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A third of Canadian new car buyers considering EVs, suggests survey

Despite just over two percent of new vehicle sales comprising plug-in vehicles in 2018, roughly one third of Canadian consumers that plan to buy/lease a new or SUV in the next two years are considering an electric vehicle, according to a newly released national survey.

And if you throw hybrids into the pot, the survey suggested a full 40 percent of those Canadian buyers are not considering gas-only-powered vehicles, according to an Angus Reid Global survey released this week.

“If you believe what consumers are saying, gas-only powered vehicles have lost 40 percent of the market since the introduction of hybrids and EVs,” said Ed Morawski, president and COO of Angus Reid Global.

Separating intentions from decisions

Though considering and actually buying an electrified vehicle are totally different levels of commitment, the number of Canadian survey respondents reportedly not considering a gas-only vehicle certainly suggest a major impending shift in Canadian auto buyer behaviour in the near future. It found 43 percent of those expecting to acquire a new vehicle in the next 24 months are considering gas-electric hybrids, 32 percent of Canadians are considering EVs, and 11 percent still looking at diesel-powered vehicles, with seven percent that don’t know yet.

There was lots of regional variation in these numbers, with consumers in Saskatchewan and in Atlantic Canada the least likely to consider an EV – both at the low teens level – while hybrids had higher consideration levels that ranged from a low of 28 percent in Atlantic Canada to a high of 63 percent hybrid consideration in BC.

“Many are not quite ready to make the jump to all electric,” said Morawski. “And you can’t blame them – if you include hybrids in your consideration set you have a lot more brand and model choices.”

Companies offering both hybrid and plug-in vehicle choices have seen sizable increases in both, as well as an increasing share of their overall sales. Toyota Canada reported that it hit its highest proportion of electrified vehicle sales ever in May, with a record 19.4 percent of its combined Toyota and Lexus sales being electrified, led by the RAV4 Hybrid and the Prius Prime plug-in hybrid.

Overall, its electrified vehicle sales were up over 84 percent in May, and helped lead the company to its second-best month of sales ever, said Toyota Canada. 

Green leanings lead EV consideration reasons

Environmental reasons and gas savings were basically tied as the top two reasons given in amongst those considering an EV, found the survey, though the third highest cited was the enviro-related ‘fewer or no emissions.’ Of those respondents not contemplating an EV, a group roughly double the size of those considering an EV, the top reasons cited were concerns on range, the lack of infrastructure, and the cost of electricity, in that order.

The findings align with research done earlier this year amongst visitors, which found that millennials were particularly receptive to eco-friendly vehicles such as EVs and hybrids. But the research found that consideration levels decreased dramatically amongst potential drivers above 40 years of age, which constitute the majority of new vehicle buyers.

This survey also found that 83 percent of buyers would change brands to buy electric, and 73 percent would purchase one if they were confident in how far it could travel on one charge.

Figures from trade group Electric Mobility Canada suggest that there’s been a 21 percent increase in EV sales in Canada in the first quarter of 2019, even with a 55 percent decrease in sales in Ontario, attributed largely to the cutting of its provincial EV rebate. Market share of new vehicle sales across Canada in the first quarter of 2019 landed at 1.89 percent of new vehicle sales.

Another notable and perhaps surprising finding amongst the Angus Reid Global survey include more consideration of EVs in Ontario (36 percent) than in the province of Quebec (30 percent) – which offers a provincial incentive of up to $8,000 (on top of the federal $5,000 clean vehicle rebate), generally more expensive fuel prices than its provincial neighbour, and some of the least costly electricity prices in North America.

The Angus Reid Global survey polled over 1,500 Canadian consumers, of which 417 (27 percent) said they expected to buy or lease a new vehicle in the next two years. The survey was conducted from July 12, 2019 to July 15, 2019 with a representative sample of online Canadian members of the Angus Reid Forum. The survey was conducted in English and French.