British Columbia renews its green car rebates; reinstatement of same plug-in and fuel cell rebates expected by April 2015

The New Car Dealer’s Association of British Columbia confirmed this week that the province will reinstate point of sale rebates for plug-in hybrids, electric vehicles and fuel cell buyers, after funds for the popular program were exhausted last spring.

As before, the NCDA will administer the program, after $7.5 million in funds were allocated for its reintroduction in last week’s provincial budget by BC’s Liberal government, which will provide discounts right at the dealer level for such green vehicles.

Details of the plan are expected to be announced around the Vancouver Auto Show in late March, but it’s expected the rebates will mirror what was offered previously: up to $5,000 for zero-emissions battery electric vehicles or fuel cells, down to $2,500 for plug-in hybrids that use gas but offer some all-electric range. The Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in hybrid with a larger battery that allows for more all-electric range than any other PHEV by far, previously received a rebate of $5,000, versus the $2,500 available to vehicles with much smaller electric range, such as the Toyota Prius Plug-In and Ford’s C-Max and Fusion Energi models.

The Volt has been Canada’s best-selling plug-in vehicle so far, and an all-new one will hit dealers this fall, at a lower but still undisclosed MSRP, plus the company just confirmed earlier this month that it will also sell an all-electric vehicle based on the Bolt Concept, expected to arrive in the next year or two, so it’s a timely announcement for GM Canada in particular.

The 2016 Volt promises more all-electric range (a promised 80 versus the current 61 km) and better fuel efficiency than the current model when running on gasoline, though some Volt owners were disappointed that the new model didn’t upgrade its onboard 3.3 kilowatt charger to a more common 6.6 kW or above unit. This would have allowed new Volt owners to charge up their slightly larger batteries in about half the time, currently about four hours for a completely depleted battery on a common Level 2 charger, the kind that keeps popping up at malls, restaurants and parking lots. A faster charger speed would also help avoid aggravation towards Volt owners by battery electric vehicle drivers at these public charge stations who have no back up gas engine to help get them home, assuming that such owners would move their vehicle once it is fully charged up, which is not always possible.

Sales of the Volt and Nissan Leaf (usually number two in plug-in sales in Canada, together representing well over half of all plug-in sales in the country) largely leveled off but still rose slightly in the six months directly after the prior BC rebates expired, but deeply cut the rapidly growing plug-in sales pace of that province, concluded a report by Vancouver-based engineer, local EV advocate and Prius PHV owner Matthew Klippenstein ( ) Other, more general reports have suggested that plug-in sales have “fallen off a cliff” in BC since the rebate’s funds expired in February 2014.

The BC rebate is also expected to extend rebates on charging infrastructure as well. The program previously offered up to $500 towards the cost of purchasing and installing a Level 2 charger in one’s garage or driveway.

“British Columbia has the highest per-capita electric vehicle sales and the largest charging infrastructure in Canada,” said Bill Bennett, Minister of Energy and Mines, in a statement released this week.

Canada’s western-most province backs up this claim with about 13 public DC Quick Charge stations now (Level 3, or L3, at about 30 minutes for an 80 percent charge), with plans for up to 30 by March 2016, and over 500 Level 2 chargers, according to Plug In BC, the coalition run by the province and BC Hydro to oversee all these installations. But Quebec has vowed to install 33 L3 chargers in that province by the end of 2016, with plans for 50 in total in the province’s publicly owned Electric Circuit, plus plans to increase the 360 current Level 2 chargers already installed in la belle province.

As for Ontario, Canada’s second largest market for plug-in vehicles, they’re stuck at three DC Quick Chargers, with no provincial body organizing EV charger deployment (or even counting the ones currently out there), nor any coordinated funding plan going forward. This leaves Canada’s most populous province with a hodgepodge of municipal and transit authorities installations, as well as various private businesses that have stepped up to help fill the void.


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