B.C. beefs up financial incentives to switch to commercial electric vehicles

The B.C. government has boosted the financial incentives for businesses and other organizations buying commercial electric vehicles.

Credit: Courtesy of Green Power Motor Co.

This zero-emission bus in Victoria is one of several models made by Vancouver-based GreenPower Motor Co., which could benefit from the provincial government’s recent move to offer higher rebates on commercial electric vehicles

Some businesses can now apply for rebates worth 66 percent of a new EV’s sticker price, to a maximum of $100,000

Whether they need a truck, a bus or a bike, organizations thinking about buying electric vehicles (EVs) just got a financial jolt from the provincial government.

Through CleanBC’s revamped Specialty-Use Vehicle Incentive (SUVI) and its Commercial Vehicle Pilot (CVP) program, Victoria aims to encourage B.C. companies to follow local consumers’ lead by switching to EVs. “The interest and the demand seems to be accelerating, so part of what we’re trying to do is push that forward,” says Bruce Ralston, minister of energy, mines and low-carbon innovation.

With Quebec, B.C. leads the country in adoption of passenger electric vehicles, Ralston notes—a fact that won’t surprise anyone who’s seen the swarms of Teslas on Vancouver streets. The province has already met its 2025 goal that 10 percent of all new light-duty cars and trucks sold be EVs, as mandated by the Zero-Emission Vehicles Act (ZEVA) of 2019. Sixty percent of British Columbians are interested in buying an electric vehicle or already own one, according to a recent survey by Vancouver-based consulting firm Strategic Communications and SFU think tank Clean Energy Canada.

How big are the commercial EV incentives? Thanks to $31 million in funding from StrongerBC, the provincial COVID-19 economic recovery plan, SUVI has doubled the maximum rebates available to businesses, local and regional governments, public sector organizations and nonprofits purchasing medium- and heavy-duty EVs. For each eligible vehicle, the government will offset 33 percent of the cost, to a maximum of $100,000—up from the previous $50,000.

Besides medium- and heavy-duty vehicles such as battery electric or hydrogen-fuelled passenger buses, EVs covered by the SUVI rebates include airport and port service vehicles and heavy-duty transport trucks; and smaller vehicles like motorcyles, cargo e-bikes and low-speed utility trucks.

Businesses, which can cut fuel and maintenance costs by going electric, have a big role to play in shrinking carbon emissions. As Ralston points out, commercial vehicles account for 60 percent of emissions from transportation in B.C. and 22 percent of the provincial total. “If we’re going to get to our emissions reduction goals, we’ve got to do something in this sector.”

Credit: Courtesy of Canadian Electric Vehicles

Parksville-based Canadian Electric Vehicles sold this Might-E Truck to Butchart Gardens in Brentwood Bay

Good news for local manufacturers

Besides promoting EV use, the rebates will help the burgeoning B.C. commercial electric vehicle industry, Ralston says. Two local players are Vancouver-headquartered bus maker GreenPower Motor Co. and Parksville-based Canadian Electric Vehicles, whose main product is what it calls a ruggedized light-utility low-speed vehicle (LSV) truck.

Companies in the province’s ailing tourism sector, including restaurants and other hospitality outfits, are eligible for rebates worth 66 percent of the cost of a medium- or heavy-duty vehicle, up to a maximum of $100,000. Tourism businesses might not be able to afford a new EV right now, Ralston admits. “But when they begin to look at recovery, then there’s an opportunity to do that and to save some money.”

The CVP program gives organizations access to $11 million to support piloting unique or major deployments of medium- and heavy-duty or very large EVs for uses such as domestic air, marine or rail transportation. Rebates for vehicles and charging or refuelling infrastructure cover as much as 33 percent of the cost, up to $100,000. 

Although EVs have made little headway in the commercial vehicle market so far, many companies are talking about them, observes Ralston, adding that General Motors Co. recently announced an electric delivery van. “So the market is turning,” he says. “We just want to get in front of it and encourage that. And I think the other thing is that as people are interested in buying, it will stimulate demand.”

You can find more details on CleanBC’s Go Electric program here