Plug-in Electric Car Sales in Canada For January 2013 Page 2

2012 Nissan Leaf winter test

2012 Nissan Leaf winter test

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These incentives were part of the Quebec government's 2011-2020 Action Plan for Electric Vehicles, which called for an investment of $250 million ($3000 per capita) for electric vehicles and associated industry, leveraging the province's extensive hydroelectric resources while reducing the province's global warming emissions.

Hydroelectric surplus in Quebec

Quebec is a major exporter of hydroelectric electricity -- so much so that Hydro-Quebec, the provincial utility, claims the ability to handle 1 million electric vehicles without adding substantial capacity. That would be almost one-quarter of the cars in the province.

The fact that the province receives 98 percent of its electricity from hydro power may be one reason it was able to enact a token carbon tax in 2007 of $3.50 per tonne CO2 or three cents per US gallon: the utility sector was already on-side. 

Since many Quebecers use their extraordinarily cheap electricity (compare Montreal's residential rates of $0.07/kilowatt-hour to San Francisco and New York City's roughly $0.22/kWh) for residential space heating, the net effect for most voters was a minuscule increase in gas prices.

As a point of interest, British Columbia -- which enacted a revenue-neutral carbon tax in 2008, currently at the equivalent of $30 per tonne CO2, or 27 cents per US gallon -- is also a hydroelectric province, albeit one whose power generation is roughly in line with consumption.

Hydro-Quebec currently produces about 200 terawatt-hours of electricity per year, roughly in line with New Mexico.  About 12 percent of the electricity is exported, and the utility's expansion plans could roughly double this figure in the coming decade from planned hydroelectric and wind developments alone. 

A prescription for plug-in success

In this context, Quebec's success with electric vehicles in Canada, can be seen to stem from the provincial government and utility acting aggressively on their natural, aligned interest in the plug-in electric car sector.  For Hydro-Quebec, electrified transport is a prudent way to invest in captive home-market demand. 

For Quebec leadership, it offers the prospect of creating national champions in an emerging "green jobs" industry, with the the collateral benefit of reducing the province's global warming emissions.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: As published, this article did not identify that the 600 rebates remaining in Quebec were for regular hybrids. It also incorrectly cited electricity prices for industrial customers in Montreal, San Francisco, and New York City, misidentifying them as residential rates. These errors have now been corrected, and the author offers a chastened thank-you to alert readers Ricardo Borba and Xiaolong Li.]

Matthew Klippenstein is a professional engineer and plug-in electric vehicle enthusiast.  A member of the Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association, he lives with his family in the nearby suburb of Burnaby, and blogs at


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