Canada’s Electric Vehicle Policy Report Card (2016)

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Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from Canada’s transportation sector will be essential in meeting federal and provincial emissions targets. Electric vehicles are likely to be a key component in the transition to a lower emissions transportation system, as they can reduce emissions 45% to 98% compared to a gasoline vehicle with Canada’s current electricity grid.

Climate change experts suggest that more than 40% of vehicles will need to be electric by 2040 to keep warming under 2 degrees. Electric vehicle sales in Canada are low, capturing only 1% of all new vehicle sales. However, across the country interest in electric vehicles is growing and some provinces have put in measures to increase electric vehicle sales. But will these policies put Canadian provinces on track to boost electric vehicle sales to the levels needed to meet emissions targets?  

Canada’s Electric Vehicle Policy Report Card evaluates the key question about whether these policies are likely to be sufficient to put Canadian provinces on track to boost electric vehicle sales to levels needed to achieve emissions targets.  Based on our evaluation we generate policy report cards for each province. This report is intended to be a helpful guide for policymakers, researchers, and other stakeholders to identify policies that are likely to be effective in reaching provincial and national greenhouse gas targets.

We generate the following conclusions:

  • No Canadian province is currently on track to achieve an “A”. More stringent policies are needed.
  • Based on our evaluation, the most effective policies include a Zero Emission Vehicle mandate (like in California and Quebec), strong and long-duration financial incentives (like in Norway and Ontario), and strong taxation on gasoline or carbon pricing.
  • Different combinations of stringent policy can be used to achieve an “A”. Therefore, regions have some degree of flexibility in selecting the policies best suited for their jurisdiction.
  • The federal government could raise the grades of all provinces to an “A” and position Canada as an international leader by implementing effective policies such as a ZEV mandate and strong purchase incentives, as well as continued strengthening of the proposed carbon pricing policy.
  • Municipal governments can also play a role in improving their province’s electric vehicle policy grades by implementing policies such as building regulations and public charging infrastructure deployment, and supporting effective policies at the federal and provincial level.

We conclude that more effective policies are needed to reach provincial and national targets. As more is learned about the relationship between electric vehicle supportive policy and long-term electric vehicle sales, we plan to update our framework.

Related Media Coverage

Related Peer-Reviewed Publication

Melton, N., J. Axsen, and S. Goldberg (2017), Evaluation plug-in electric vehicle policies and progress toward decarbonizing passenger vehicles in Canada, Submitted to Energy Policy.