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Albertans charging ahead with EVs as Calgary dealerships report record sales

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More people are driving electric vehicles (EV) in Alberta, though the industry believes more incentives and improved infrastructure could help improve the shift to the green technology.

In the last decade, the number of EVs registered in Alberta has climbed from 83 in 2012 to 9,338 in 2022.

The data shows the number of registered EVs are up 65 per cent year-over-year in Alberta though overall, it represents only 0.26 per cent of the total vehicles on the road here.

Based on the data, the Electric Vehicle Association of Alberta (EVAA) predicts the number of registered EVs to climb to 1,026,401 by 2032, and will make up 26 per cent of total registered vehicles in Alberta.

"Alberta is definitely coming on strong," said EVAA director Andrew Batiuk.

He credits the increased demand to a number of factors including increased selection due to the easing of supply chain issues seen during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Almost all manufacturers have products on the road or seem to come to the road so, the selection increasing. The cost is staying somewhat flat, although we'd love to see them decrease further, but, those decreases are kind of be offset with inflation challenges.

"Prices aren't increasing too much with EVs. It's just allowing Albertans to start adopting and getting into the EV lifestyle," he said.

Dealerships are also experiencing increased demand for EVs in Alberta.

Mercedes-Benz had its most successful month of electric sales in September across Canada, including at its dealership in downtown Calgary.

According to general manager Mazen Aboulhosn, the dealership went from selling one or two EVs a month on average to 16 in September.

"We've seen a lot more interest, we have fantastic incentives right now. We're also including a charger installed into people's homes, which was really one of the reasons people may not buy an electric vehicle because it doesn't have that convenience," he said.

Aboulhosn also attributes the increased consumer awareness about EVs for the recent demand.

"It's a new technology, there are really cool features that they have. However, there is a lot of hesitation at the same time because we don't like to step into what we don't know,” he said.

To help illustrate the technology, he spearheaded a YouTube series that documented his family's 6,000 kilometre road trip in an EV from Calgary to Los Angeles.

He says the experience allowed him to experience and understand his clients concerns about EVs including the impact cold weather can have on range, as well as the increasing cost of electricity.

"What we experienced first-hand on the road trip was even having to plug in on a public network. It worked out on average to about one-fifth and more than one quarter of what it would cost to run a gas vehicle," he said.

The EVAA also stresses that driving an EV is far cheaper than driving and paying for a gasoline-powered vehicle and offers a cost comparison calculator on their website.

"If you pay $400 a month in gas you're going to pay about $100 on electricity," said Batiuk.

However, the biggest concern from the industry is the infrastructure to support the increasing demand for EVs in Alberta.

There are roughly 255 charging locations across Alberta and around 25 fast charging stations in Calgary and Edmonton respectively.

In addition to more chargers, the industry would like to see EV chargers become a requirement in growing cities.

"What we'd love to see is more government directive on mandates on when buildings are built, that they are EV friendly," said Batiuk.

"For existing buildings, when owners want to on their own accord pay or retrofit in a condo unit they are able to do so because we are unfortunately seeing situations where condo boards and what not are preventing the installation of chargers."

Aboulhosn hears similar concerns from customers coming into his dealership who are hesitant to purchase an EV due to concerns about charging stations in Calgary.

"At the municipal level, they need to get more involved and make these EV chargers more readily available," he said. "If that's truly the direction they want to go they need to make it a lot more attractive for people that live in condos and townhouse condos."

Despite the demand, Alberta still lags behind other provinces when it comes to adopting EVs.

According to Statistics Canada data, the largest number of zero-emission vehicles was registered in Quebec, B.C., and Ontario.

Aboulhosn also believes there is a perception in Alberta that driving an EV translates that you oppose the oil and gas industry, which he doesn't believe is the case.

"Don't count out electric vehicles because you feel it's part of a political mandate forcing you into buying one," he said.

"You should consider an electric vehicle because it may be a better solution than what you have right now. But, you should also not purchase an electric vehicle because that's what is trending and the cool thing that is to do. Every vehicle works differently for different people."

The federal government does offer a funding incentives for EVs up to $5,000 for eligible vehicles while the provincial government does not offer incentives as seen in other provinces such as B.C.

Alberta is the largest hydrogen producer in Canada and the UCP government has expressed plans to grow both the export industry and the use of low-emission fuel in the local transport industry, including pursuing a network of hydrogen fuelling stations across the province.

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