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We’re ready to trade in our gas-powered car for an EV, but what’s the wait like right now? I’ve heard a year, but I don’t know if we can wait that long. – Caroline, Toronto

With interest in electric vehicles surging, expect to wait but for how long, it’s hard to say. Much depends on the brand, the model, the demand and those pesky “supply-chain issues.”

“Some people are saying they can get one in a couple of months … and lots of people are saying it’s a year or more – so it really does seem to vary,” said Cara Clairman, chief executive officer of Plug’n Drive, a pro-electric vehicle not-for-profit in Toronto.

While there’s been a wait for new gas-powered cars because of pandemic-triggered backlogs and a semiconductor shortage, the wait for EVs is typically longer.

That’s because there are fewer EV models compared to gas cars – and, generally, there are fewer of them coming out of factories.

“What we are seeing is that availability in the industry varies greatly from one model to another,” said Andrew King, managing partner of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants. “But there are so few EV models [compared to gas-powered cars] and volumes are so low [other than Tesla] that the problem is definitely exacerbated.”

Along with tight supply, EV demand has also been rising. More models with better range have hit the market this year. In March, Ottawa said sales of all new cars and light-duty trucks will have to be zero-emission vehicles by 2035. Perhaps the biggest factor in rising EV demand? Gas prices have been soaring since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February.

“High gas prices spurred a lot of people who were thinking their next car would be an EV to just go ahead and do it – it pushed people over the edge,” Clairman said. “Unfortunately, the suppliers were caught off guard.”

Wait until 2023?

So how long will you be waiting, exactly? We asked several auto makers. Some didn’t immediately respond, some gave vague answers and just two were more specific.

“Depending on the trim, orders placed now could be fulfilled later this year, or into early [2023],” Jenn McCarthy, Hyundai Canada spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

Volkswagen Canada stopped taking orders for its model year 2022 ID.4 all-electric SUV in March and said the wait time is likely nine to 12 months.

For model year 2023, Volkswagen will be producing vehicles from a new factory in Tennessee, which is expected to open this fall, Volkswagen Canada spokesman Thomas Tetzlaff said in an e-mail.

“If we get more production, we might get [waits] down to the six-to-nine-month range fairly quickly,” Tetzlaff said.

Ford Motor Co. of Canada said it had closed orders for its all-electric 2022 F-150 Lightning and plans to nearly double production to 150,000 units a year by mid-2023. It’s still taking orders for the 2022 Mustang Mach-E. It wouldn’t say how long buyers would have to wait.

BMW said wait times for its all-electric iX SUV and i4 sedan will vary, depending on the options you get, but will “more likely be months than weeks” – although it couldn’t say how many months.

“I can tell you it will take a little longer for [an EV] than it will for internal combustion, " BMW spokeswoman Barb Pitblado said.

Buyers are often waiting longer than they’d like, said Tim Burrows, a board member with the Electric Vehicle Society, a national EV owners association.

“Some of the wait times end up being shorter than advertised,” Burrows said. “It depends on which model. You can get the Tesla Model 3 this calendar year, but the Model Y will be early 2023.”

It’s unlikely you’ll be able to go to a dealership and find an EV for sale on the lot right now, Burrows said. But it might be worth checking dealer websites to see whether anything is in stock.

“If you’re willing to change the trim level, you might be able to get something sooner, depending what province you’re in,” he said. “Traditionally, new models go to British Columbia and Quebec first.” This is because of generous provincial incentives and sales quotas.

For instance, Tesla’s website shows three 2022 Model 3s – with prices ranging from nearly $94,000 to more than $98,000 – available to buy right now in Vancouver, but there are none for sale in Calgary, Montreal or Toronto.

Get on a list

While you may be able to find a used EV, you could end up paying almost as much as you would for a new one right now because of high demand, Clairman said.

“There’s shorter supply for sure,” she said. “You can get them, but you’re going to pay.”

Clairman expects wait times to shrink “eventually,” as companies ramp up EV production and new models, including EVs from Vietnamese auto maker VinFast, enter the market, Clairman said.

To ensure you get an electric vehicle when one does become available, Plug’n Drive’s Clairman suggests putting your name on a waiting list. Some companies require a refundable deposit.

You’ll only have to pay for the car – or finance it – when it comes time to finalize an order.

“Check their policies, but most of the companies will give you your deposit back if you have a change of heart,” Clairman said. “In the meantime, keep looking at the used market because used prices will come down.”

Have a driving question? Send it to globedrive@globeandmail.com and put ‘Driving Concerns’ in your subject line. Emails without the correct subject line may not be answered. Canada’s a big place, so let us know where you are so we can find the answer for your city and province.