Two auto-industry executives are speaking out against Ottawa’s $300-million iZEV program, calling the incentives for electric vehicles unfair and unsustainable.
Wolfgang Hoffmann, president of Jaguar Land Rover Canada, said incentives should be expanded to cover all electric vehicles, regardless of price.
“It is a disadvantage if you’re not eligible,” Hoffmann said. “I’m more of the opinion that if you have incentives [make it] for all battery electric zero-emission vehicles. But that’s a decision that the government made, and you have to live with it.”
At Honda Canada, CEO Dave Gardner said that while the new program will help generate interest for the Clarity and other eligible electrified vehicles, the incentives are an unsustainable solution for a greener automotive landscape.
POLICIES CAN CHANGE
Such programs distort the marketplace and are vulnerable to changes in government policy, Gardner said.
“We saw the impact that these types of rebates can have when the new [Conservative] government cancelled Ontario’s rebate program,” Gardner said. “Demand for the Clarity and other PHEVs and EVs dried up immediately.”
And in June in British Columbia, EV subsidies were slashed to a maximum of $3,000 for battery and fuel-cell EVs from $6,000. B.C. also capped the price ceiling for eligible vehicles at $55,000.
“Therein lies the problem with governments’ interfering in the consumer marketplace,” Gardner said. “We see distortions of consumer demand, product competitiveness undermined and unsustainable behaviour created. For these reasons, we are opposed to any types of rebate programs which determine winners and losers in the marketplace.”
To be eligible for federal rebates of up to $5,000, a vehicle must have a base-model sticker price of less than $45,000 for passenger vehicles with six or fewer seats, and less than $55,000 for vehicles with seven or more seats.
Simon Rivet, a spokesman for Transport Canada, which administers iZEV, said the program is aimed at middle-income earners. It does so “by prioritizing incentives for the purchases of affordable ZEVs by middle-class Canadians,” he said. “There are currently over 24 [eligible] models representing almost three quarters of 2018 ZEV sales.”
CHARGING STATIONS NEEDED
Although Ottawa also has committed $130 million in the 2019 federal budget for EV infrastructure, Hoffmann is concerned it will be insufficient to handle the rise in sales resulting from the rebates.
“From a pure and consumer standpoint and also for the environment going forward and adoption rate, we need more of the infrastructure than incentives, I believe,” he said. “Some municipalities are moving forward in a much faster pace [because] all new condominiums have to have electric charging stations for each parking spot, but I think also [more] public charging stations [are needed].”
Hoffmann cited Highway 401 north of downtown Toronto as an example of a high-traffic thoroughfare with insufficient charging stations.
“We’re still seeing customers that are a little worried about range, even if our I-Pace has a range of approximately 370 kilometres,” he said. “There is still that [worry] in the back of the heads of consumers, so take that away and make it very convenient.
“At the end of the day, the experience for the consumer is not much different, be it an internal-combustion engine or a battery electric vehicle. That’s why I think the government should focus on the infrastructure and help consumers with charging stations.”
Transport Canada’s Rivet countered that automakers can do more to support infrastructure and cited Tesla’s Supercharger and Volkswagen’s Electrify Canada networks as examples.
“Recognizing that everyone has a role to play in supporting the decarbonization of the transportation sector, we look forward to seeing what more automakers can do to support infrastructure deployment.”
TARGETING GAS GUZZLERS
Gardner said governments should dispense with incentives altogether and instead encourage consumers to replace aging gas guzzlers with newer, more fuel efficient vehicles.
“From a much broader perspective, we believe that the path to environmental sustainability involves reducing the emissions of the total fleet of light-duty vehicles on the road ... as opposed to selling a small number of PHEV [plug-in hybrid electric vehicles] and EVs annually,” he said.
“Therefore, we disagree with the policy direction of governments, whether with rebates or by establishing minimum sales mandates for PHEV and EV models, of picking specific technologies in the fight to reduce greenhouse-gas [GHG] emissions. There are other tactics that should be employed to achieve the GHG reduction goal in addition to rebating PHEV and EV models and mandating their sales.”
With files from Toronto correspondent Stephanie Wallcraft