicle future is lauded for its environmental benefits, the negative reactions and concerns raised highlight the need for a careful balance. Addressing regional differences, ensuring adequate infrastructure, and collaborating with the automotive industry will be crucial to achieving a successful transition that benefits all Canadians.