While the emissions plan tabled by the federal government on March 29 includes more incentives for Canadians to drive zero-emissions vehicles (ZEVs) that consumers generally support, a new survey suggests there are challenges when it comes to the alternative vehicle sector.
Earlier this year, the Canadian Transportation Alliance commissioned Abacus Data to survey consumers about their vehicles, purchasing intentions, alternative fuel vehicles and awareness of and support for government policies relative to decarbonization.
The survey of 1500 adults, conducted from January 7 to 11, used the Lucid exchange platform, with an accuracy of plus/minus 2.53% at the 95% confidence level.
Eighty-seven percent of Canadian households own at least one vehicle, with just over one-third owning more than one. Of those surveyed, 92% drive an average of 407 km each week. In addition, most Canadians (53%) expect to purchase a vehicle within the new two years, and 91% of those surveyed are willing to purchase an alternative fuel vehicle.
For most consumers, cost (85%) and fuel efficiency (73%) were among the top three priorities for their vehicle needs. While Canadian consumers are supportive of reducing emissions from the transport sector with a preference for an incentive approach compared to mandated policies, only 22% of those surveyed said environmental impact was among their top three priorities for vehicle attributes.
The survey also found the majority of Canadian prefer a larger vehicle, with 55% of respondents owning a sport utility vehicle or pick-up truck, and 49% owning a car. In other words, consumers put their personal needs first when it comes to their vehicle choices.
To incentivize most vehicle consumers who are willing to purchase an alternative fuel vehicle, the survey shows more consumer education and additional government investment in infrastructure and vehicle development are needed.
Most respondents said that electricity was a renewable fuel, (71%), while 11% said petroleum was a renewable fuel.
Finally, while most of those surveyed are willing to consider purchasing an alternative fuel vehicle, nearly half (49%) of those expect their next vehicle to run on gasoline or diesel. Only a quarter of respondents (24%) say they will likely purchase an HEV and 19% an EV. Just over half were somewhat or very familiar with the federal government’s emissions targets for 2030 and 2050.
What does this all mean?
Most Canadian households own a vehicle, and more than 50% expect to purchase a vehicle in the next two years.
Canadians support plans for emission reductions, but more education about those timelines and how they could help influence consumer choices is necessary.
There also needs to be more awareness of government policy on emission targets and decarbonization.
If future consumer vehicle needs are to include alternative fuel vehicles, then more incentives are needed for those consumers to change their present-day assumptions.
Finally, consumers need to know that if they purchase an alternative fuel vehicle, the infrastructure to support that vehicle, charging stations and all necessary supports are in place for them to feel assured their preferred mode of transportation is reliable, affordable and works for their needs.
In essence, the survey shows a significant gap in understanding of just how we achieve net-zero and the roles that various sectors can play. It’s clear there’s a pathway forward that isn’t just one sector in isolation, but the road will be windy and long to get there.
As an industry, let’s make the path as clear as possible and show what can be done through innovation, collaboration and leading-edge technology. We owe it to our sector and all Canadians to meet the road where it’s going, versus letting it pass us by.