This has been quite the week for “let’s support EVs” announcements. First, Ontario announced enhancements to its Electric Vehicle Incentive Program. And here in BC, the SCRAP-IT program almost doubled its incentives, up to $6,000, for people junking their old gas guzzlers for an EV.

The Clean Energy Vehicle (CEV) Program also announced rebates for fleet owners buying specialty-use vehicles.

But the biggest news for BC happened today when Bill Bennett, Minister of Energy and Mines, announced an additional $40M for the CEV Program. Given the $31M that was previously invested, we have another program that has doubled in size.

The commitment is over a three-year period which should provide some welcome certainty and stability to the program.

What do these new announcements mean for EV buyers?

The parameters of the CEV Program have not changed much. You still get up to $5,000 when you buy a new EV, but that is only available if the vehicle is worth less than $77,000. So, sorry, no Teslas. Until the Model 3 comes along.

But there is more money in the pot, so it’s not likely to run out as it has in the past.

Most of the new money is targeted to these purchase incentives. The next biggest chunk is for strengthening the charging infrastructure. Together these address two big concerns for prospective EV buyers: the higher initial cost of the vehicles and the need to charge them.

Money is also allocated for public awareness and outreach. This is important because there is still a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about EVs in the general population.

Did you notice?

  • There are now incentives for clean vehicles other than cars. Things like bikes, scooters, and specialty-use vehicles.
  • There are also SCRAP-IT incentives for buying a used EV. This is not new, but some people have missed that.
  • There is money allocated to encourage CEV businesses. Most people don’t realize that there is a lot of BC business related to zero-emission vehicles. In 2015, that sector encompassed 198 companies, employed approximately 3,850 full-time equivalents, and contributed approximately $700 million in total direct economic activity.

What’s missing

Specifics about improvements to the charging infrastructure or business development incentives have not been provided. These programs are “in development” and details will emerge later.

Also missing is any new information on policy-oriented measures related to charging requirements for new buildings and retrofits for strata buildings. These were identified as goals in the Climate Leadership Plan.

Not surprisingly, there is no mention of a ZEV mandate, a requirement that some percentage of vehicles sold be zero-emission. This was not part of the Climate Leadership Plan and is generally opposed by car dealers in BC. The goal of such a mandate would be to ensure that a wide variety of EVs are available for purchase in BC.

If the much-anticipated and well-reviewed Chevy Bolt were not available in BC there might be riots in the street for a ZEV mandate, but we’re getting some Bolts and there are several other EV options, so for the moment a ZEV mandate is not in the cards.

Should we be happy?

EV advocates won’t be truly happy until all transportation is 100% electric, but leaving that aside, there is much to cheer about with these announcements. And some shortfalls.

Ontario and Quebec have higher purchase incentives. The SCRAP-IT program compensates for that somewhat, but it only helps if you have an old car with little or no trade-in value. And unlike in BC, Teslas are eligible for purchase incentives in both Ontario and Quebec.

In Canada, only Quebec has a ZEV mandate. Purchase incentives are a carrot, and a ZEV mandate is a stick. If manufacturers make enough of the new generation of EVs available in BC, maybe the stick won’t be necessary.

As mentioned above, specifics about new charging infrastructure are not available so there is still work to do there.

Finally, what happens if the CEV program is a victim of its own success and the money runs out before its three-year timeline? Well, that would mean there are a lot more EVs on the street (yay!) and we’ll just have to re-assess the budget for the program at that time. That would not be a bad thing.

The bottom line

We are fortunate to live in one of the three provinces that has significant financial and other government support for EVs. And to live in a province where 98% of our electricity in B.C comes from clean or renewable sources. EVs are still a small fraction of overall car and truck sales, so there is much work to do. But this week’s announcements help. A lot.

[Updated to remove erroneous description of Tesla Model 3 branding.]