08/06/2019 14:07 EDT | Updated 08/07/2019 12:49 EDT

Electric Car Sales In Canada Got A Jolt From Federal Rebate Program

Zero-emission vehicles now represent three per cent of all new, light-duty purchases.

Doug Ives/The Canadian Press
An electric car is connected to a charging station at Lansdowne Mall in Peterborough, Ont., on June 17, 2018.

The federal government says it wants more Canadians to buy electric vehicles, and their latest effort appears to be working.

Transport Canada says there’s been a 30-per-cent increase in the number of electric vehicles sold and leased in the country this year, thanks in part to a new initiative.

The Incentives for Zero-Emission Vehicles program was used in more than 14,000 vehicle purchases, the government says in a Thursday news release. Around three per cent of all new, light-duty vehicles sold in Canada produced zero emissions, up from two per cent in 2018. 

The Liberal government says it hopes to see this number increase to 10 per cent by 2025, 30 per cent by 2030 and 100 per cent by 2040.  

Cara Clairman, CEO of Plug’n Drive, a non-profit organization that promotes the adoption of electric vehicles, says these latest figures are “good news” and she’s optimistic about the possibility of reaching these government targets.

“We never thought we could hit the targets that we’ve already hit,” Clairman tells HuffPost Canada. “Certainly the rebates help.”

People get so fixated on that one-off trip, but the reality is most Canadians are just going back and forth to work every day.Cara Clairman, Plug’n Drive CEO

The sustainability advocate says the incentives are making a difference, along with increased awareness and more makes and models being made available to Canadians. 

Ottawa’s program applies to purchased or leased vehicles that are battery-electric, plug-in hybrid electric or run on hydrogen fuel cells. The government says this effort is part of the push toward a “cleaner future for Canadians.”

“Over the past three months, the Incentives for Zero-Emission Vehicles program have made it easier for Canadians to be part of the solution to climate change while reducing their daily driving costs,” Transport Minister Marc Garneau said in a statement.

Vehicles are applicable for two types of government rebates if they are able to operate without tailpipe emissions. Canadians can receive $5,000 for battery-electric, hydrogen fuel cell and longer range plug-in hybrid vehicles, while shorter range plug-in vehicles are eligible for a $2,500 incentive. 

Only new vehicles costing less than $55,000 are applicable. 

With more options available and prices expected to come down over the years, electric vehicles could become the wave of the future. 

“Once that happens, there’s really no reason not to choose it,” Clairman says. 

The advocate adds there’s still more work to be done on educating Canadians about the benefits of buying an electric vehicle and how far technology and infrastructure has come in a short period of time. 

Earlier: Electric car ownership has ways to go and infrastructure is a key reason why

 “People aren’t going to buy something that they don’t know anything about,” Clairman admits. “There’s still a lot of missing pieces.” 

For example, she says she saves more than $2,000 a year on gas costs and suggests people would be surprised by the number of electric charging stations available in Canada. 

“People get so fixated on that one-off trip, but the reality is most Canadians are just going back and forth to work every day,” Clairman says.

Last year, the Progressive Conservative government in Ontario eliminated their electric vehicle incentive program, valued at up to $14,000. The Ontario government says the cancellation could save taxpayers more than $1 billion over four years.

As expected, sales of electric vehicles slumped until the new initiative was rolled out by the federal government.

Clairman says the rebate currently being offered nationwide is still “significant.”

“Incentives shouldn’t be needed forever,” she admits. “It’s the kind of thing that over time, you probably wouldn’t need at all.” 

Earlier on HuffPost: