B.C. government considers expanding electric vehicle program

By Arman Kazemi

January 28, 2016

B.C. Energy Minister Bill Bennett is thinking about a second expansion of the province’s popular Clean Energy Vehicles Program.

The government launched the program in 2011 with a budget of $4.7 million to finance rebates on electric vehicles and to fund charging infrastructure and research. That money was quickly used up, and the program was extended last April with a new infusion of $10.6 million after the original budget ran out in February.

Originally intended to help finance electric vehicle purchases into 2018, the second phase of the program is now set to run dry in March, two years ahead of schedule.

While announcing a separate $50,000 investment to train electricians to install and maintain electric vehicle charging stations last week, Bennett claimed the Liberal government is looking into a second expansion of the incentive program.

“I have certainly reported to government the Clean Energy Vehicle Program has been incredibly successful,” Bennett told CBC News.

A three-year funding amount has been used up in less than a year. It shows to me the public is really keen on doing this."

B.C. currently boasts the largest public charging network in Canada, with 1,083 stations installed in public and residential spaces. And thanks to investments like the Clean Energy Vehicle Program, there are 3,100 electric and hybrid cars registered in the province, the second highest in Canada.

But more could be done to help the industry grow.

According to a recent study by the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, Norway and B.C. share similar geography and population sizes. Yet with the help of government policy, the Scandinavian country has seen rapid growth in electric car sales. In fact, electric cars accounted for 20 per cent of all car purchases in Norway between January and October 2015, when the report was published.

Norway has over 74,000 electric vehicles on its roads, the report states, supported by a network of 5,600 free-charging stations throughout the country. In comparison, B.C. counted 2,413 electric vehicles on its roads as of September 2015, and electric cars accounted for less than one per cent of total personal car sales.

“The difference is that the government [in Norway] said, ‘We have to do something,’” Tom Pedersen, executive director of PICS, told CBC News. “They said, ‘zero taxes on electric vehicles. We'll put charging stations across the country.’ Put all of that together and the consumer said, 'why wouldn't I buy an electric car?’”

But despite B.C.’s more limited progress, Bennett seems optimistic about the future of electric vehicles in the province.

“Electric cars have captured the imagination of the public,” he told the Province. “People really, really like the program, and when people really like the program it just means you’re going to be able to accomplish a lot more emissions reduction.”



Photo Credit: Province of BC