Stakeholders are hopeful that proposed federal sales targets will help boost electric vehicle (EV) uptake in Canada as drivers keen to make the switch face barriers like high upfront costs, limited supply and gaps in charging infrastructure.

Canadians are increasingly interested in buying zero-emissions cars, according to car dealers and surveys, but Statistic Canada reported that electric cars made up just 7.2 per cent of new light-duty vehicle sales in the first half of 2022.

Domestic sales quotas, plans to build more infrastructure and a greater Canadian stake in manufacturing could come together to shift the balance, EV sales experts told BNN Bloomberg, if Canada goes about the policy the right way.


“There's a lot of demand for EVs, and one of the biggest challenges right now is the supply,” said Cara Clairman, president and CEO of non-profit Plug’N Drive, which offer test drives and other educational information for interested EV buyers.

“I’m hopeful that the sales target set by the federal government will assist.”

Consultations are still ongoing for the draft regulations released by the Federal Liberal government last month, which would set targets that require 20 per cent of new vehicles sold in Canada be zero emissions by 2026. The quota would increase to 60 per cent by 2030 and 100 per cent by 2035.

The thinking is that by bringing in sales quotas, Canada will make itself a priority for auto manufacturers stretched by growing global demand for EVs as climate-conscious buyers seek to shift away from gas-powered cars.

Jurisdictions like B.C. and Quebec that have sales quotes tend to get the electric cars and report higher EV sales than provinces that don’t, Clairman said. A Canada-wide target would help level the playing field and give more Canadians access, she said.

“It seems like it could work, and it should work if it's designed properly,” she said.


Canada’s EV sales policy comes after a series of investments in EV manufacturing in Ontario, as the province aims to transition its auto industry to keep up with demand.

Project Arrow, a designed-in-Canada EV prototype, was showcased by the Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association earlier this month at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, adding to the excitement around Canada’s potential manufacturing footprint, though no mass-production plans have been announced.

Clairman said the federal sales target would be an extra step to ensure Canadian-made vehicles can be driven by Canadians and don’t go to consumers in the U.S., where there are more incentives for buyers.


Rachel Doran, director of policy and strategy at Clean Energy Canada, a think tank that has been advocating for EV sales targets for years, said the policy can help with the concerns holding consumers back, including the high upfront cost.

“It actually addresses a lot of these different issues,” she said in a phone interview with

People are interested in the savings over time that come with a car that doesn’t require costly gas tank fill-ups, Doran said, but the sticker cost can still be daunting compared with a combustion engine car. But sales targets tend to incentivize dealers to offer car options that people can actually afford to buy, she added meaning cheaper supply is likely to become available.

Huw Williams, public affairs director at the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association, said cost is a major issue holding people back from buying EVs particularly when cost of living is high, and consumers in other jurisdictions benefit from greater incentives than what’s available in Canada.

“The federal government's really got to be paying attention to the fact that incentives are an important part of that price differential,” he said. “It’s hard for a family who's fighting inflation to come in and go, ‘I'm going to be the one to go first, when it's going to cost me more upfront.’”

The federal government offers EV buyers rebates of up to $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for businesses. Some provinces offer additional top-ups, but those are not consistent across Canada. In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford cancelled an existing rebate program after taking office and has not since reinstated it.

Clairman said it can be tough to convince interested buyers that they will save money in the long run when going electric, and suggested more flexible financing options that allow people to spread out the payments would help.

Higher and more consistent incentives like rebates would also be beneficial, but only needed in the short-term, she said, noting that EV prices are expected to drop as more people buy electric.

“We wouldn't need these incentives forever,” she said.


Williams said vehicle dealers are fully on board with the goal of reaching 100 per cent EV sales by 2035, but his organization wants the government to tie-in its proposed sales mandates with an accompanying vision for adequate charging options.

Buyers are excited about the EV options available to them, he said, but hesitancy creeps with concerns about access to charging.

Private companies are starting to grow their footprint in Canada’s charging network, with recent plans announced by Parkland Corp., Shell Canada Limited and Mercedes-Benz Group AG, along with charging stations installed by federal and provincial governments.

To meet overall demand, Williams said the transition will take effort from all levels of government, along with the private sector, as buyers get excited about buying EVs.

“We’re well past the tipping point of societal acceptance for it,” he said. “We're now trying to figure out what's the best approach to do it.”