The Saturday Debate: Will most of us be buying EVs in a few years?

Let’s start with the bottom line: electric vehicles are not a question. In 2022, they’re an inevitability.

That’s certainly what the world’s big automakers think. General Motors, Ford Motors, Jaguar Land Rover, and Mercedes-Benz have all committed to sell only zero-emission vehicles in advanced markets by 2035 and the rest of the world by 2040.

Together, carmakers are pouring half a trillion dollars into EV and battery development over the next five years. Electric SUVs and pickups are a top priority in this next wave of investments, which is particularly convenient for Canadians as these are the types of vehicles we drive most.

A look at EV sales trends in other countries shows us how fast this transition will go. In just the last two years, Germany, France, and the U.K. saw their EV sales share increase by 10 times (the U.K. and France from about 2 per cent of new car sales in 2019 to 23 per cent in October, and Germany from 3 per cent in 2019 to 30 per cent in October). In Norway, an astounding 91 per cent of new cars sold in November were electric.

Today, just over 5 per cent of new car sales in Canada are electric, though B.C. and Quebec are notable leaders with around 13 per cent and 10 per cent of sales, respectively. If we follow the trajectory of other car-making countries, majority EV sales may not be far away.

Let’s start with the bottom line: electric vehicles are not a question. In 2022, they’re an inevitability.

That’s certainly what the world’s big automakers think. General Motors, Ford Motors, Jaguar Land Rover, and Mercedes-Benz have all committed to sell only zero-emission vehicles in advanced markets by 2035 and the rest of the world by 2040.

Together, carmakers are pouring half a trillion dollars into EV and battery development over the next five years. Electric SUVs and pickups are a top priority in this next wave of investments, which is particularly convenient for Canadians as these are the types of vehicles we drive most.

A look at EV sales trends in other countries shows us how fast this transition will go. In just the last two years, Germany, France, and the U.K. saw their EV sales share increase by 10 times (the U.K. and France from about 2 per cent of new car sales in 2019 to 23 per cent in October, and Germany from 3 per cent in 2019 to 30 per cent in October). In Norway, an astounding 91 per cent of new cars sold in November were electric.

Today, just over 5 per cent of new car sales in Canada are electric, though B.C. and Quebec are notable leaders with around 13 per cent and 10 per cent of sales, respectively. If we follow the trajectory of other car-making countries, majority EV sales may not be far away.

Those emissions savings come with some enticing upgrades. Take the new Ford F-150 Lightning pickup, the electric version of Canada’s bestselling passenger vehicle, which — when released next year — will come complete with bidirectional charging that allows the user to power camp sites, work sites, even entire homes, with its battery. It’s no wonder Ford received so many orders in the seven months after the Lightning’s reveal that it had to stop taking reservations and accelerate production timelines to keep up.

Once EVs become cost-competitive with similar gas models in or around 2024, consumers won’t be looking back.

While government policies will partly determine how fast or slow we go, there’s no changing what’s now an inevitable destination. The U.K., Germany and France all combine incentives that make EVs more affordable for consumers with tough regulations that push carmakers to prioritize those markets when selling EVs.

Two Canadian examples also illustrate the power of well-designed policy. B.C. and Quebec together made up 76 per cent of EVs sold in Canada in 2020, and not surprisingly, it’s in those two provinces where all of the newest models make their debuts. Both provinces have consumer rebates, home charging rebates, and EV sales quotas that ensure their success.

Indeed, B.C.’s recently updated climate plan now includes a requirement for 90 per cent of all new car sales to be zero-emission by 2030 — the most ambitious measure of its kind on the continent. B.C.’s pre-existing sales requirement for zero-emission vehicles was so successful (the province hit its 2025 goal five years early) that the government literally tripled its 2030 target.

With a federal rebate already in place and the prime minister directing Canada’s environment minister to put in a national EV sales requirement, our EV future looks set.

So yes, as things stand, most car buyers will be buying electric vehicles within a decade, if not sooner. And they’ll come with a whole trunkful of pollution-cutting, health-improving, life-enhancing upgrades.

This post originally appeared as the “yes” argument in the Toronto Star’s Saturday Debate.

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