The British Columbia government is introducing new legislation to phase out gas-powered vehicles that, if passed, will require the sale of all new light-duty cars and trucks to be zero-emission vehicles by 2040.
Sixteen countries, including China, India, France, Japan and the U.K., have already set targets to eliminate the sale of gas-powered vehicles — but B.C. will become the first jurisdiction in North America to set such a target.
The legislation will also make zero-emissions vehicles more available for British Columbians, with requirements for automakers to reach a zero emissions vehicle sales target of 10 per cent by 2025, 30 per cent by 2030 and 100 per cent by 2040.
“It’s a win-win for commuters, but British Columbians have had a tough time finding electric cars on dealership lots and often had to go on long waiting lists,” said Dan Woynillowicz, policy director for Clean Energy Canada, a climate and clean energy think tank based at Simon Fraser University.
“This legislation will help ensure supply keeps up with demand . . . If you want an electric car, you should be able to drive one home from the lot, same as any car.”
In June and July of 2018, Clean Energy Canada called all 322 dealerships in B.C. that qualify for the province’s electric vehicle rebate program and found that only 40 per cent of them have electric cars on their lots available to purchase. Most said the wait for an electric car would be three months to a year.
The province of B.C. offers a rebate of $5,000 on electric cars, and the federal government announced in last month’s budget that it will offer a $5,000 rebate on electric vehicles under $45,000 — meaning a car buyer in B.C. can qualify for up to $10,000 back. B.C.’s Scrap-It program also offers up to an additional $6,000 back if you’re trading in an older model gas vehicle.
Andrew Weaver, leader of the B.C. Green caucus, applauded the proposed legislation as a critical step toward a low-carbon economy — but said it is “deeply counterproductive” to advance such important policy the week after passing legislation that locks in subsidies for B.C.’s emissions-intensive liquefied natural gas industry.
“After the B.C. NDP just doubled down on the crisis by adding 3.45 million tonnes of emissions from the first phase of LNG alone, we must do everything we can to decrease our emissions elsewhere,” Weaver said.
Weaver also emphasized the need for electric vehicle charging infrastructure, particularly in rural areas.
Transportation accounts for 40 per cent of B.C.’s household emissions. A report released last week found Canada is warming at twice the global average due to climate change.
B.C. has the highest per capita adoption of zero-emission vehicles in Canada, with more than 17,000 electric vehicles on the road, averaging four per cent of new light-duty vehicle sales in 2018.
A 2018 study by BC Hydro found one in three British Columbians expect their next car to be electric. The same study found that fuel costs for electric car owners are a quarter of what drivers spend on gas and maintenance.
Woynillowicz says the proposed legislation is a promising sign.
“It’s a return to the kind of leadership that we haven’t had since a decade ago, when the first suite of climate policies were brought in by Gordon Campbell,” he told The Narwhal.
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