A new poll concludes that 74% of Canadians want car manufacturers pushed to increase zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) production, even if it harms their profits. But an industry representative warns that regulations targeting Canadian automakers could disrupt the North American auto market.
“A strong federal ZEV regulation will help the Canadian car industry better compete in the electrified future that the global market is demanding,” said DSF Senior Climate Policy Advisor Tom Green. He pointed to the recently-adopted Inflation Reduction Act as a measure that will make electric cars widely available to Americans.
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“For the climate and our health, it’s time for regulations that signal the internal combustion engine’s final days are just around the corner,” Green added.
According to environmental groups that commissioned the poll, automakers do not want to speed up the shift to ZEVs because they make less money on each vehicle. They’re urging the federal government to mirror policies like those in Quebec and British Columbia that require automakers to shift their business plans to sell more ZEVs.
The poll, [pdf] conducted with 1,500 Canadians aged 18 and over—with oversamples in Ontario and Nova Scotia—found that 74% of respondents somewhat or strongly agreed that “vehicle manufacturers have a responsibility to increase ZEV production, and shift away from producing gasoline-powered vehicles, even if it has a negative impact on their profits.” Out of the total, 32% said they strongly agreed, while 41% said they somewhat agreed.
And 58% of Canadians—27% strongly supporting, and 31% somewhat supporting—backed financial penalties for manufacturers that do not produce or sell more ZEVs.
The poll also showed that wait times for EVs were affecting customers’ purchasing decisions, with 82% agreeing that “we need policy to increase supply and reduce wait times of ZEVs to meet the 2035 target,” and 83% saying manufacturers should increase investment in ZEV availability.
But Brian Kingston, president and CEO of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association (CVMA), cautioned that Canada-specific regulations could be harmful for the country’s auto industry, which is strongly integrated with that of the US. In a recent article for Policy Options, he says the countries’ cooperation in auto manufacturing has enabled auto companies’ investment in Canadian production, and likens establishing Canada-unique, regulated EV sales targets to “putting the puck in your own net after tying the game.”
Kingston adds that auto companies are already making big investments in ZEVs and the transition can only happen so fast. He cited global automakers’ US$515 billion investment in EV manufacturing and batteries through 2030, and Ford’s plans to produce two million EVs annually by 2026, as notable examples.
“These are extremely ambitious targets, and a lot of money is being invested in this,” Kingston told The Energy Mix.
“That’s a long way of saying that this transition doesn’t happen without manufacturers and these companies are making big investments,” he added.
Kingston added that manufacturers are working against supply chain challenges—like the shortage of semiconductor ships—that are out of their control, though Inflation Reduction Act as well as the new CHIPS Act in the U.S. could go a long way to speed up production. Lagging consumer demand, which he attributed to customer misgivings about price and poor EV infrastructure, is also holding back EV production, Kingston said.
“Unfortunately, Canada has one of the weakest consumer incentive programs that we see compared to other mediums and jurisdictions. We’ve only got a $5,000 incentive at the federal level and it doesn’t apply to a whole range of vehicles that are coming into the market because it has MSRP caps,” Kingston said, referring to automobile retail prices. He pointed to a CVMA report released in June showing large gaps in Canadian consumer incentives and charging infrastructure and calling for the federal government to invest more to addressing these gaps.
An Abacus poll earlier in the year found that nearly 80% of customers showed some degree of openness to owning an EV, with opinions ranging from “hesitant but open” to “love the idea,” and 58% were at least inclined to buy an EV if they were making a purchase now (10% would “certainly” do so, 14% were “very likely,” and 31% were “inclined”).