Electric vehicles seem to be in the news a bit more than usual this month. A report this month by Electric Mobility Canada showed that electric vehicles are starting to make up a significant percentage of vehicle sales, in B.C. anyways. In the third quarter, 10 per cent of sales of passenger vehicles in B.C. were Zero Emission Vehicles or ZEVs (battery-electric, plug-in hybrid and fuel cell vehicles but not conventional hybrids), making it the highest adoption rate in the country which stood at 3.5 per cent. Year over year, the number of ZEVs sold in the third quarter nearly doubled from 2,415 to 4,696 in B.C.
Electric car manufacturer Tesla unveiled an electric truck, although, whether that reveal was a success was up in the air.
Even in 100 Mile House, an electric vehicle charging station is nearly complete in front of the Visitor Centre and, for those paying close attention, there are a few electric cars driving around.
This has all led to some interesting questions. One of which is taxes. In Canada, these are usually charged at the pump but with electric vehicles not frequenting gas stations, they’re obviously not paying motor fuel tax, among other taxes. Whether we all drive electric cars or not, there’s still going to be a need for road maintenance which is paid for by taxes. This has led some to speculate about how and when changes are going to be implemented, as well as some complaints that electric vehicles should already be paying taxes as well as for the electricity at the charging stations for which there isn’t always a fee.
However, this seems to be missing the forest for the trees a little. Currently, the federal government is providing up to $5,000 in rebates for electric vehicles and B.C. is doing the same with $3,000. Even if these new vehicle owners were paying road taxes, it’d be years before they managed to pay that “back” let alone actually contribute to government coffers. Cutting rebates is also far simpler than implementing a new tax system, meaning we’ll likely see cuts there before we see ZEV owners actually pay taxes.
Looking abroad, many countries have road taxes do it by engine displacement or vehicle weight, meaning that if B.C. switched to a system like that, rural residents who drive long distances could actually end up paying fewer taxes than they do now, assuming the total revenue collected stays the same.
However, at the point that the situation becomes so significant the government is forced to change the tax system, the more interesting question, perhaps, is what will happen to many of the gas stations? Sure in the Lower Mainland real estate is at such a premium they’ll get demolished and built over top of in no time. However, in small towns and rural areas where gas stations line the main road through, it might not be such a pretty picture. At an electric charging station, such as the one in 100 Mile, there are no attendants nor truckers refuelling it regularly. Until recently, in Lac la Hache one former gas station sat empty for years.
We should be putting a lot more thought into how workers from attendants to truckers and small towns are going to be affected by this, even if it is still years down the line.