By David Dodge
Two important things happened in the electric vehicle (EV) world in recent months: Late last year Quebec became the first Canadian province to adopt a requirement for the sales of zero-emission vehicles and then in February General Motors debuted its long awaited Chevy Bolt, a long range, low-priced EV.
The Bolt is Chevy’s long-awaited “pure electric vehicle priced for the mass market” says Matthew Klippenstein, a Canadian blogger who writes for Green Car Reports in the U.S.
The Bolt has a range of 380 kilometers and has a suggested retail price of $43,000, but with rebates in Ontario the car clocks in at about $29,000, which makes it the most inexpensive long-range EV on the market.
The GM EV coup
“General Motors pulled off quite a coup because everyone expected Tesla to be the first to introduce this kind of a 300 kilometer, reasonably affordable vehicle,” says Klippenstein. Elon Musk announced the Tesla Model 3 as an affordable EV that will sell for $35,000 US ($46,000 Cdn). Tesla has received more than 400,000 pre-orders for the Tesla 3 which means if you order one today it will be 2018 before your order is filled.
Klippenstein says 86 Bolts sold in February, its debut month in Canada. That’s good, but the Volt, Tesla S and Tesla X all had faster sales on debut.
In all-time sales the Chevy Volt reigns supreme with sales of 10,000 in Canada since launch in 2011. “That’s about one third of the plug-in electric vehicles in Canada,” says Klippenstein.
With 5,000 all-time sales the second top seller is the luxury Tesla Model S “that has really redefined everyone’s public image of what an electric vehicle can be, to great credit to Elon Musk and his team,” says Klippenstein.
Nissan has also sold about 5,000 Leafs. “So between those three vehicles, you have about two-thirds of the Canadian market so far,” says Klippenstein.
EV sales last year were: Quebec (4,794), Ontario (3,277) and British Columbia (2,093) largely because of incentives of up to $14,000. For comparison 330 EVs were purchased in Alberta last year.
“There aren’t any policy supports for electric vehicles in Alberta, but one model has actually managed to sell about the same number in B.C. as in Alberta, and that’s the Volvo XC90 plug-in hybrid, it’s a luxury SUV,” says Klippenstein.
Quebec has mostly renewable hydro power and electric vehicles help reduce emissions significantly in that province. One car dealership, Bourgeois Chevrolet in Rawdon, north of Montreal, is the top EV dealership in Canada.
“The owner of the dealership … was so enthusiastic that he encouraged and eventually required the sales people to become fully trained on how to sell plug-in electric vehicles. They sell a large number of Chevy Volts. They had a 200-person waiting list for the Chevy Bolt. And as a comparison, a 200-person waiting list, that is twice as large as the number of Bolt sales in Canada in February, which was not quite 90,” says Klippenstein.
The accidental EV guru
So how did Matthew Klippenstein, an engineer living in Vancouver become Canada’s electric vehicle guru?
“Our family bought a plug-in hybrid vehicle in late 2012, a Prius plug-in. It was the first five-seater plug-in hybrid electric vehicle which had a decently-sized trunk. And although I could find online a lot of statistics about the US market, I couldn’t find any about Canada. So I decided to be the guy who tried to compile the statistics. And once I did that, I thought, ‘Well, maybe I can share these statistics with other people who might be in Canada, but reading American car websites.’ And to their credit, greencarreports.com took a chance on me,” says Klippenstein.
But hold it, by his own admission Matthew isn’t even a car person.
“I’m not at all a car person. I don’t really care for sports cars or SUVs or the Escalades, and all that kinda stuff,” says Klippenstein. “I’m a window shopping techie guy perhaps, with environmental ideals. I’d like to leave a smaller footprint, and push as far forward on the sustainability side as I can in my time here.”
Chevy Volt is favourite, but Tesla changed the world
Klippenstein says his favourite EV is the Chevy Volt: “My favourite electric vehicle because it’s introduced so many people, who wouldn’t ordinarily consider electric vehicles, to the plug-in hybrid or to the plug-in electric vehicle market.”
“That said, I do have to give a lot of credit to the Tesla Model S, the luxury vehicle that Tesla produces, because it actually inspired or embarrassed General Motors into making the Volt. So while I would say that perhaps my democratic, every-man heart would like to put the Volt first, my brain says, ‘Well really the Tesla Model S is even more important,’” says Klippenstein.
An F150 plug-in hybrid?
Klippenstein says “I’m not a truck guy” but ever the EV evangelist, he is watching Ford closely since the announcement that a plug-in hybrid F150 truck will be available in 2020. “The Ford F-150 truck, it’s the best-selling vehicle in Canada for 50 years, and it is about seven per cent of the Canadian market. It sold 145,000 last year out of a market of not quite two million.”
If you are interested in following evolution of electric vehciles check out Klippenstein’s blog at Green Car Reports and anytime you want you can check out his publicly available Canadian Plug-in Hybrid Vehciles Sales spreadsheet online.