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Why Ontario and Quebec should scrap their electric vehicle subsidies

2014 Porsche Panamera Hybrid


Last month sales of the Nissan Leaf jumped by 179 per cent and sales of Nissan's battery car have almost doubled year-on-year.

So the Leaf is on the move. That's the good news. The bad news you find in the actual sales numbers, not the percentages – at least if you're Nissan with a multi-billion dollar investment in pure electric vehicles (EVs). Canadians bought 117 Leafs in July and have silently driven home 579 in total this year.


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Honda's Civic, Canada's best-selling car, typically moves off dealer lots at a rate of about 6,000 or so a month. The Civic sells in big numbers because it's affordable for middle class buyers, has proven reliability and is even assembled in Ontario. At $15,690, the Civic starts at half the price of Leaf at $31,698.

That is, before the Nissan buyer gets a taxpayer subsidy. Taxpayers in two provinces get a gift: $8,500 in Ontario and $8,000 in Quebec. In Ontario, the subsidy whittles down the final price of Leaf to $23,198.

At $23,198, you might wonder why so few people are buying a Leaf. The answer is simple: mainstream consumers who need to balance the household budget cannot make sense out of driving an EV – too expensive, too limited in terms of range and overall flexibility, too much a risk in many, many ways.

Yet today, of the three provinces who have offered subsidies for EVs, only British Columbia has pulled the plug. B.C. taxpayers spent $14.3-million in the Clean Energy Vehicle Program and then wisely stopped asking middle class people to help the wealthy feel good about driving a "green" car.

Make no mistake, only people with extra money in the budget can afford an EV. Yes, the after-subsidy price of a Leaf is close to a nicely equipped Civic, but no one who owns a Leaf can own ONLY a Leaf and live a normal life with trips to the cottage and such. A battery car with limited range is a luxury item for most households that also need a "traditional" car to live a normal life..

It is, then, time for governments to stop the taxpayer subsidies for wealthy car owners. If you live in Ontario and want a BMW i3 ($44,950 base), pay for it yourself. That $8,500 taxpayer handout is wrong.

The same for all the rest of the EVs and plug-ins sold in Ontario. If you want a Tesla Model S ($78,970 base) or a $113,300 Porsche Panamera SE-Hybrid Sedan or a $78,250 Cadillac ELR, pay for it yourself. Taxpayers should not being handing out $8,500 to the Tesla buyer, $6,346.00 to the Porsche buyer, and $8,231 to the Caddy buyer.

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When middle class people buying $20,000 Civics are subsidizing rich people buying $113,300 Porsches, something is very wrong.

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About the Author
Senior writer, Globe Drive

In 25 years of covering the auto industry, Jeremy Cato has won more than two-dozen awards, including three times being named automotive journalist of the year. Jeremy was born in Montreal and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. More


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