[Chronique de Gérard Bérubé] True electric mania?

Enduring trend reversal or circumstantial craze? Electric vehicles (EV) are experiencing a strong gain in popularity in purchase intentions. Should we see in this a first “demand-destroying” effect generated by rising gasoline prices?

In 2020, due to the pandemic, Canadians went to “Budget First” – this concern concerns 31% of respondents to an EY survey – then to “Health First” (26%), with sensitivity to planet a priority for 16% of respondents.

In the October 2021 issue of the survey, EY talks about an attitude that has decisively shifted from an orientation towards individual health and financial ability to an orientation towards personal well-being and ecological imperatives. The planet moved to the top of the agenda, shared by 26% of respondents, compared with 25% for concern directed at affordability or price levels.

With rising gasoline prices fueling inflation, 46% of car buyers are now looking at EVs, up 11 percentage points from 2021. Canada, it is true that interest in EVs is below the global average of 52 %, but exceeds purchase intentions in the United States (29%) and Australia (38%). We should add, however, that intentions vary from one region to another. British Columbia (54%) and Quebec (51%) respondents expressed the greatest interest […] while the Prairies showed the least interest in this regard (25%)”, explains the company EY.

Environmental reasons?

We are pleased to see that environmental motivations are intensifying. While the initial purchase price remains the main obstacle for 38% of respondents, this reluctance has reached 66% last year. And more of them say they would pay more. Among them, 80% confirm they are willing to pay a supplement and nearly two-thirds of consumers would not mind paying up to 20% more, we read.

However, while 38% of potential future EV buyers mention the environmental factor, 37% mention rising costs associated with internal combustion vehicles, which is not unrelated to rising prices at the pump. And despite the good intentions, it is said that there is still a lot to be done to put the necessary charging infrastructures into practice. Charging capacity and speed, as well as concerns about the range of EVs, discourage buyers. Add to this the distortions and interruptions in the supply chain, which multiply delays and shortages, and issues related to raw materials and battery volume.

Globally, a survey released in May found that more than half of respondents (52%) who are looking to buy a car say they will opt for all-electric, plug-in hybrid or hybrid vehicles. This is an increase of 11 percentage points from 2021 and 22 percentage points from 2020.

Public transport, the loser

However, sensitivity to the environment stands out less. The reasons mentioned relate, first of all, to the increase in teleworking and the hygienic risk, which penalizes public transport and shared mobility. “If the car – especially the EV – is the ‘winner’ in consumers’ minds, public transport is certainly the loser,” writes EY. Business travel by public transit is down 15% globally from pre-COVID-19 levels, and is a trend across three major regions: Asia Pacific, Europe and North America. Business travel by public transport is down 35% in Australia, 30% in Canada and 29% in Italy. “Of the 18 countries in the survey, only one – India – reported a slight increase in public transport use, an increase of 1%.”

With the help of regulation, the EY Mobility Lens Forecaster predicts that EVs will dominate sales of all other powertrains by 2033, five years ahead of schedule, the company continues.

That said, from a Canadian perspective, the CD Howe Institute indicated in July 2021 that 7.7 million zero-emission vehicles should be on the road by 2030, or the equivalent of 30% of all vehicles, if Ottawa is to comply. its GHG emission reduction targets in the transport sector. There were 202,000 in December 2020. According to Statistics Canada, the number of new zero-emission vehicle registrations reached a significant milestone in 2021 at 85,600, and represents 5.2% of all new motor vehicle registrations.

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