Skip to content

Opinion: BC consumers will pay the price for changes to Electric Vehicle Rebate Program

Threshold for qualifying vehicles has been reduced from an MRSP of $55,000 to $50,000.
Recently announced changes to B.C.'s electric vehicle rebate program effectively push the purchase of a new ZEV out of reach for many British Columbians, says the New Car Dealers Association, which has delivered the program since 2011.

The New Car Dealers Association of BC (NCDA) has been proud to deliver the CleanBC Go Electric Passenger Vehicle Rebate Program since 2011 – in partnership with the provincial government and most recently BC Hydro, as a funding provider since 2023.

The program has become a central component of the province’s Clean BC plan to lower climate-changing emissions and the results have been significant. Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEVs) represented almost 23 per cent of all new light duty vehicle sales last year, leading the nation on a per capita basis. Today, there are more than 155,000 zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) travelling BC highways. 

It is for these reasons that we are very disappointed by a government announcement that immediately removes 75 per cent of vehicles eligible for a provincial rebate from the program.

The threshold for qualifying vehicles has been reduced from a manufacturer suggested retail price (MRSP) of $55,000 to $50,000. Additionally, SUVs and station wagons/vans have been moved from the larger vehicle category, with a higher MSRP threshold, to the car category with the lower threshold of $55,000.

There is a lot to consider when weighing the cost and benefit of an electric vehicle, but typically, price is at the top of the list – and the changes effectively push the purchase of a new ZEV out of reach for many British Columbians.

Various studies and opinion polls suggest a softening in the new ZEV market – and these changes also threaten the ability of manufacturers to meet government’s mandated ZEV sales targets, which require 26 per cent of all light vehicles sold by 2026 be ZEVs and 90 per cent of all light vehicles sold by 2030 be ZEVs – just over five years from now.

Where the more immediate mandated target had been previously viewed as a ‘gimme’ based on the current trajectory of sales, the latest changes remove that level of certainty.

Unless government adopts a flexible approach, manufacturers will be hard-pressed to meet the mandated targets, resulting in significant penalties of up to $20,000 per vehicle under the target ratio. This will ultimately lead to them restricting the overall supply of all vehicles for sale in BC to avoid penalties – and this in turn, will drive up all new and used vehicle prices, as we saw during the pandemic.

Our collective success has been the result of what we have referred to as a three-legged stool with the three key components being point of purchase rebates, convenient and reliable access to fast charging infrastructure where people live, work and socialize, and educating consumers about the latest features and technology so they can arrive at a vehicle that best meets their personal needs. The government has effectively cut off one of those legs and the proverbial stool is at a tipping point.   

At a time when affordability and climate change are top of mind among British Columbians, the focus should be on strengthening the incentive program, not reducing access – at least until there’s more price parity between ZEVs and internal combustible vehicles. Similarly, If the province is truly committed to meeting its climate change objectives, it needs to show leadership by helping dealers and manufacturers build momentum and assist consumers to make the transition to clean energy vehicles.

Blair Qualey is President and CEO of the New Car Dealers Association of BC and can be contacted at: