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All about EVs: Owning an electric vehicle in Canada

Electric vehicles are sparking a green revolution on Canada’s roads.

EVs made up nearly 10% of all new light-duty vehicle registrations in Canada at the end of 2022, more than triple the 2.9% registered in all of 2019.

Many people’s first thought when they consider buying an EV is that it will help the environment. But did you know there are other potential benefits to going electric? For example, owning and operating a greener vehicle can also save you some green in your wallet. (More on that later.)

Let’s dig a little deeper to clear the air about electric vehicles. If you’ve ever thought of buying an EV—now or somewhere down the road—these are some important things to ponder.


Types of EVs

Although there are four types of EVs, the term ‘electric vehicle’ most commonly refers to these two:

  • BEV: battery electric vehicles charged by plugging into the power grid
  • PHEV: plug-in hybrid electric vehicles that combine both electrical plug-in power and traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) technology

While PHEVs are a great option to reduce emissions, BEVs are truly zero-emission.

EVs and the environment

On the whole, electric vehicles are definitely more environmentally friendly than those with traditional combustion engines.

A 2020 report released by Corporate Knights Inc. forecasts that if 100% of all new passenger cars and SUVs sold in Canada were EVs by 2030, Canadian greenhouse gas emissions would fall by a whopping 33 megatonnes per year.

And according to the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), the average BEV in the U.S. generates 60 to 68% fewer greenhouse gas emissions during its lifespan than a comparable gasoline powered car. Lifespan includes raw materials extraction, manufacturing, vehicle operation, and vehicle disposal or recycling.

What about waste created by used EV batteries? Indeed, one global forecast predicts 14 million batteries per year will reach end-of-life by 2040. However, the ICCT addressed that issue too. It says recycling EV batteries could reduce the need to mine new raw materials for such batteries (like lithium) by 40% worldwide before 2050.

So even with caveats about batteries, EVs may still have the edge as a more environmentally friendly choice overall.

Energizing beyond the car

Batteries could see a second life as part of the grid. EV batteries are typically replaced when they hit 80% of their original capacity. Some researchers are now retrofitting those batteries to meet demands on the electrical grid, particularly with solar installations. This reuse strategy lessens the environmental impact of EVs while simultaneously creating capacity in renewable energy.

Driving range

Driving range refers to how far an electric vehicle can travel on a fully juiced battery before needing to be charged up again.

If the idea of running out of battery power between charges has given you second thoughts about buying an EV, you can park that worry permanently. That’s because most EVs have a range of up to 400 kms on a single charge, much farther than the 30 to 40 kms that the average Canadian drives each day.

Yet Canadian winters can put a chill into EV batteries, right? Yes, but not to the degree  that cold temperatures would pose a problem for the majority of motorists here in the great white north.

Although a 2022 study found an EV’s range can be reduced to 175 kms when the temperature is between -1 and -6 Celsius, that’s still well within the average Canadian’s daily driving.

Consider trying before buying!

The next time you need a rental vehicle, ask about an EV. Many rental companies are offering electric and hybrid vehicles. This can be a great way to see if an EV fits into your lifestyle, without the commitment.

Electric vehicle costs

Although new electric vehicles do have higher purchasing prices than their traditional ICE counterparts, governments in Canada are taking action to offset those costs.

The federal government offers rebates of up to $5,000 on the purchase or lease of new electric vehicles. Some provinces offer rebates, too. For example, combining federal and provincial incentives can slash up to $12,000 off the price of a new EV in Quebec.

It’s true that purchase price isn’t the only expense related to owning an EV:

  • A replacement battery can cost between $6,000 and $27,000.
  • Buying and installing a faster home EV charger costs approximately $2,500.
  • There are fees to power up at many public charging stations.

On the other hand, going electric can actually save drivers money in certain ways:

  • A BC Hydro study suggests electricity for an EV costs $158 to $738 per year vs. annual gasoline costs of $1,066 to $4,987 for a traditional vehicle.
  • Since EVs don’t use oil, transmission fluid, filters, fan belts, or exhaust systems, maintenance expenses can be significantly lower.
  • Owners may find that EVs could be cheaper to insure if their insurer offers discounts or other incentives to customers who own electric vehicles.

So depending on how much you drive, the higher upfront cost may be offset by these lower operational costs. If you can save on those operational costs while you help save the planet, that’s food for thought as well.

EV charging

Every new electric vehicle comes with a charger the owner can use at home with a standard electrical outlet. But in a 2023 survey of more than 16,000 EV owners across Canada, some expressed concerns about finding public charging stations (both private and government-run) when they need them.

These concerns aren’t falling on deaf ears; in late 2022, the federal government pledged to fund 50,000 more charging stations in Canada.

Private companies that run public charging stations are also helping out by introducing roaming. Drivers can use their membership card from one private charging program at stations run by other participating providers throughout Canada and the U.S.

Meanwhile, smartphone apps like PlugShare, Electrify Canada and ChargePoint are making it easier than ever to find the nearest public charging station as well.

EV charging at home

Charging at home carries its own considerations, such as:

  • The voltage of an EV and the type of charging equipment required
  • How long it takes to charge different EV models overnight
  • The compatibility and capacity of your home’s electrical system

As noted earlier, new EVs come with a free standard charger, but buying and installing a faster one can cost about $2,500. Fortunately, some provinces offer rebates of up to 50% of the cost to install a home charger at a single-family residence.

For apartments, tenants require landlord approval to install a home-based charger. In condo complexes, installation may be difficult or prohibited in the shared parking areas of some multi-unit dwellings. Without at-home charging, EV ownership may not be feasible for some commuters.

If your landlord or condo board raises an eyebrow about the cost of installing a charger, there’s some good news on that front: the federal government offers partial subsidies for installation in multi-use residential buildings.

Availability of EVs

Looking to buy an EV today? You can—but supply hasn’t kept up with demand. Currently, at 40% of Canadian dealerships, you might wait more than six months to actually drive it off the lot.

Things are improving, however. The number of models sold in Canada rose to 74 in 2023, up from 68 in 2022. And in late 2022, the federal government proposed legislation requiring at least 20% of all new vehicles sold in Canada to be zero-emission by 2026.

That quota could rise to 100% by 2035, which will undoubtedly make it easier to get your hands on an EV in Canada.

Manufacturers are doubling down on EVs

Availability won’t be an issue for long. Brands such as Jaguar, Chrysler, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus and Audi have all announced plans to go fully electric in the next decade. Even the entire General Motors family will go electric by 2035 as part of the company's mission to be carbon neutral by 2040.

The finish line

Overall, Canadian EV owners are a happy lot, with 97% saying they’d likely buy one again.

If you’ve ever wondered whether an electric vehicle is right for you, consider all of these factors carefully. This information is meant to be a helpful starting point, wherever your journey to potential EV ownership ends up taking you.


Whether you drive a gas-powered vehicle, a hybrid, an EV, or are in the market for a new car, ensure you have the proper coverage. Speak with your Wawanesa broker who can ensure you’re properly protected, and learn more about our auto insurance today.

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