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2020 Honda e

Courtesy of manufacturer

I’m hoping to buy an electric vehicle in the next couple of years, but I like compact hatchbacks and hate big sedans, trucks and SUVs. I keep reading that we’re getting bigger and bigger EVs in North America, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. In Europe and Asia, they’re getting some amazing small EVs such as the Honda e and the Volkswagen ID.3. Will we ever get them here? If not, why not? Is there a way I could order one and get it shipped here? – Elio, Montreal

Even though they would generate a lot of buzz, don’t expect to see the Volkswagen ID.3 or Honda e in Canada anytime soon – if they ever make it here at all.

That’s because when it comes to sales in Canada and the United States, bigger is better.

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“The population of sedans and hatchbacks, under which small city cars exist, keeps declining as buyers purchase more and more utility and light truck body styles,” said Robert Karwel, senior manager of automotive practice in Canada for J.D. Power. “Unfortunately, it makes little sense for [car makers] to chase electrification in car platforms at the lower end of the spectrum.”

While we’re getting the electric Mini-Cooper SE, with a range of 177 kilometres, we’re not getting Fiat’s electric New 500 or the electric Smart EQ fortwo.

For the 2020 model year, Volkswagen stopped making its electric e-Golf hatch and will be launching a family of EVs, including a futuristically retro VW camper van, over the next few years.

The first of those cars in Europe is the ID.3, a staid, Golf-sized hatch with a range starting at 330 kilometres. It’s expected to make it to consumers there staring this fall.

But the first new electric Volkswagen sold in Canada will be the ID.4 – a compact SUV. It’s coming sometime “next spring.”

“Sadly, the market for smaller vehicles is dying in Canada, and as a result, our decision to launch our first next-generation EV as an SUV was a no-brainer,” said Thomas Tetzlaff, Volkswagen Canada spokesman. “Instead of entering in a dying segment, we enter into the hottest one.”

Could we see the ID.3 here eventually? Volkswagen isn’t saying never.

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“Once we get the ID.4 up and running, we will continue our investigation of potentially bringing the ID.3 in,” Mr. Tetzlaff said. “Right now, it certainly doesn’t look great – but you never know.”

Even if VW wanted to bring the hatch here, there might not be enough available since there’s only “one production source” now, Mr. Tetzlaff said.

Could you order one and get it shipped here? Unless VW builds one to Canadian safety standards, you would have to wait 15 years until you could legally import it to Canada.

VW ID3

Hardy Mutschler/Courtesy of manufacturer

E is for Europe (and Japan)

The Honda e, a cute retro EV hatch that has video cameras instead of side mirrors, is coming to Europe and Japan in October. It has 220 kilometres of range and is starting, in Germany, at the equivalent of $45,000. Honda hasn’t announced any plans to bring it to North America. For now, Honda’s green offerings in Canada are limited to the Clarity plug-in hybrid and its traditional hybrids, including the Insight.

“When it comes to electric vehicles, whether they be fully electric [like the Honda e], plug-in hybrid or full hybrid, the higher costs of battery technology and government regulations surrounding vehicle mandates and emissions play a role,” said John Bordignon, Honda Canada spokesman. ”In Canada, SUV and pickup truck sales account for over 70 per cent of new vehicle sales, so that also impacts plans for future products.” Bigger EVs and hybrid SUVs that are less thirsty than traditional SUVs make more sense for most Canadian buyers, Mr. Karwel said.

“A slightly large, utility-body style has more room to package batteries without interfering with passenger or cargo space,” Mr. Karwel said. “They offer more features like AWD and longer range due to more space for batteries.”

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Plus there’s a big question when it comes to tinier EVs. The few people left who buy compact cars typically choose them because they’re cheaper and good on gas. So will folks want to spend $45,000 on a small EV hatchback when they can buy, say, a Honda Fit for $18,000?

Have a driving question? Send it to globedrive@globeandmail.com. Canada’s a big place, so let us know where you are so we can find the answer for your city and province.

Stay on top of all our Drive stories. We have a Drive newsletter covering car reviews, innovative new cars and the ups and downs of everyday driving. Sign up today.

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