Electric vehicles are hot right now. Sales are booming and public opinion in Canada has shifted in their favour, in part because battery-powered vehicles aren’t just for commuters anymore.
Electric vehicles (EVs)—also known as battery electric vehicles, or BEVs—are gearing up for work. Electric pickups and long-haul trucks are already on highways and job sites, while electric snowmobiles are patrolling ski slopes, and made-in-Canada electric delivery vans could soon be bringing packages to your doorstep.
Light EVs—including Ford’s much-hyped F-150 Lightning pickup—account for 6.5 per cent of all new passenger vehicles sold in this country, up from just 1.9 per cent in early 2019, according to the latest figures from market research firm S&P Global. Adoption of medium- and heavy-duty EVs has been slower, but the shift is happening as major fleet operators—including Canada Post, FedEx, Amazon and Calgary-based power utility Enmax Corp.—commit to electrification.
More important than sales—which experts say have been limited by supply constraints— is the fact that a growing number of Canadians want an EV. They’ve gone mainstream. Even the Super Bowl is saturated with ads for electric vehicles these days.
“At a high level—and this has been pretty consistent for a few years now—roughly 6 in 10 Canadians are inclined to buy an EV over a gas car when they purchase their next vehicle, with roughly 3 in 10 being certain of that decision,” says Trevor Melanson, a spokesperson for Clean Energy Canada, a think tank at Simon Fraser University.
There are a multitude of reasons why public opinion is shifting, but the simple fact is that EVs improved to the point that they can no longer be ignored. Today, EVs are some of the very fastest, smoothest, most reliable, most powerful, cheapest to operate and whisper-quiet machines on the road. They can, however, cost more to purchase, but there’s a good chance you’ll make up the difference in terms of gas savings. Check out ama.ab.ca/EV where you’ll find resources to help you evaluate whether it’s time to consider buying an EV.
And your choices are not limited to compact cars or expensive luxury sedans anymore.
Ford’s F-150 Lightning pickup—with its front trunk and ability to provide power to your home in an electrical outage—is rolling off production lines now, although not fast enough to meet booming demand, even at a starting price of $79,000.
Chevrolet will fight back with the 2024 Silverado EV WT work truck. It’s aimed at fleet operators and slated to arrive in early 2024 with a starting price of $55,197. And, earlier this year, Ram showed off a concept— the Ram 1500 Revolution—that previews its first electric pickup coming in 2024. Tesla’s much-delayed Cybertruck should join the fray soon(ish), too.
Aside from this wave of new work-ready models, high gas prices are also pushing drivers to consider EVs. “Often, the higher the gas prices, the higher the interest in EVs,” notes Baris Akyurek, director of analytics at AutoTrader Canada. In the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, for example, when gas prices skyrocketed in 2022, Akyurek says that AutoTrader’s website saw an 89 per cent increase in searches for EVs.
Vehicle fleet operators are especially focused on costs, which is why many major companies have started shifting to EVs. For example, Enmax in Calgary put two medium-duty (Class 6) electric trucks on its fleet last year.
“When compared to a standard gas or diesel vehicle, the total cost of EV ownership over the life cycle is about 50 per cent less for maintenance and operational expenses,” Jana Mosley, president of subsidiary Enmax Power, noted in a news release last spring. The company’s goal is to electrify its entire fleet by 2030.
The cost of purchasing and running a battery-electric or hydrogen-powered commercial truck is expected to be on par with their diesel equivalents by the end of this decade, even without government rebates, according to a recent report by the California Air Resources Board, which monitors vehicle emissions standards.
Walmart, Hertz, Verizon and DHL Express Canada have all placed orders for fully-electric, Canadian-made delivery vans. BrightDrop, a subsidiary of General Motors, began producing its electric vans last year at a facility in Ingersoll, Ont., Canada’s first full-scale electric-vehicle manufacturing plant.
When it comes to larger, long-haul semi-trucks, electrification is more challenging. The energy required to propel heavy loads over long distances necessitates enormous batteries, which add weight and detract from payload capacity. Nevertheless, Winnipeg-based Bison Transport recently tested a pair of fully electric Freightliner semi-trucks, and Tesla delivered its first semi late last year to PepsiCo. These electric giants are already on the road.
Meanwhile, at the smallest end of the professional-EV spectrum, FedEx expanded its successful electric cargo-bike delivery program to Calgary and several other Canadian cities. The company uses Danish-designed Bullitt e-bikes, which have a range of roughly 180 kilometres.
“With any new technology, exposure and usage are key to adoption,” says Colin Fritz, AMA’s director of automotive services.
The sheer diversity of jobs done by trucks, vans, e-cargo bikes and buses means there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for decarbonizing these vehicles. Some vehicles (school buses, delivery vans) are more suited to current EV technology than others (long-haul trucking).
Semi-truck makers, for example, are still divided on whether EVs are even the right solution. Some major manufacturers are investing in fuel cell technology, which converts hydrogen into electricity and emits only water vapour. One benefit is faster refuelling, but there are currently only six public hydrogen fuelling stations across the country and none in Alberta, according to Natural Resources Canada.
Whether it’s hydrogen or battery power that wins the day, it’s clear that more supporting infrastructure will be needed if Canada is to meet its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions targets.
By 2030, with deliveries on the rise, freight emissions are expected to surpass passenger-vehicle emissions in Canada. Even today, heavy-duty gasoline and diesel vehicles are responsible for over 30 per cent of Canada’s transportation emissions.
In an effort to reduce climate-change-causing emissions, the federal government’s new program—Incentives for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Zero-Emission Vehicles (iMHZEV)—offers rebates of up to $200,000 on the purchase or lease of more than 200 eligible vehicles, ranging from compact electric vans and buses to semi-trucks. Canada wants all new roadgoing medium- and heavy-duty vehicles sold in this country to be zero-emissions by 2040. (The deadline for light-duty and passenger vehicles is 2035.)
With such incentives—combined with ongoing advances in technology, infrastructure and the stream of new EVs flowing into showrooms— interest in EVs appears to be on a continual upswing. If you’re into emerging technologies, expect exciting times ahead.
Visit ama.ab.ca/EV to find out all about electric vehicles and determine if there’s an EV for you.
AMA and EVs
“EVs are a growing segment in Alberta,” says Colin Fritz, AMA’s director of automotive services. “As a mobility organization, we aim to serve all members and we want to ensure we can offer relevant services to them, regardless of their mobility choices.” Those new services for EV drivers include:
-EV charging stations are available at AMA’s centres in Medicine Hat, Lethbridge and Edmonton South—with more to come this year
-AMA Driver Education’s recent addition of two EVs to its fleet to help train Alberta’s first generation of EV learners
-a pilot program in Edmonton and Calgary providing emergency roadside top-up charging for stranded EV drivers, similar to how AMA delivers fuel to members who’ve run out of gas
-an online EV Buyer’s Guide offering impartial, authoritative guidance for drivers
Keeping you up to speed
AMA’s new podcast is live. Check out EV Life with host Krystal Maharaj, as we dive into topics that matter to you and answer all your questions about EVs. Curious as to how these vehicles withstand our frigid temperatures? Can the power grid handle the charging demands? Are EVs affordable for most Canadians? Visit ama.ab.ca/EVLife to give it a listen.