New Brunswickers looking for an electric vehicle (EV) can now claim up to $10,000 in rebates from the provincial and federal governments.
The three-year provincial program was announced Thursday and will give rebates of $5,000 on new EVs and $2,500 on used ones. It closely mirrors the federal program and is stackable, meaning new owners will be able to claim up to $5,000 from the feds as well.
Minister of Environment and Climate Change Gary Crossman said the move is hoped to kickstart the province’s push toward a target of having 20,000 EVs on the road by 2030.
“This incentive has to make a positive difference,” Crossman said.
“I truly believe people have been waiting for it, they’ve been asking about it, and this will make a difference from today moving forward to put new or used cars in their hands.”
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The first year of the program will cost $1.95 million, which will come from the $36 million in the Climate Change Fund and will be run by NB Power. The department says if the full amount is used this year it could represent a reduction of 850 tonnes of greenhouse gasses (GHGs) annually.
Both the Liberal and Green parties welcomed the move calling it long overdue, but Green MLA Kevin Arseneau said it’s not a “miracle solution.”
“Yes, we need to electrify cars, but this kind of initiative without proper funding of public transportation, urban planning for biking … without this kind of global approach this is just another swipe of a sword in water,” he said.
Liberal environment critic Francine Landry says she hopes this will make the difference for those considering the purchase of an EV and says the government should consider further methods of incentivization like waiving registration fees.
The province’s adoption of EVs has not been overly successful so far. At the end of 2020, there were 646 EVs registered in the province, far short of the 2,500 target set out in the Climate Action Plan. That was up significantly from the 437 at the end of 2019, but still a long way from the goal.
New Brunswick has a fairly expansive network of charging stations across the province, claiming to be the first “fully-connected province” in the country, and had hoped that the available infrastructure would push adoption of non-emitting vehicles.
“In 2017 we had 11 chargers in the province, so we’ve come a long way from an infrastructure standpoint which I think is critical to promoting or having an electric vehicle network, or a number of electric vehicles operating in the province,” said Deputy Minister of Natural Resources Tom Macfarlane at a meeting of the standing committee on climate change and environmental stewardship in January of 2020.
There are now 172 level two chargers and 83 fast chargers. Level two chargers take between six and eight hours to charge a vehicle, while the fast chargers take about half an hour to get to 80 per cent charge.
The newly announced program will also cover 50 per cent of costs for a home charging station up to $750 to further address infrastructure needs.
Many organizations, including the New Brunswick Conservation Council and the New Brunswick Lung Association, have long called for incentives to further drive uptake.
“The increased capital cost of electric vehicles is the major barrier to New Brunswick adopting these vehicles, so it’s a major milestone for our group today to have these provincial incentives to make it more accessible for more New Brunswickers to adopt electric vehicles,” said Melanie Langille, the president and CEO of the New Brunswick Lung Association.
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An additional barrier to adoption has been availability. John Brawn of the New Brunswick Automobile Dealer’s Association says more dealers have been looking to stock EVs in recent years and says this incentive will only drive that further.
“I think there will be a massive buy-in now that there are some provincial incentives available,” he said.
“The dealers that were on the edge and teeter-tottering on which way to go, I think this will push them over the edge because consumer demand will certainly pick up.”
But according to some, more can be done to further push the province towards its 2030 target.
Louise Comeau, the director of the climate change and energy program at the New Brunswick conservation council, says incentives are an important piece but the government shouldn’t stop there.
“You can’t spend your way to all the solutions, we actually need laws and regulations,” Comeau said. “Quebec, for sure, is the first place where vehicles go because they have a law requiring the sale of electric vehicles.”
The federal government has said it would like to ban the sale of gas-powered vehicles by 2025. Comeau says New Brunswick should begin preparing for that move now.
“What we’re saying is we’re going to have a pull strategy, we’re going to get everybody excited to buy an electric vehicle. The reality is it should just be the only option,” she said.
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In 2018, transportation accounted for 28 per cent of carbon emissions in the province. Comeau says in order to bring that down not only will consumer vehicles need to be electrified, but so will public transit and the fleets of large organizations and government.
The Climate Action Plan calls for the implementation of a “green transportation policy” that would include the procurement of electric vehicles. The update on the action report released earlier this year says that policy has not been finalized.
Crossman said, “there are no immediate plans” to electrify the government fleet. The 45-vehicle fleet of the executive branch, which includes the taxpayer-funded vehicles of cabinet ministers, boasts one electric vehicle and 30 hybrids.
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