*This article has been updated. The previous version contained incomplete data on California vehicle incentives.
B.C.’s electric car incentives are working, but other policy changes would help reduce greenhouse gas emissions more, says the head of the New Car Dealers Association of B.C.
The additional $10 million put toward zero-emission vehicle subsidies is appreciated, Blair Qualey told the B.C. legislature finance committee Wednesday. But he said there is more B.C. can do to cut greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, the largest source in the provincial economy.
The province is under increased pressure to drive down emissions from transportation, building heat and other sources, to meet ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets while construction begins on the province’s first large-scale liquefied natural gas export facility at Kitimat.
The province recharged its electric vehicle incentive fund in September when applications to the fund showed the original $27 million budget for the year was about to run out. The point-of-sale incentive program, administered by the New Car Dealers, provides up to $5,000 for purchase or leaase of a new battery electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle, or up to $6,000 for the emerging technology of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
The association says electric vehicles represented 3.7 per cent of new car sales in June 2018, with more than 1,400 vehicle incentive applications paid out in April and June.
The association conducted a survey in September that found two out of five drivers are “definitely” or “probably” considering an electric vehicle. While the survey shows many urban dwellers are able to use an electric car for their daily commuting and other needs, Qualey said the prospect of batteries running out continues to be a deterrent to switching from gasoline and diesel vehicles.
“It’s not like you can get a gas can and go fill it up,” Qualey said. “You’d have to get towed somewhere.”
Penticton MLA Dan Ashton asked about the association’s long-running request for changes to the escalating “luxury tax” on the purchase of new vehicles costing more than $55,000. One-ton pickups are exempt from the tax, prompting some buyers to choose them for work when a lighter truck would do the job with lower emissions, Qualey said.
New categories of the surtax on luxury vehicles came into effect in April, adding an eight per cent surtax on vehicles costing $125,000 or more and 13 per cent on those costing $150 or more.
Qualey suggested the province could consider a luxury tax on high-end jewelry or other purchases rather than focusing on vehicles.