Quebec toughens ZEV sales mandate, frustrating automakers

Quebec Environment Minister Benoit Charette announced April 21 that the province was “accelerating” the yearly percentage of ZEVs that must be sold until the goal of 100 per cent is reached in 2035.

The current Quebec sales mandates are already more aggressive than the proposed federal mandates and the new provincial targets widen that spread significantly. For example, the federal ZEV target for 2027 is 23 per cent, the current mandate in Quebec is 34 per cent and the newly proposed mandate is 43 per cent. For the 2030, the federal target is 60 per cent, the current Quebec target is 65 per cent and the proposed mandate is 85 per cent.

Charette said Quebec’s changes will be open to public consultation over 45 days starting May 3.

“By accelerating the implementation of the standard, we want to improve the offer of electric models to Quebecers,” he said in a statement.

Since the province’s ZEV mandate took effect in 2018, auto manufacturers have been required to accumulate credits by supplying zero-emission vehicles to the Quebec market. This credit target is calculated according to a percentage of the total number of vehicles that each automaker sells in Quebec.

STIFFER PENALTIES

The province is also increasing penalties. Automakers failing to meet the new phased-in targets will face penalties of $20,000 per vehicle compared to the current $5,000 fine, said Adams.

Automakers who don’t hit their targets can also purchase credits from other car companies that have collected more credits during a given period.

The government’s revisions will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, said Daniel Breton, CEO of Electric Mobility Canada, a lobby group promoting EVs.

“The more restrictive the regulations, the more ZEVs we will have on our roads. The government isn’t changing the means … it is revising the targets.”

As well, some automakers could choose to distribute a few internal-combustion vehicles to maintain the ZEV quota imposed by the province, said Ian P. Sam Yue Chi, president of the Corporation of Quebec Automobile Dealers (CCAQ), which represents 890 franchised dealers in the province.

“Faced with the government’s haste, car manufacturers could decide to simply reduce the volume of vehicles distributed for our market in order to avoid penalties,” he said in a statement. “Ultimately, the government will find itself keeping old, polluting vehicles on our roads, since we are shaking up the distribution chain.”

Automakers, which continue to deal with global supply chain problems and facing limited inventory, “could reduce the [overall] number of vehicles they send to Quebec … and accordingly raise vehicle prices,” said Adams.

Breton dismissed the industry’s concerns, saying “auto manufacturers have always been opposed to regulations, as far back as when seatbelts were introduced.”

‘WINNERS AND LOSERS’

The EV transition will produce “winners and losers, but let’s never forget that we’ve been talking about this future for decades.”

Quebec offers consumer incentives of up to $7,000 per vehicle. In 2022, about 12 per cent of new registered passenger vehicles were electric vehicles compared to 0.7 per cent in 2015, according to the province.

Forty-two per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in Quebec come from the transportation sector, the province said.

Quebec’s revised targets prove a need for national standards, said Adams.

“We don’t need more types of regulations tied to one technology, we need to set constructive goals in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” he said. “And having a federal mandate rather than individual provincial mandates would make much more sense. Because the way things are now, it’s just too much to deal with for manufacturers.”

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