Ontario rebate for EVs called a “bribe”

TORONTO, ONTARIO - The Ontario government has announced rebates ranging from $4,000 to $10,000 for people who buy plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles after July 1, 2010.

“Ontario’s target is to become a world leader in building and driving electric cars,” Premier Dalton McGuinty said.

Speaking in Toronto, McGuinty said his government aims to have one out of every 20 vehicles driven in Ontario electrically powered by 2020.

"This will be the most attractive rebate, certainly in North America," McGuinty said at a press conference. "It may be the most attractive rebate... in the world.

“This would put Ontarians into cleaner, more efficient vehicles, and expand the electric vehicle market for manufacturers,” he said.

Green vehicle licence plates would allow drivers of the energy-efficient vehicles to use less-congested carpool lanes, even if there is only one person in the vehicle, he said.

Drivers of the cars would also have access to parking at Ontario government and GO Transit lots. The size of the rebate will depend on the vehicle’s battery capacity.

Few electric cars currently exist, however. And the infrastructure to recharge them is still very much in its infancy. More, Ontario is already struggling to meet its regular electricity demands, much of which rely on old-fashioned coal-fired generating plants.

The premier said the province will also add 500 electric vehicles to its Ontario Public Service fleet.

“Expanding the use of electric vehicles by consumers and government will help create and sustain jobs in the auto sector and put Ontario at the forefront of the new, green economy in North America,” McGuinty said.

Cheri DiNovo, an NDP member of the legislative assembly, said Mr. McGuinty’s announcement lacked details.

“Where do you plug these cars in? Who is going to provide an infrastructure? Is that going to be privatized? We don’t even know how many dollars are being invested in this,” she said.

Automotive analyst Dennis DesRosiers said the incentive plan isn’t well thought through.

“The fact they are offering such a high upfront incentive is an admission that there is high risk for this technology,” Mr. DesRosiers said. “Years before the vehicles are available they’re putting a bribe of $10,000 in the market place and the only reason they do that is because they anticipate they aren’t going to sell.”

Mr. DesRosiers said the government would have been further ahead if it followed the lead of the U.S., which has invested $25-billion in a fund to promote electric battery technology.

“If the government was serious about helping the electric car industry they would have put one, two, three, five billion dollars into a fund to promote companies to developed the technology,” he said.

Julia Langer, Executive Director of the Toronto Atmospheric Fund, said Ontario’s goals for electric cars are “ambitious” but need to go even further.

“It will certainly improve the greenhouse gas emission profile for the province but we do have to push it further. Going up to 2050 we really have to be reducing by three-fifths the number of cars on the road.”

The announcement said the government aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Ontario to six per cent below 1990 levels by 2014.

Of the plug-in cars that exist, Chevrolet's Volt is the closest to production, scheduled for some time in 2011 and expected to cost roughly $40,000 US, but still in development.

Toyota is working on a plug-in version of its Prius, and Mini has an electric version capable of approximately 200 kilometres, though it is still not available to the general public. Mitsubishi also is working on a small electric car called the i-MiEV with a 130 km/h top speed that can travel 120 km on a single charge but could cost close to $50,000.

One of the more high-profile companies building electric cars is Tesla, which is currently assembling in California the Roadster, a two-seat electric sports car that can get more than 200 miles on a single charge with an acceleration of zero to 60 mph in just under 4 seconds.

It currently costs $80,000 US.

Toronto-based Zenn Motor Co, which builds electric vehicles for use in low-speed areas, was excluded from Ontario’s rebate program because its cars are too slow for highway use. Zenn has promised to launch a highway-capable car by the end of 2009.



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