B.C. promotes EVs, but can you even get one?

Supply chain issues have resulted in lack of inventory

With gas prices hitting $1.70 per litre in some regions, electric vehicle owners may be glad they bought when they did. | Getty Images

With gasoline prices hitting as high as $1.77 per litre today in some areas of Metro Vancouver, some British Columbians may be thinking hard right now about trading in their gas-burning car for an electric vehicle.

The B.C. government is hoping to get people to think even harder about going electric, with public awareness campaigns. And while orders are up, global supply chain issues have resulted in a backlog, with some dealers struggling to get EVs delivered.

The B.C. government is providing $118,000 in funding for community groups and local governments for public awareness campaigns and outreach programs aimed at convincing motorists to make the switch to battery electric or hybrid vehicles.

The funding under the Community Outreach Incentive Program (COIP) includes $13,000 for the Musqueam Indian Band to create a video series that promote the benefits of EVs.

"Experiencing the adverse effects of climate change in recent years has made reducing on-reserve CO2 emissions a priority for Musqueam membership and administration," Ehsan Haghi, project lead and community energy specialist for the Musqueam, said in a government news release.

"The COIP funding enables the band to provide information to the membership about the cost of purchasing an electric car, the financial and environmental benefits of switching to an electric car and critical factors to consider when buying an electric car."

With 60,000 electric vehicles on the road, B.C. already has one of the highest EV adoption rates in the country, thanks to high gasoline prices and rebates offered by the government.

Its target, under CleanBC and its ZEV mandate, is to have 26% of all light-duty vehicle sales to be a zero emission vehicle 2026, 90% by 2030 and 100% by 2035.

The B.C. government offers rebates of up to $3,000 for plug-in electric car purchases and $1,500 for plug-in hybrids.

The problem right now for auto dealers and buyers is global supply chain problems, notably for semi conductors, which slowed down the production and delivery of electric vehicles. You can place an order now for a new EV, but there may be a backlog of orders. Inflation could also put curbs on vehicles sales in general.

"A number of vehicles and EVs come from Asia to here, and the ports are backed up," said Blair Qualey, president of the New Car Dealers Association of B.C. "Just like every other vehicle, EVs are impacted by these challenges as well.

"Dealers had inventory in the early part of (2021), so if people made orders, they were able to fulfill those. The challenge is, halfway through this year and going forward, is when we really started to see some challenges, as dealers couldn't get inventory. They ran out of inventory and couldn't get it replaced, due the chip and all the other shortages."

Despite some of the challengtes posed by supply chain problems, IHS Markit reports EV adoption in Canada continued to grow in the third quarter of 2021, with B.C. leading the pack.

Its Automotive Insights report for Q3 2021 shows Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV) sales grew 67% (18,055 units year-over-year), and Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV)  by 75% or (8,826 units).

"British Columbia leads the way with adoption of electrification where ZEVs account for 12.3% of all new light vehicles for the current year to date," the report notes.

Penetration is highest in Vancouver, at 16%.

Qualey said applications for rebates for EVs and hybrid electric vehicles were up in 2021 to 16,254. That's up from just 11,204 in 2020 and 15,231 in 2019.