Your guide to owning an electric car in Canada

By Arshi Hossain

If there’s someone rooting for electric vehicle adoption, it’s the Government of Canada. They’ve set ambitious targets, aiming for at least 20 per cent by 2026 and 60 per cent by 2030, as outlined in Canada's 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan.  

The zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) market share of light-duty vehicle sales has steadily been increasing in Canada, from almost 4% in 2020 to 6% in 2021, to 9% in 2022. Notably, by the third quarter of 2023, one out of every eight new cars purchased in Canada was a zero-emission vehicle. This growth is fueled by falling prices for certain models and the volatility of fuel costs.  

But how different are they from gas-powered cars when it comes to ownership costs and maintenance?

Here’s what you should know about EVs.

What’s new in the EV market?

Currently, 20 automakers sell EVs in Canada. Some sell just a single EV model, while others, including Kia, Tesla, Nissan, Ford, and Audi, sell numerous electric models.  

Significant advancements have been made in battery technology, from improving the performance of electric vehicles in cold weather to extending the range of many new models to over 400 kilometres.  Consumers looking to purchase a new vehicle now have a variety of options, including fully electric, plug-in hybrid, and fuel cell vehicles.

Although the majority (about 80 per cent) of electric vehicle owners prefer to charge their vehicles at home, the Canadian government is also making substantial investments in charging infrastructure. By 2029, they plan to invest $1.2 billion to install 84,500 chargers across the country.  

Read more: Aspiring electric vehicle drivers want to go the distance

Top five EVs in Canada

Here’s how the top 5 electric cars rank in Canada, from most popular to least:

  1. 2023 TESLA MODEL Y 75D LONG RANGE 4DR AWD – retails for $61,999
  2. 2023 TESLA MODEL 3 STANDARD RANGE PLUS 50 4DR – retails for $55,990
  3. 2023 TESLA MODEL 3 LONG RANGE 75D 4DR AWD – retails for $64,990
  4. 2022 TESLA MODEL Y 75D LONG RANGE 4DR AWD – retails for $85,000
  5. 2021 TESLA MODEL 3 STANDARD RANGE PLUS 50 4DR – retails for $54,990

Tesla is not only the largest EV manufacturer in the world, but also accounts for over 70 per cent of EV cars sold in Canada.

Related: Does the manufacturer’s suggested retail price affect my car insurance rate?

Canadian government rebates for buying an EV

The Government of Canada provides a federal rebate of up to $5,000 for eligible new battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). To qualify, the base model for passenger vehicles must have an MSRP below $55,000, though higher-priced trim levels are eligible up to an MSRP of $65,000. For light trucks, the limit is between $60,000 and $70,000.

In addition to the federal rebate, provincial and territorial governments offer their own incentives. Not every province offers a rebate, but those that do allow it to be combined with the federal rebate.  

Here’s a breakdown by province:

Quebec: In addition to federal incentives, Quebecers may be eligible for rebates of up to $8,000 on EVs under $60,000.  

Newfoundland and Labrador: Drivers can receive incentives from $2,500 for shorter range plug-in hybrids to $5,000 for all-electric and longer-range plug-in hybrid EVs.

Nova Scotia: Offers a maximum $3,000 provincial rebate for both new BEVs and PHEVs. For used vehicle rebates, the province offers between $1,000 – $2,000.

Yukon: Provides a $5,000 rebate for new BEVs and PHEVs with a range of 50 km or more and a $3,000 rebate for new PHEVs with a range of less than 50 km.

British Columbia: BC’s Go Electric program is based on Individual household Income requirements. You could get up to $4,000 for the purchase or lease of a BEV or hydrogen fuel cell vehicle.

Prince Edward Island: Offers a $5,750 rebate for residents that purchase a new or used EV. There’s also a $3,250 rebate for consumers who purchase a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle.

The province also offers a $750 charging incentive to help with the cost of installing Level 2 home charging or charging costs for those unable to access home charging.

New Brunswick: Rebates are available to New Brunswickers who purchase or lease a new or used EV at a licensed automobile dealership in the province. Incentives available include:

  • New Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV): $5,000
  • New long range Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV): $5,000
  • New PHEV: $2,500
  • Used BEV: $2,500
  • Used PHEV: $1,000
  • Electric Vehicle Home Charging Stations: $750

Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Nunavut don’t currently offer any provincial incentives. In the Northwest Territories, only residents in communities connected to the province’s hydroelectric grid are eligible for EV rebate.

Are EVs more expensive to insure?

Canada's rate of EV adoption lags behind the U.S. and the U.K. - but if it follows the trends of those larger markets, EV owners in Canada are likely to see higher insurance rates in the near future, according to a new study by Morningstar DBRS. The specific amount depends on many different factors such as your gender, driving history, location, type of car, and its rating by the Canadian Loss-Experience Automobile Rating (CLEAR) system. 

Teslas in particular can have higher insurance premiums due to their expensive, Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) parts. Their batteries can also be costly to replace if damaged in a collision. Additionally, specialized mechanics may be required for repairs, further increasing costs. This will all be factored in when determining your annual insurance premiums.

However, there’s no hard-and-fast rule that says that your EV will always result in higher insurance premiums. For example, the Nissan Leaf is one of the most affordable EVs in the market and is cheaper to insure when compared to their gas-powered counterparts. On average, it costs $2,561 to insure.

The closest gas-equivalent model to the Nissan Leaf is the Nissan Altima. On average, you’d spend $3,121 annually on your insurance premiums.

