Deep dive into Canada's EV market: types, benefits and incentives

There’s a rising tide towards the electrification of Canadian vehicles. Consider this: statistics released by the Canada Energy Regulator revealed that 5.3 per cent of vehicles were electric vehicles (EVs). That figure may sound low at first but it’s up from 2.9 per cent in 2019, nearly doubling the number of registrations in just two years. Further, it was only one per cent two years before then. That rapid increase shows EVs are no longer a niche product.

But on the flip side, clearly the vast majority of Canadians still aren’t sold on EVs. If you’re among them, maybe more information is needed to help you consider making the switch. Let’s explore the topic starting with the basics. Did you know there are three basic types of Electrified Vehicles?

Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV)

First, there’s the classic hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) you’ve been hearing about in the news for decades. As the word suggests, it combines different systems, hybridizing traditional gasoline power with other propulsion from an electric battery. HEVs replenish that (electric) battery with regenerative braking converting kinetic energy, plus with power from the internal combustion engine (ICE). In short HEVs can deliver fantastic fuel economy, but you need gas to drive one.

Battery Electric Vehicle (BEC)

At the other extreme, there’s the battery electric vehicle (BEC), which takes zero gasoline. They run fully on a huge electric battery which sits beneath the floor, anchoring the ride. You can recharge a BEC by plugging in at home using a Level 1 or Level 2 charger that plugs into a 120- or 240-volt electrical outlet. You can also recharge by plugging into a Level 2 or Level 3 (DX fast charging) public charging station. These can be found at many highway service stations, local gas stations, retailers and municipal buildings. Some high-speed chargers can replenish a battery to 80 per cent within 20 to 60 minutes. Typically, you’d plan a re-charging visit, integrating with an app on your phone.

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV)

Between these two types of partial and fully electrified vehicles lies the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV).

Like the basic hybrid, it blends electric and gasoline power, but as the suffix suggests, you plug this one in to revive the battery power. And like the BEC, it comes with a charger that you can plug in – or you can use certain types of rechargers at public stations.

Reasons for buying any level of EV vary. Many consider these cars as eco-conscious choices, meaning they’ve purchased them to emit less greenhouse gas… or none at all depending on your choice from the above. That’s the ecological decision. There’s little or no pollution. For other owners, eco may well mean economical, which we’ll discuss a bit later.

In electric mode, EVs also produce almost no noise pollution. Without an engine revving, they’re functionally silent and manufacturers actually had to develop noises to make them noticeable to distracted pedestrians and cyclists.


Other reasons for making the switch? Canada’s federal government offers rebates of up to $5,000 on EVs and many provinces offer equal rebates or more. In Quebec, for example, EV purchasers may be eligible for the $5,000 federal rebate, plus another $7,000 from the province. There are also rebates available for installing home charging stations in some provinces.


Many Canadian cities offer cheaper, sometimes, free parking while charging. At the moment, only Vancouver has a congestion charge, but it would come as no surprise if other big cities with significant traffic issues start experimenting with incentives for drivers to change habits. Free or cheaper access for EVs in the centre of town is a powerful one.


Another significant reason to consider an EV doesn’t get as much attention in the media as some of us enthusiasts would like to see. That’s the driving experience itself, from liftoff. To handling. Above, we mentioned regenerative braking. Nearly all EVs employ this source of power. You can tap the brake pedal or simply lift your foot from the accelerator and slow by coasting (which barely lasts with braking). That’s part of the joy and fundamental difference of electrified driving. All EVs have their real-time data charts constantly reporting how green your driving style is. This gamification of conscious driving is addictive.


But there’s no denying the fleetness of even the least sporty looking EV. With no gears in electric mode, you can access almost maximum torque immediately if you stomp the accelerator. Of course, it’s less environmental to use power like that but it’s comforting to know you can be a slingshot in traffic when it matters. With their large flat batteries mounted low in the vehicle, EVs also offer a lower centre of gravity, for a remarkable driving experience.

Of course, we can’t know for sure why 94.7 per cent of new vehicle registrants chose internal combustion engine vehicles in 2021 instead of EVs but, over the past decade, we’ve all heard the expression range anxiety. Yet much louder these past two years have been the complaints about inflation, especially regarding gasoline these two newsy topics could mean greatest growth for PHEVs.

They’re no panacea; they usually have a limited range on purely electric power. But let’s say it’s a 60-km range such as what’s offered in the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, and you live 20-km from work. You could live without needing gasoline to drive to work ever again. Just plug the vehicle in when you get home. So it minimizes, possibly even eliminates the need for expensive and highly taxed gasoline. As a bonus, if you’re charging at night in many parts of the country, you’re also getting power at a lower cost.


What about when you’re not driving to or from work but instead to Granny’s 600 km away? That’s when you dip into the PHEV’s gasoline power. Most BEVs don’t extend to such range, so owners need a planned extended stop to recharge, perhaps more than once. With a PHEV you can just drive it like a traditional ICE vehicle. So long, range anxiety.

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