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B.C. drivers of electric vehicles cna receive up to $5,000 in rebates from the province.

Michelle Siu

Now that at least a sampling of electric vehicles have hit the Canadian market in recent months, the British Columbia government has introduced a variety of consumer rebates for buyers of plug-in cars of up to $5,000, plus up to $500 for installing a charging station in your home.

A $17-million fund has been established by the provincial government to help offset the higher purchase cost of a variety of electric vehicles, including fuel cell as well as compressed natural gas vehicles, B.C. s environment minister Terry Lake announced last weekend. Starting Dec. 1, buyers of such vehicles will be eligible for purchase incentives ranging from $2,500 to $5,000, depending upon the type of vehicle, and the size of the battery.

Buyers of compressed natural gas vehicles, such as the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana full-size vans, will be eligible for $2,500 incentives, as will buyers of vehicles of extended-range hybrid vehicles such as the upcoming Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid, which plans to launch in mid-2012.

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Buyers of plug-in vehicles with batteries between 10.0 to 14.9 kWh will receive a $3,500 point-of-sale rebate, while EVs with batteries larger than 15 kWh will receive discounts of $5,000, as will zero-emissions fuel-cell vehicles.

This means that even a part-time EV such as the Chevrolet Volt is eligible for the full pop discount, unlike in Ontario and Quebec, as are vehicles such as the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Nissan Leaf, Ford Transit Connect and upcoming Smart fortwo ED.

The B.C. government will work with dealers in the province to come up with window stickers for such vehicles showing the exact incentive that will be applied, so that buyers will not have to pay the full amount and then file a separate application to the government for a tax credit or retail refund, as some buyers now have to do in Ontario and Quebec.

The program also includes $6-million of funding to install new public chargers and upgrade hydrogen fuelling stations, as well as an increase in the funds available in the province's cash-for-clunkers Scrap It program.

However, the B.C. program is significantly less generous than the provincial EV rebates in both Ontario and Quebec, which offer up to $8,500 and $8,000 respectively on full battery electric vehicles.

This Clean Energy Vehicle program website is expected to go live on December 1 as well (cevforbc.ca), where new vehicles eligible for rebates will be added as they are announced. Unfortunately, the compressed natural gas Honda Civic listed as eligible isn't currently available in Canada, nor will the Honda Fit EV the company plans to unveil at the LA auto show be available here, though Honda Canada says it is studying its potential here.

These B.C. incentives will be available until the end of March, 2013, or until the available funding is depleted, according to the government's livesmartbc.ca website. It expects to provide incentives on 1,370 vehicles, and $500 EVSE rebates for 1,060 home chargers.

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Ford touching up MyFord Touch

MyFord Touch 2.0 will hit vehicles and dealers early next year – sooner than anyone expected. The touch-screen and voice-focused infotainment system has been associated with a spike of consumer and critic complaints, and a steep drop in reliability scores in the latest Consumer Reports survey.

Current owners of vehicles with the MyFord Touch system will be offered the upgrade free of charge, as will buyers of the all-new 2013 Ford Escape and the revamped Flex and Taurus sedan when they arrive early next year.

As a predominantly touch-screen system, Ford was able to make changes quickly to the software powering the system, which launched last fall. It promises that the new screen will respond faster to inputs, one of the major irritants of the current system – especially in cold weather – while adding easier-to-read menus with larger fonts and less non-essential info.

Ford maintains that the high-tech system was one of the main purchase drivers it found in customer clinics. But the company also admits that it heard negative feedback soon after launch about the system's complexity and user-unfriendliness. Ford of Canada therefore created a "TechTrek" tech squad that travelled the country to give dealers in-depth training on how the system works, in hopes that dealers could better explain it to actual or potential customers.

Ford promises the new MyFord Touch system will respond to touch and voice requests at least twice as fast, with upgrades also to the mapping functions and now the ability to transfer music off an iPad.

Volvo to offers up-rated C70

A more powerful Volvo C70 convertible will be available for 2012, dubbed the Insignia, but the electronic tweaks that boost its power and are available as a chip upgrade in various Volvo models in the United States won't be made available in Canada.

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The C70 Insignia will feature a 250-horsepower version of the T5's turbocharged inline-five-cylinder engine. Power jumps to 250 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque, from the regular version's 227 hp/236 lb-ft. It will also feature black 18-inch wheels and a leather-trimmed instrument panel, and Inscription labels on the headrests and carpeting.

In the United States, Volvo recently announced that owners of 2008 and newer C70s, C30 three-doors, and S40s could opt for specially upgraded Polestar performance tuning software to be installed at their dealer, without compromising remaining warranty coverage. Such "chipped" T5 engines would produce 23 more horses and an extra 29 lb-ft of torque, for an installed cost of $1,295 (U.S.).

A spokesperson for Volvo Canada however said that no decision has been made on whether to offer the Polestar chips here on current models, but that the upgraded software is part of the C70 Insignia model.

Mitsubishi considering green Evo replacement

A gas-electric Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution may be in the halo vehicle's future, with Mitsubishi president Osamu Masuko saying recently that it may be a way to save the performance star after the firm's greener focus going forward.

Masuko said the hot four-cylinder, 291-hp turbocharged sedan would be hard pressed to survive in its current form, given that Mitsubishi will be focusing on planet-friendlier advanced plug-in and hybrid vehicles, in a recent Automotive News report on the Evo's future.

Masuko said the next Evo is "not too long" in the future, and may be a regular hybrid or a plug-in, but suggested that either way, in-wheel electric motors could be a good way to give the vehicle all-wheel-drive capability.

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