MONTREAL — Ontario wrestled the title from Quebec as the leading province for annual electric vehicle sales last year after spending tens of millions of dollars in subsidies.
According to data compiled by FleetCarma, 7,477 battery and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles were sold in Canada's most populous province.
That compared with 7,194 sold in Quebec, followed by 3,270 in British Columbia.
Electric Mobility Canada CEO Chantal Guimont said more generous Ontario rebates and the installation of more charging stations at work are helping the province to catch up.
"Quebec is pretty stable but in Ontario the financial incentives of $14,000 are making a big difference," she said in an interview.
Ontario's sales increased 120 per cent from 2016, when increased rebates were implemented. Quebec's sales were up 44 per cent.
Despite Ontario's growth, industry analysts predict the number of electric vehicles will remain well short of the government's target that they account for five per cent of overall vehicle sales in 2020.
Industry analyst Dennis DesRosiers has said "the chances of meeting it aren't low, they're zero."
Rather than push Quebec to match Ontario's rebates, Electric Mobility Canada believes increased communication about the advantages and a growing number of models available for sale will bolster sales.
Guimont said a federal advisory panel has urged Ottawa to support sales across the country and help make it easier for potential buyers to gather information.
Electric Mobility Canada has recommended that Ottawa eliminate the GST on electric vehicle sales.
"We are waiting impatiently for the budget and for a strategy that will be announced this year," Guimont added.
She said the federal budget next week will offer an important signal about the government's commitment to combat climate change by supporting the electrification of transportation.
There were a record 18,564 electric cars sold across Canada last year, up 68 per cent from 2016.
Electric plug-in vehicle sales outpaced plug-in hybrids for the first time across the country. That was led by the Chevrolet Bolt and followed by Tesla models X and S. The Chevrolet Volt was again the most popular plug-in electric vehicle.
Overall vehicle sales grew 4.8 per cent to a record 2.08 million last year. By December, electric vehicles accounted for 1.4 per cent of all sales.
Quebec still had the highest percentage of electric vehicles sold, at 2.2 per cent of all vehicles for the year, followed by B.C. at 1.9 per cent and Ontario at 1.6 per cent.
Quebec implemented Canada's only law mandating a minimum threshold of electric vehicle sales starting in the 2018 model year as it pushed for 10 per cent of new vehicles sales be electric by 2025 and to have 100,000 on the road by 2020.
There were nearly 48,000 electric vehicles on Canada's roads last year, up from 29,000 in 2016.