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'Just doesn't make sense for us yet': Victoria businesses unconvinced by Ottawa's plans for electric vehicles

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Many businesses want to go green by swapping out their fossil fuel vehicles for electric.

But businesses that currently operate large fleets of commercial vehicles on our roads say there isn’t a business case to make the switch to electric, despite the federal government's plans to invest in the industry.

On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in Greater Victoria, laying out his government’s plans to expand electric vehicle (EV) use in the country.

"We know we need to cut emissions," said Trudeau. "We know we need to reduce pollution."

While speaking in Colwood on Monday, Trudeau promised $400 million to build 50,000 electric charging stations across the country. He also said the current rebate program that offers $5,000 on EV purchases will be extended.

COMMERCIAL VEHICLE OPERATORS NOT CONVINCED

"I would love to [switch to EVs] but I think the cost of the infrastructure to get them going, just how are you going to manage it?" said Al Hasham, president and CEO of Maximum Express Courier.

Maximum Express Courier has more than 30 vehicles in its fleet, four of which are small electric cars.

Hasham says he's looked into making a full switch, but found that it’s not possible.

"There’s not just the cost of the vehicle, there’s the cost of the infrastructure change of trying to put in chargers everywhere, and how are we going to do that?" he said.

Matt Phillips, founder of Phillips Brewing Company, had similar concerns.

"It’s a dream of ours," he said. "We’ve looked into it a number of times and we’d love to go that way but it just doesn’t make sense for us yet."

Phillips Brewing operates around 30 vehicles as well, three of which are EVs. Phillips says right now, the business case also isn’t there.

"It’s the capital costs of buying a new electric truck," said Phillips. "They are hard to come by, they’re really expensive, and the range is fairly limited."

The Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers Association says since 2020, Ford, GM and Stellantis have invested more than $12 billion into Canada.

"The majority of that investment has been earmarked for electric vehicle assembly and the EV battery supply chain," said Brian Kingston, president and CEO of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers Association.

Kingston says the investment commitment from the feds is a good start, but falls short in two ways.

"The reality is the incentive is not enough," said Kingston. "We’ve been asking the federal government to triple the size of the incentive and bring it up to $15,000."

He also calls the target of building 50,000 new charging stations across the country extremely unambitious.

"We need publicly accessible charging infrastructure across this country, and [that's] not going to be 50,000 chargers, it’s going to be millions of chargers," said Kingston.

That’s because not all people or businesses are in the position to install charging stations where they park their vehicles at night, he said. 

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