The Ford Lightning
ELECTRIC VEHICLES are hot right now. Sales are booming and public opinion in Canada has shifted in their favour.
Making the switch from gasoline- to battery- powered cars, however, is a giant leap for drivers, many of whom have big questions about how an electric vehicle might fit into their lives. We’ll get to a few of those key questions, but first it’s worth taking a closer look at how this transition is going.
Electric vehicles (EVs)—also known as battery electric vehicles, or BEVs—are a small but rapidly growing slice of Canada’s automobile market. EVs account for seven percent of all new vehicles sold in this country, up from just 1.9 percent in early 2019, according to the latest figures from market research firm S&P Global.
More important than sales—which experts say have been limited by supply constraints—is the fact that a growing number of Canadians want an EV. They’ve gone mainstream.
“At a high level—and this has been pretty consistent for a few years now—roughly 6 in ten Canadians are inclined to buy an EV over a gas car when they purchase their next vehicle, with roughly three in ten being certain of that decision,” says Trevor Melanson, a spokesperson for Clean Energy Canada, a think tank at Simon Fraser University.
CHANGING MINDS There are a multitude of reasons why public opinion is shifting, but the simple fact is that EVs improved so fast and so much that nobody can ignore them anymore. They’re among the best, most exciting machines on the road these days. Not only that, but EVs now also come in more shapes and sizes, with more range and at more price points.
Ford’s electric F-150 Lightning pickup, with its front trunk and ability to provide power in an electrical outage, is rolling off production lines now, although not fast enough to meet booming demand. Almost every major automaker has, or will soon have, an electric SUV in Canadian showrooms. Even Rolls-Royce is gearing up to deliver its first EV later this year. Younger companies, like Tesla, Lucid, Rivian, Polestar, Fisker and Canoo, offer compelling alternatives to older brands as well, giving buyers yet more choice.
Check out CAA’s online EV Buyer’s Guide (evbuyersguide.caa.ca) for a comprehensive list of current and upcoming models available in Canada.
Another factor driving interest in EVs is the price of gas. “Often, the higher the gas prices, the higher the interest in EVs,” notes Baris Akyurek, director of analytics at AutoTrader.ca. In the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, for example, when gas prices skyrocketed to over $2 a liter in 2022, Akyurek said their website saw an 89 percent increase in searches for EVs.
ARE EVs REALLY COST-EFFECTIVE? With regular gas still well over $1 a litre, the short answer is yes—for many (but not all) drivers, an EV will be cheaper in the long run, despite typically having a higher purchase price than an equivalent gas-powered car.
Ryan Peterson, manager of automotive services for CAA Club Group, estimates he saves roughly $550 per month on gas driving a Tesla Model Y instead of his pickup. He reckons the Tesla will offset its higher purchase price in fuel savings quite quickly. His father, however, who has a fuel-sipping 2019 Hyundai and doesn’t drive much, probably wouldn’t break even buying an EV, Peterson points out. Every driver’s calculation is different.
CAA’s online Driving Costs Calculator (carcosts.caa.ca) can help you figure out whether an EV will ultimately be cheaper for you, taking into account variables such as annual mileage, depreciation, vehicle cost and the cost of gas and electricity.
EV owners save money on maintenance, too. Because electric cars have fewer moving parts, there’s less to fix. All there is to do is brake and tire maintenance and, occasionally, change the cabin air filter, according to Peterson. Survey data from hundreds of thousands of drivers, released in 2020 by the Consumer Reports organization, found EV drivers spend 50 percent less on maintenance and repairs.