With the NextStar battery plant just a few kilometres down the road and the Flex-Ion Battery Innovation Centre next door, Plug’N Drive CEO Cara Clairman didn’t need any props for her speech on just how transformative the electric vehicle era will be in the next 18 months.
Clairman, who was recently named by Maclean’s magazine as one of Canada’s most influential leaders in the electric vehicle sector, was the keynote speaker for a WEtech Alliance symposium on mobility.
“It’s an exciting time being on the cusp of so many amazing things,” said Clairman, who gave her talk Thursday at Invest WindsorEssex’s Automobility and Innovation Centre.
“The number of EV announcements in Ontario, the manufacturers’ investments and customer demand is running high.
“The big challenge is going to be getting supply of the vehicles. The next year will be a challenge on the supply side, but things should loosen up.”
Sales of EVs increased by 40 per cent in 2022 while market share grew to 7.7 per cent in Canada despite limited availability. In British Columbia that market share is now over 20 per cent while Quebec is also approaching that number.
About one of every 11 new vehicles registered in 2022 in Canada was an EV.
“We’re doing okay compared to previous years, but we’re not doing as well when you compare us globally,” Clairman said.
“One in seven cars sold globally last year was an EV. Global sales increased 60 per cent.”
By the end of December 2022, there were 300,000 electric vehicles on the road in Canada.
Clairman, whose organization Plug’N Drive is a non-profit organization promoting education and EV adoption, admits there’s still a touch of hesitation among consumers about making the switch.
“Now that we’re at 300 to 500 kilometres per charge, people are less worried about range,” Clairman said. “They also see more chargers around. That gives them more comfort.
“In a couple years, I don’t we’ll be hearing anything on those issues.”
Clairman said Canada is also making progress on charging infrastructure. The number of stations is now over 20,000 across the nation.
However, EV prices remain a significant hurdle. On average, the same gas-powered model remains about $5,000 to $10,000 cheaper than its electric cousin. “There’s still some sticker price shock,” Clairman said.
“There are federal rebates up to $5,000 and you save $2,000 per year in operating costs, so you make up the difference quickly. People are still reluctant to pay now to save later.”
Clairman feels with the number of available EV models in Canada set to almost double to over 100 in the next year, the economies of scale and technological advances automakers are making will help close the price gap.
She also credited the provincial and federal governments for doing a good job on securing manufacturing, battery and supply chain investment for Canada, but suggested more focus needs shifting to consumers.
While the Ontario government is loath to offer EV incentives, Clairman feels some form of incentives will be required during this transitionary period.
Clairman said there’s a business case for encouraging people to switch to EVs that goes beyond just eliminating the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the country.
A study done by health organizations in the Greater Toronto Area found the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions could eliminate 313 premature deaths in the region if there was a 100 per cent switch there to EVs.
It would reduce GHG emissions by 68.7 per cent and social benefits/health care costs by $2.4. billion or $9,850 per EV deployed.
“However, just as important as incentives is education,” Clairman said. “We can do a lot better there.
“We also need policies ensuring chargers are part of the building code. We must continue expanding our infrastructure to support this transition.
“We need better financing options from banks. Why should an EV be more expensive to finance than a gas-powered car?”
With the federal government introducing mandates on zero-emission car sales, Clairman is optimistic sales targets can be met that will eventually see EVs become 100 per cent of new sales.
Before then, automakers must have EVs become 20 per cent of their sales by 2026 and 60 per cent by 2030.
“Automakers don’t like mandates, but they’ve worked in B.C.” Clairman said.