04/19/2014 12:48 EDT | Updated 06/19/2014 05:59 EDT

Electric cars get a boost in Quebec

Montreal’s Gilles Villeneuve Racetrack was the site of a Guinness World Record-breaking event on Friday: 431 electric cars in one place, at one time.

It was part of Get Connected Day, or JournéeBranchez-Vous, the third annual event celebrating the electric car.

As part of the province of Quebec’s transportation electrification program, would-be buyers are being offered substantial rebates for buying or leasing electric cars — up to $8,000 for a car and up to $1,000 for a charging station.

The province has allocated $516 million toward its 2013-2017 electrification strategy. Some of that money will go to installing more than 3,000 charging stations.

That’s good news for SylvainCastonguay, the general manager of the National Advanced Transportation Centre (CNTA) and the organizer of Get Connected Day.

“Quebec is among the best places to drive electric because we have zero emissions in terms of electricity and the price for driving electric is very low here,” Castonguay said.

Electric cars on the low end of the cost spectrum come in around $40,000 with taxes, with high-end models like the Tesla Roadster costing around double that.

Castonguay said electric cars already work well, even during winter, so there’s no time like the present to start shopping for one.

Switching to electric could be a hard sell

ÉricCarrière said his buying an electric car was “the best decision I’ve made so far.”

Climbing gas prices are proving that Carrière made a good decision. Easter weekend prices at the pump hovered near $1.50 per litre. For people who commute daily between home and work, the up-front cost of an electric car could mean deep discounts later.

"Every week I'm not spending $75 on my credit card for gas. I don't have handcuffs anymore from petrol companies," Carrière said.

Chris DiRaddo, the founder of gas-tracking website Essence Montreal, said even with the promise of discounts, Quebecers may need some help getting unstuck from their ways.

“We’ve seen gas prices flirting with $1.50, so there’s definitely a psychological barrier there. Whether or not it’s enough to get people to change their habits, it’s difficult to tell,” DiRaddo said.

"The price of electric vehicles and hybrids is still a little high,” DiRaddo continued. “Until it becomes a really big money-saver, I don’t think many people will jump right away."

Oh, and in case you’re curious: The previously held title was held by Zurich, in Switzerland, with 305 cars.