Three out of four Canadians want auto manufacturers to go electric, even if it hurts those companies’ bottom line, a poll from Abacus Data shows.
The poll, commissioned by climate advocacy groups Environmental Defence, Equiterre, Ecology Action Centre and the David Suzuki Foundation, found 74 per cent of Canadians think car manufacturers have an obligation to shift their production to non-emitting vehicles. Moreover, if they don’t, 58 per cent of Canadians believe they should face stiff penalties.
“Automakers don’t want to shift towards making ZEVs [zero-emission vehicles] instead of gas cars at the pace required by a net-zero emission pathway because it means they’ll make slightly less profit,” said Environmental Defence clean transportation program manager Nate Wallance in a statement. “Canadians agree — automakers have a responsibility to clean up their act, even if it means they take a hit to their bottom lines.”
In Canada, four out of five new vehicles sold are SUVs, trucks or vans, while only 3.5 per cent of vehicles sold are electric, according to a report published by Environmental Defence last year. That said, the electric vehicle figure appears to be trending up, with 8.3 per cent of new vehicle registrations in the first three months of this year being electric.
The auto industry spends roughly 28 times more on advertising for vehicles with combustion engines compared to electric vehicles, the Environmental Defence report found. The reason why is the profit margins on larger gas-powered models, like SUVs, are far higher than for standard-sized vehicles. The report said on average, a base-model SUV is about $10,000 more than a base-model sedan.
That profit motive is driving General Motors and Ford, the two largest car companies in North America, to focus their production on gas-powered SUVs and trucks. The Environmental Defence analysis of production plans found those companies intend to build only 320,000 electric vehicles in 2026 compared to more than five million SUVs and pickup trucks.
The Abacus Data poll found the waiting time to buy an electric vehicle, as supply falls behind demand, makes 70 per cent of Canadians less likely to purchase an EV.
Waiting times vary across the country because the limited EV supply means the vehicles are mostly sold in provinces with zero-emissions vehicle sales requirements in place, like Quebec and British Columbia. For every 100,000 people, there are 37 and 26 electric vehicles to buy in Quebec and B.C., respectively, compared to three and seven in provinces like Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick. In other words, tough luck for a region like Atlantic Canada, where wait times for vehicles can stretch three years
An industry report published last year by consulting firm Dunsky, found B.C., Quebec and Ontario held over 90 per cent of the country’s electric vehicle inventory. In 2020 and 2021, Quebec alone had half the country’s EV inventory, likely due to the province’s policies that encourage demand and a strong sales mandate, the report said.
The Abacus poll found 84 per cent of Canadians support a national zero-emission vehicle sales mandate to encourage wider use across the country.
Three out of four Canadians want auto manufacturers to go electric, even if it hurts those companies’ bottom line, a poll from @abacusdataca shows.
Canada has put in place a 100 per cent zero-emission vehicle sales target for light-duty vehicles by 2035. Advocates want to see the target made mandatory because greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector hit 24 per cent of the country’s total emissions in 2020 — the second-highest behind oil and gas. Moreover, over the past three decades, emissions from the transportation sector have grown 32 per cent.
“The Government of Canada should move quickly to implement a strong ZEV standard with provisions for supply equity,” said Ecology Action Centre policy co-ordinator Thomas Arnason McNeil in a statement. “In bringing all of Canada under this regulation, the federal government needs to ensure that smaller provinces, including those in the Atlantic region, get our fair share of electric vehicles.”
In its 2030 emissions reduction plan, the federal government says it’s committed to developing a ZEV sales mandate that would require 100 per cent of vehicles sold to be electric by 2035, with milestones along the way, including 20 per cent of sales by 2026 and 60 per cent by 2030.
The Abacus Data online survey was done in late July and randomly sampled 1,500 Canadians. It comes with a margin of error of 2.53 per cent.