top of page

Guilbeault to outline plan today to phase in electric-vehicle sales mandate

The era of gas-powered vehicles in Canada is on the brink of extinction as Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault reveals groundbreaking regulations mandating a shift to battery-operated cars, trucks, and SUVs.

Under the new regulations, automakers are given a 12-year window to gradually phase out combustion engine vehicles, with an obligation to increase the proportion of electric models in their offerings each year.

This initiative fulfills a commitment made by the Liberals more than two years ago, targeting the complete cessation of combustion engine passenger vehicle sales by 2035. Environmental groups are applauding the move, seeing it as a significant step towards a greener future.

However, automakers express skepticism, emphasizing the need for additional measures to encourage the adoption of electric cars. They advocate for the expansion of charging infrastructure and increased government incentives for electric vehicle purchases.

Guilbeault announced the final regulations for the Electric Vehicle Availability Standard at George Brown College in Toronto, a fitting location that launched an electric-vehicle service technician training program last year.

He stressed the importance of this plan in ensuring a wider availability of electric vehicles in Canada at more affordable prices. The regulations aim to compel companies to align their production with the increasing demand for electric vehicles, reflecting the inevitable shift towards sustainable transportation.

"We are at a tipping point," Guilbeault asserted, citing notable growth in electric vehicle sales in Canada and a previous surge in demand that exceeded the available supply.

According to the regulations, by 2026, one in five vehicles introduced to the Canadian market must be battery electric or longer-range plug-in hybrid models. This percentage will progressively increase, reaching 60% in 2030 and culminating in a complete transition to 100% electric vehicles by 2035.

While gas-powered vehicles sold before 2035 will continue to be on the roads for years, no new ones will be permitted. Presently, approximately one in 10 new vehicles registered in 2023 is electric at the national level, signifying the need for a substantial increase in electric vehicle sales within the next three years.

Guilbeault urged all provinces to align with the national electric vehicle plans, singling out Ontario as one of the slow adopters. Ontario, which once had a provincial consumer rebate, saw a decline in electric vehicle sales after the rebate was canceled in 2018. However, the province has recently shown signs of recovery.

The Canadian government's multi-billion-dollar investments in the electric vehicle supply chain in Ontario aim to support the transition. The mandate has garnered support from proponents like Cara Clairman, president of the EV adoption advocacy non-profit Plug'n Drive, who believes it will level the playing field for electric vehicles nationwide.

However, Brian Kingston, president of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers' Association, argues that the regulation is redundant, given the industry's significant investments in electric vehicles. He emphasizes the need for collaboration to facilitate a smooth transition.

This regulation also puts Canada at odds with U.S. regulations, where the federal government is pushing for increased electric vehicle adoption through emissions policies. Despite differences, Canada's federal Liberals point out that 10 U.S. states already have EV sales mandates similar to Canada's.

Challenges such as charging capacity and uneven distribution of charging ports across provinces remain, prompting the government to address these issues. Guilbeault highlighted ongoing efforts to revise the national building code to ensure residential buildings constructed after 2025 have the electric capacity to accommodate charging stations.

The new sales mandate will operate under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, utilizing a credit system to encourage compliance. Manufacturers exceeding annual targets can bank or sell credits, promoting flexibility and innovation in the evolving automotive landscape. The government hopes to catalyze a faster transition by allowing automakers to start earning credits towards 2026 and 2027 targets over the next two years.