B.C. government accelerates EV transition while consumers and carmakers hit the brakes

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Appeared in True North, March 13, 2024
B.C. government accelerates EV transition while consumers and carmakers hit the brakes

There you are, the government of British Columbia, driving down the EV-transition highway, dreaming of the day that all cars will be electric, when suddenly the road is full of yellow warning signs and red lights showing your current speed and flashing SLOW DOWN.

Automakers are telling you they see electric vehicle (EV) demand declining and dealers can’t sell the EVs cluttering their lots. Car buyers (in Canada and the United States) are telling pollsters that they’re tepid on the idea, and even those with greater enthusiasm have serious concerns about range, technology, carrying capacity, charging infrastructure and price.

So what to do?

Well, if you’re the B.C. government, you dive still deeper into the fantasy of an EV transition, and accelerate your mandated timeline for the transition, declaring late last year that 100 per cent of new car sales in the province will be zero-emission by 2035, five years sooner than your previous yet-equally-unlikely target date of 2040. This is the very definition of reckless driving.

Headlines virtually every day show that automakers do not believe that mandates for an EV transition are plausible. In just one article in Business Insider, you can find quotes from the CEOs and senior leadership of General Motors, Toyota, Honda, Mercedes Benz and even Tesla who are all announcing slow-downs in their EV production plans and warning they see slower sales ahead. Again, EV’s are piling up on dealer lots, unsaleable even with massive government subsidies at point of sale and up through the production chain.

In Canada, buyers are the problem. They don’t want EVs.

According to a 2023 KPMG poll, of the 69 per cent of Canadians who expected to buy a new car in the next 10 years, only 28 per cent said they prefer an EV or plug-in electric hybrid while 42 per cent favoured gasoline-powered internal combustion engine vehicles and 30 per cent preferred hybrid gasoline/electric vehicles.

Further, 33 per cent were concerned about costs, vehicle charger availability, battery technology and potential vehicle supply. Nearly 70 per cent were concerned about the availability of public charging facilities. And 82 per cent said battery degradation remains a “huge” concern for them, so much so that 73 per cent said they won’t buy a used EV.

And 72 per cent don’t want to spend more than $50,000 on a new vehicle—good luck with that. The Tesla Model 3 runs from $55,000 to $73,000 while the Tesla Model Y runs from $60,000 to $76,000. And those prices were recently dropped to stimulate sales.

The Eby government in B.C. (like the Trudeau government in Ottawa) must open its eyes and see the road ahead. On the EV transition, road conditions are bad and getting worse.

EV mandates are perhaps the best example of a horrible idea—that governments can engineer markets and choose winning and losing industries, goods, products and services in a market economy. Whether you call it industrial policy or central planning or dress it up in the language of “emission standards,” this fatal conceit of government always leads to policy disaster.

Rather than shortening its increasingly implausible EV adoption timelines, the B.C. government should scrap the idea of picking and choosing vehicle technologies while expecting consumers to follow its whims. Driving ahead blindly, while focused on a fantasy vision rather than the road ahead, never turns out well in the end.

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