In 2018 I was contracted by Clean Energy Canada to answer the following research question: demand for zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) was on the rise, no doubt- globally and in Canada. And yet in British Columbia, ZEV sales numbers just didn’t match this fact. In fact, BC’s ZEV sales were shockingly low. What was the cause of this mismatch? Was demand for these vehicles not as robust as thought? Or was it an issue on the supply side? Did dealerships have a lack of incentive to sell electric vehicles compared to gas vehicles in the first place? To investigate these intriguing and important questions, I put on my Nancy Drew hat and went under cover as a prospective EV buyer, setting out to interview all dealerships in the province certified to sell ZEVs.
My conclusions: the lack of EV sales in British Columbia was not an issue on the demand side. In fact, demand for electric vehicles was greater in British Columbia than we expected. Dealerships told me that waitlists for not only Teslas but Chevy Bolts, Volkswagen Golfs, and Nissan Leafs were hundreds of names long, and wait times could extend beyond a year. Nor was it a lack of incentive on the dealership side to sell these vehicles- most of the dealers I spoke to were actually on board with the ZEV “revolution”, with only a few hints of hesitancy from dealers in remote, Northern areas.
The real problem? Canada simply wasn’t importing-or manufacturing- enough Zero Emission Vehicles to keep up with rising customer demand. Clean Energy Canada was able to identify a policy need, and use its expert policy team, to push BC to instate an “EV Mandate.”