Owning an EV in Canada

Electric vehicles don’t use gas, and have lower maintenance costs due to fewer moving parts in the engine. While the sticker price can be higher, lower overall operating costs can help make EVs an affordable, green option for you.

But what type of EV is right for me?

Not all EVs are charged by being plugged in. Understanding the four different EV types will help you determine which is the best for your vehicle needs.

Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs)

Onboard batteries power one or more electric motors. You plug these batteries into the electricity grid to recharge. These vehicles also recharge themselves to some extent by collecting electricity from the friction of braking.

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs)

Powered by an internal-combustion engine (ICE) and an electric motor. You can plug the on-board battery into the grid to charge.

Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs)

Combines an internal-combustion engine (ICE) with an electric motor. HEV batteries are charged by on-board operations, not by plugging into the grid.

Fuel-cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs)

Fuel cells generate electricity by combining oxygen and hydrogen. FCEVs are rare in Canada at this time, and few re-fueling stations are available.

How much does an EV really cost?

With gasoline-powered vehicles, we’re in the habit of separating purchase price from operating cost. But to objectively compare the prices of these vehicles with those of EVs, we have to look at both purchase price AND operating cost.

Check out CAA's Driving Costs Calculator to compare the operating and ownership costs of thousands of vehicles on the road in Canada.

There are three ways you can save with an EV in the long run:

  1. So long gas stations!

    1. The average Canadian spends close to of $3,000 on gas every year. A BEV doesn’t require gas to roll, it requires electricity. The cost to fuel the average BEV over the course of a year is only a few hundred dollars.

  2. Bye Bye frequent maintenance!

    1. EV owners don’t just save money on gas, they also spend less time at the shop, since EVs require less frequent and less complicated maintenance than conventional gas vehicles. The average BEV owner saves about 40% to 50% in maintenance compared to an ICE vehicle.

  3. Cheaper insurance!

    1. Some insurance companies, like CAA, offer incentives and discounts for people who have electric or hybrid vehicles.

But, you ask yourself, the purchase price is so high, when will I recoup that cost? Plug ‘n Drive, a non-profit and leader in the EV industry, provides a tool to show the break-even point for some of the most popular EVs on the road. Most vehicles take less than five years to break even.

Life-cycle cost

Some people worry about whether they are really doing the planet any favours by buying an EV, or whether they will actually save money in the long-run if they buy one. After all, the battery is the most expensive component by far.

In Canada, most of our electricity is generated by low-emitting hydro and nuclear sources. That means EV ownership can help reduce your personal vehicle greenhouse gas emissions by more than 60%. Not to mention, this can result in savings of nearly $3,000/year on fuel.

Some other questions to ask when thinking about an EV:

  1. Should I buy or lease?

    1. That’s an important question, no matter what kind of propulsion system you want. Given the technology’s higher retail price tag and the fact that battery life is still somewhat of an unknown, many people are reluctant to go all-in and buy an EV. If you’re one of them, then leasing might be a better option because government incentives apply to all electric vehicles, whether leased or purchased outright. As with a traditional gas-only vehicle, buying an EV and keeping it past the financing period should make it more profitable.

  2. Should I buy new or used?

    1. Plug-in America, a U.S. organization specializing in electric mobility, performed a detailed analysis of the electrical components of used vehicles and came up with asimple conclusion: If the battery is in good shape, buying a slightly used electric car is like buying a new car for less money, taking depreciation into account. The first wave of EVs had a shorter range, making them not suitable for all uses. But they might be a good solution for city dwellers, or suburban families who are looking to buy a second vehicle. Consult CAA-Québec’s guide to buying a used EV here, but note this market is still young and used EVs can be hard to find.

Availability of EVs in Canada

Looking to purchase an EV or hybrid? Check out the vehicles available in Canada. While we would like to include used EVs, there aren’t enough on the road yet to provide good data, so our EV Finder focuses on new vehicles.

Now it is time to learn about charging an EV in Canada.

Learn More