Plug’n Drive — a publicly and privately funded nonprofit that encourages the use of EVs — opened its Toronto-based centre in May 2017. It offers consumers an opportunity to learn about and test drive vehicles without the sales pitch.
Spreading the word about EVs is even more critical in the wake of statistics showing that sales of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) plunged 50 per cent in the second quarter compared with the same period last year, said Daniel Breton, president of Electric Mobility Canada.
“I don’t think EV sales have been more affected than [gasoline]-powered vehicles; it has been a disaster all over. But at a time when gas prices are low, it’s obvious it’s even more important to talk about the benefits of EVs, and getting people to try them.”
The overall market in the second quarter fell 45 per cent, according to the Automotive News Data Center. But Breton said tight inventory has also contributed to the down market.
According to statistics compiled by Electric Mobility Canada, ZEV sales totaled 9,069 in the second quarter, slicing market share to 2.9 per cent from 3.4 per cent in the same period of 2019.
KNOWLEDGE THAT TRAVELS
Clairman said the MEET program will help promote the segment in smaller cities “where you can’t really justify an investment in bricks and mortar. Having the trailer is like having an enhancement of the educational ability. You can look inside and learn. There’s just a lot more ability to spend time.”
The program is partly funded by Natural Resources Canada.
Although the plan to open the B.C. operation is on hold, it has been part of the long-term strategy of Plug’n Drive. It comes just as Electrify Canada, a partnership between Electrify America and Volkswagen Group Canada, plans to install nine EV charging stations in B.C. by the end of the year. The first opened in May.
Electrify Canada opened its first station in Canada in the Toronto area last fall. BC Hydro already has numerous charging stations operating.
“It’s always helpful for people to see charging stations out there,” Clairman said.
Plug’n Drive is also examining opening a centre in Quebec, which has been at the forefront of encouraging EV sales with a provincial rebate incentive program of up to $8,000 per vehicle in addition to the $5,000 federal rebate. Quebec now accounts for 75,000 of 168,000 electric vehicles in Canada.
“They probably need us a little bit less than some other places,” Clairman said.
BY APPOINTMENT ONLY
After a three-month shutdown during the pandemic, Plug’n Drive reopened its North York centre in June and began offering one-hour appointment-only visits three times a week.
The centre has been booked solid, Clairman said.
“We have been encouraged by the response.
People still get that opportunity to test drive, which we know is key to buying decisions to keep things moving during this time. We’re definitely affected because we can’t have a bigger event, but we’re doing what we can to provide alternative ways of educating people.”