B.C. initiates clean energy vehicle incentive program

Critics say single occupancy vehicle not sustainable, would rather money goes to public transit

Consumers in the market for a new vehicle can apply for financial incentives as part of a provincial effort to get more people into cars with less of a carbon footprint.

Beginning Dec. 1, the Ministry of Environment, LiveSmart B.C. and New Car Dealers Association of B.C. introduced the $7.5-million Clean Energy Vehicle Incentive program for people considering the environment while making a new vehicle purchase.

Clean-energy vehicles include electric, fuel cell, plug-in hybrid or compressed natural gas cars or light trucks. The program can take as much as $5,000 off the pre-tax price.

Blair Qualey, president and CEO of the New Car Dealers Association of B.C., said the program is intended to make the technology more accessible for consumers, while enabling manufacturers to invest in further emissions improvements.

“The key to encourage manufacturers to provide these kinds of vehicles is demand and that will only be driven by demand from consumers,” said Qualey. “Manufacturers are only making so many for North America and we’d like to make sure there is an ample supply coming to British Columbia so customers of our dealers have the option should they want it.”

Dealers participating in Nanaimo include Wheaton Pontiac Buick GMC, Harris Mitsubishi, Nanaimo Honda, Nanaimo Toyota, Newcastle Nissan, and Steve Marshall Ford. Overall, 199 dealerships across B.C. are taking part.

Only B.C. and Ontario have developed a clean-energy vehicle incentive program.

Ian Gartshore, president of Shore Energy Solutions, said EV cars are a small step in the right direction, but do little to address the larger problem of lessening the impact on the planet. He said he’d like to see more money pumped into public transit instead.

“The single-occupancy vehicle is a real problem, it’s not sustainable,” he said. “So we can say, ‘Yeah, this is going to bring down the environmental footprint a bit’, and it’s only a bit because we still have to take resources out of the planet, and we’ll have to generate a lot more power so we’ll have to have Site C, which will create more methane gas, and that reduces the amount of agricultural land we’ll have to grow food on. So there are problems with this approach as well.”

But clean-energy vehicles might work better in B.C. than other places.

B.C.’s power comes mainly from clean energy, Gartshore said, so holding on to an older vehicle might be more polluting in the long run. But in places that use resources like coal for power, using a plug-in vehicle may not be environmentally beneficial at all.

Vehicles that qualify for the rebate, such as the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi iMiev, have zero tailpipe emissions, and cost as little as $300 annually in hydro costs, compared to an average of $1,500 in fuel for a combustion vehicle.

Other cars that qualify include the Chevrolet Volt, Ford Focus Electric, Toyota Plug-in Prius, and the Honda GX. Visit www.CEVforBC.ca for a full list of eligible vehicles and applicable incentives.

Qualey said the new technology isn’t intended to be the silver bullet that solves the problem of eliminating the carbon footprint of vehicles.

“For some people, these vehicles are a good solution and for others it’s not,” he said. “A lot of what’s in a car these days is recyclable, and people don’t have to go to the gas station all the time, so there is less need for oil. It’s a long involved debate but it’s a good start we think.”

The New Car Dealers Association of B.C. represents more than 350 dealerships in 54 communities. Those dealerships generate more than $10 billion in economic activity while employing 34,000 people.

So far, $35,000 in incentives was provided with at least 24 more applications pending. There is still $2.24 million in funding available untilĀ  March 31. The second year of the program kicks in April 1.