Electric mobility: Canada trails in infrastructure, sales of EVs

By Daniel Rufiange , 2019-01-04

The electric vehicle segments are in full expansion mode, and if we listen to the promises and commitments being made by auto manufacturers, the trend will only quicken in the coming months and years.

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That said, the transition is happening at different speeds in different markets. While some have embraced the technology wholeheartedly, others are more indifferent, and some are even mildly hostile.

And where does Canada sit on that spectrum? A new study published by GoCompare gives it a 13th place ranking out of the 30 countries that are members of the International Energy Agency (IEA) and that were included in the study.

At present there are 23,620 electric vehicles registered in Canada, which is fewer than are currently in use in countries like Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Netherlands and Switzerland – all of which have smaller populations than Canada.

The country most committed to electric mobility is Norway, and it’s not even close: in 2018, one third of vehicles sold in the Scandinavian country were electric or hybrid.

In absolute numbers, China is the unsurprising leader in the EV sweepstakes, with 1,227,770 electric vehicles currently in use. The United States follows with 762,060, while Japan sits third with 205,350 EVs. Norway follows in fourth place for the total number of electric vehicles with 176,310.

Where Norway’s totals are truly astounding, is when they are given as a ratio in relation to its population. In a country with 5.2 million inhabitants, one in 30 owns an electric car. Compare that to Canada, which counts only one car per 1,554 citizens, and you see how truly far ahead Norway is.

Another revealing part of the GoCompare study looks at the proportion of charging stations in relation to the number of gasoline filling stations. In Canada that percentage sits at 28%, and while that seems pretty impressive it looks less so when you compare that to Norway’s EV charging station-to-gasoline filling station percentage, which is 87%.

GoCompare’s study is timely and its numbers speak for themselves. At the same time, some caution is in order when it comes to drawing certain conclusions from them. For example, the study points the finger at Canada for having a very low percentage of EV charging stations per square km. But this is a little misleading, since it doesn’t take into account the fact that about 90% of the Canadian population lives in a thin strip of the country close to the U.S. border. The percentage of charging stations per square km might be very low for the country as a whole, but that doesn’t mean that Canadian EV owners are not well-served by charging stations in the regions where most of them live.

As always when it comes to numbers and stats, careful analysis is in order. But studies like this do confirm that much work needs to be done before electric vehicles become the go-to choice for the majority of Canadian consumers.