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Electric vehicle purchase spike expected as Malahat closure squeezes off gasoline

Gasoline shortages stemming from this week’s Malahat ­closures are pushing even more people to electric vehicles, says a board member of the Victoria EV Association.
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Vehicles line up on Tolmie Avenue to gas up at an Esso station on Douglas Street on Thursday. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Gasoline shortages stemming from this week’s Malahat ­closures are pushing even more people to electric vehicles, says a board member of the Victoria EV Association.

But if they want to make the move to electric, it could take three months to a year to get a new vehicle, though used ones are available, said Glenn Garry, noting manufacturers have struggled to keep up as demand for EVs grows.

Garry, who has owned an EV since 2015, said distribution bottlenecks that led to many gas stations running dry this week might be enough to convince drivers who had been on the fence to take the electric plunge. Many Greater Victoria gas stations sold out of fuel Wednesday as tanker trucks were caught in lineups on the Malahat in the wake of closures and travel restrictions as storm damage was repaired.

“I’m sure this is going to push a few thousand [drivers to electric],” he said.

“I have a great deal of sympathy for people lining up for gas … 10 years ago, that would have been all of us.”

There are about 12,000 EVs already on the road on Vancouver Island and about 50,000 on the mainland — they represent about five per cent of the vehicles insured in B.C., said Jim Henshaw of the Victoria EV Association.

Julian Sale, who operates Motorize Electric Vehicles in Sidney and View Royal and is one of Canada’s largest resellers of EVs, said phone calls and visits to the sales lot on the Colwood strip have increased sharply this week, amid frustration over the gasoline crisis.

“[On Wednesday] a gentleman with an estimating business came in and bought two — a Tesla and a Nissan Leaf,” said Sale. “He just decided that, with all that’s going on, that now was the time.

“There are a lot of drivers out there saying the next vehicle they buy will be electric, and they’re getting pushed into it a little faster now.”

Sale had 24 vehicles on the View Royal lot Thursday morning — ranging from Teslas to Nissans and Kias — but wasn’t expecting them to all be there by the end of the day.

Most buyers are in the 50-plus age category, said Garry, who estimates up to 120 EVs are sold every day in the province, either through dealerships or private sale by EV users upgrading to newer models.

Sale said it’s likely higher, noting the Tesla dealership in Vancouver alone sells on average 175 cars every day, despite escalating prices by Tesla.

Sale said Motorize Electric sold 250 Tesla Model 3s last year. Last year marked an all-time sales high for the 10-year-old company, and this year, sales are 35 per cent ahead, he said.

Tesla is by far the leading seller of electric vehicles in Canada, said Sale, adding many of the other major vehicle manufacturers are much slower in bringing their EV products to showrooms and car lots.

The province passed the Zero‑Emission Vehicles Act in 2019, requiring automakers to meet an escalating annual percentage of sales and leases to reach 10% of light-duty vehicle sales by 2025, 30% by 2030 and 100% by 2040.

The legislation is intended to ensure a greater availability of zero-emission vehicles at more affordable prices in B.C., to help the province meet its greenhouse-gas-reduction targets.

B.C. has joined several jurisdictions with the standards, including Quebec, California and nine other U.S. states.

dkloster@timescolonist.com