Plug-In Vehicle Sales In Canada Could Surge, But Only With Increased Supply, Research Finds

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Originally published on EV Obsession.

Plug-in electric vehicle sales could surge substantially in Canada if vehicle choice and supply (as well as public awareness) is improved, according to new research from Simon Fraser University.

The work found that over 33% of all Canadian car buyers are interested in a plug-in electric vehicle — this in spite of the fact that only ~1% of vehicle sales in Canada are currently electric. Worth noting here, though, is that the vast majority (89–93%) of those interested in plug-ins are apparently interested in plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) rather than all-electrics (BEVs).

EV demand policy

With regard to the lack of options and supply, one should remember here that there are only 7 models of plug-ins currently available in Canada. The research notes that, without an increase in options and numbers, market share is unlikely to surpass 4–5% by 2030. With an increase in supply (up to 56 different plug-in options), though, market share could grow to over 20% by 2030, according to the researchers.

The research findings are the result of the researchers surveying new vehicle buyers (the 2015 Plug-in Electric Vehicle Owners Survey — PEVOS, n = 94) and plug-in owners in British Columbia (the 2013 New Vehicle Owners Survey — NVOS, n = 1754).

EV growth projection


Via the data, the researchers identified 3 distinct groups of buyers: Pioneers (current plug-in owners); potential Early Mainstream buyers (those likely to adopt relatively early); and Later Mainstream buyers (those that follow the other two, natch).

Here are some specifics via Green Car Congress:

  • PEV Pioneers tend to have higher engagement in technology- or environment-oriented lifestyles, and express higher levels of environmental concern than Mainstream buyers (NVOS respondents). PEV Pioneers also have higher education and income; they are more likely to have a graduate degree (30% vs 11%) and an annual household income greater than $90,000 (67% vs 33%). Moreover, PEV Pioneers are more likely to be male and to own their own home compared to both Mainstream new vehicle owners and the Canadian Census.
  • Most PEV Pioneer respondents owned either the Nissan Leaf (46%), Chevrolet Volt (24%), or Tesla Model S (10%). Tesla owners, in particular, report the highest income and education levels.
  • Among PEV Pioneer respondents, the median driving distance for one “driving day” was 45 km (28 miles), with a mean of 59 km (37 miles). Median “driving days” varied across owners of the Nissan Leaf (37 km), the Chevrolet Volt (45 km), and the Tesla (39 km). Among Mainstream (NVOS) respondents, the median driving distance for one “driving day” was 36 km (22 miles), with a mean of 54 km (34 miles).
  • Most Mainstream respondents have little familiarity with PEVs, and are particularly confused about the concept of a PHEV.
  • Motivations for PEV interest included driving flexibility (for PHEVs), fuel savings, and pollution reduction. Resistance to PEVs included range limitations (especially for BEVs), reliability concerns, and aesthetic concerns (ie PEVs look “strange”).
  • Two-thirds of Mainstream respondents already have Level 1 recharge access at home. Only 20-33% of Mainstream respondents are aware of public chargers, but awareness does not seem to influence PEV interest.
  • Different PEV models are associated with different symbols; all are associated with being pro-environmental, while the Tesla is more associated with images of style and success.
  • Mainstream and Pioneer respondents differ considerably in terms of motivations for PEV interest, eg exploring new technology, seeking environmental benefits, or realizing savings.
  • Mainstream and Pioneer PEV respondents are generally open to the idea of enrolling in a “utility controlled charging” program, though some are concerned about privacy and the potential for battery degradation.

The researchers also identified 5 preference-based segments among Mainstream (NVOS) respondents:

  • The “PEV-enthusiast” class (representing 8% of the sample) place very high value on hybrid, PHEV and BEV designs relative to a conventional gasoline vehicle. This group has high interest in PHEVs and BEVs, but places no significant value on fuel savings.
  • The “PHEV-oriented” class (25% of the sample) has positive and significant valuation of hybrid and PHEV designs, and a negative and significant valuation of BEV designs. This group has high interest in PHEVs and is very conscious of fuel savings.
  • The “Hybrid-oriented” class (16% of sample) prefers hybrid vehicles to other vehicle types, having a mildly positive valuation of PHEVs and a negative valuation of BEVs.
  • The “Hybrid-leaning” class (27%) only has a positive valuation for hybrids, which is smaller than the “Hybrid-oriented class.”
  • The “Conventional-oriented” class (23%) has negative valuation for hybrids, PHEVs and BEVs, These respondents have no interest in any vehicle other than a conventional gasoline vehicle.

Interesting work. The lack of public awareness with regard to plug-in hybrids certainly seems to be a sticking point with regard to sales. With the release of next-gen offerings like the 2016 Chevy Volt, perhaps awareness will increase via increased advertising?

The new findings are detailed in a paper published in the journal Energy Economics.

Image Credit: SFU

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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