Related: How cars are rates and how it affects insurance premiums

How much popular Tesla models cost to insure

Considering electric cars have more costly components than conventional cars, insurance premiums for your Tesla will be more expensive.  

Here’s how much it costs on average to insure these popular Tesla models from cheapest to most expensive:

  1. 2023 TESLA MODEL 3 LONG RANGE 75D 4DR AWD = $3,509/annually  
  2. 2023 TESLA MODEL Y 75D LONG RANGE 4DR AWD = $3,441/annually
  3. 2022 TESLA MODEL Y 75D LONG RANGE 4DR AWD = $3,167/annually
  4. 2023 TESLA MODEL 3 STANDARD RANGE PLUS 50 4DR = $3,075/annually
  5. 2021 TESLA MODEL 3 STANDARD RANGE PLUS 50 4DR = $3,071/annually

How to charge your EV

The cost to charge an EV can vary depending on the location and the method of charging. Here are some details on how to charge your car:

Home charging: The most affordable and convenient way to charge an EV is at home. If you own a Tesla Model 3 powered by a 53-kWh battery, for example, it will cost you anywhere between $3.00 and $4.00 to fully charge your Tesla overnight from your home charger.  

In Ontario, the province’s electricity rates are set at 8.2 cents per kWh during off-peak hours, a similar scenario would come out to roughly $5.00. In B.C., where electricity costs 9.75 cents per kWh during the first 1,350 kWh consumed, expect to pay anywhere between $5.00 and $6.00 for an overnight home charge.

If you plan on installing a home charger, they can range anywhere from $1,000 - $2,000. Some provinces offer home charger rebates, which can dramatically reduce the price of your purchase price and installation.

Supercharger: While on the go, Tesla owners can rely on public charging stations to fill up. Tesla has an established charging network called the Supercharger. Tesla rates typically hang around 26 cents per kWh (this is an estimate and rates vary from each charging station according to their power). However, soon non-Tesla owners will be able to get access to this network, as the EV giant has announced they’ll be opening up their Supercharging network to other EVs by the end of this year.  

How long does it take to charge a Tesla?

The time it takes to charge a Tesla can vary based on the charging method and the specific model of the vehicle. Here are some general estimates:

Level 1 charging (120V): This is the slowest method, using a standard household outlet. It can take between 20 to 40 hours to fully charge a Tesla.

Level 2 charging (240V): This method is faster and is commonly used at home or at public charging stations. It typically takes between 8 to 12 hours to fully charge a Tesla.

Supercharging (480V): Superchargers are Tesla’s proprietary charging stations and provide the fastest charging speed. They can recharge up to 200 miles of range in just 15 minutes.

It’s recommended to charge your Tesla 80% for daily use and only charge 100% for long trips to help preserve the health of the battery over time.

Saving on fuel costs

EVs save their owners an average of $19,353 in fuel costs over a five-year period versus a comparable gas-powered model.

According to the CAA Cost to Own calculator, a Tesla Model 3 would cost you $399.47 in fuel cost per year (electricity) if driven 20,000 km a year.

Maintaining and repairing your EV  

Assuming eight years of ownership, with a mileage of 20,000 kilometers a year, despite higher upfront costs, EVs protect your wallet better than a traditional car.  

The Tesla Model 3 accounts for 42 per cent of EV repairs in Canada, and the Model Y comes in second at 20 per cent. In Canada, Tesla has a network of Tesla service centers, Tesla collision centers, and Tesla-approved body shops that are authorized to service and repair Tesla vehicles.

Over its initial decade of service, a Tesla Model 3 is projected to cost you approximately $3,587, factoring in maintenance and repair. This is lower than the industry average for luxury sedan models by a margin of $8,374.  

There’s also only an 8.64% likelihood that a Model 3 will require a significant repair during this period. This represents a 30.92% improvement compared to vehicles of a similar category.

Aside from Teslas, as of mid-2022, the popular Chevrolet Bolt EV was reported to have majority of the batteries replaced from 2017 to 2019. However, the replacement rate for newer models was not as high.

Amongst 1,684 Chevrolet Bolt EV owners, 58 per cent of Bolts from 2017 to 2021 underwent a battery replacement. Here’s a breakdown of the percentage of Bolts that have had their batteries replaced, sorted by model year:

  • 2017: 82.4%
  • 2018: 86.0%
  • 2019: 88.0%
  • 2020: 2.0%
  • 2021: 2.6%

Read more: To repair, or not to repair: Who decides?

Routine EV maintenance checklist  

To maintain your EV effectively and avoid expensive repairs, stick to this simplified checklist:

Tire rotation: Every 8,000-11,000 km
Brake inspection: Every 16,000-24,000 km
Cabin air filter replacement: Every 24,000-48,000 km
Battery coolant change: Every 80,000-160,000 km
Suspension and steering inspection: Every 80,000-160,000 km
Battery inspection: Every 160,000 km

Related: My vehicle is a write-off. Now what?

How much does it cost to replace the battery for an EV?

Replacing an EV battery costs on average $5,500 to $20,000 depending on the model, which is less than replacing a gas-powered car’s engine. These batteries are typically available only from the manufacturer or dealership, and installation time can add to the cost. Whether you have a warranty or not can really influence the cost.

Electric car batteries typically last between 10 and 20 years, with manufacturers like Tesla, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Nissan offering warranties for at least 70 per cent capacity retention over a specified period. This lifespan is significantly longer than that of a standard internal combustion engine vehicle.

How to make back the cost of your EV

An Autotrader study examining 31 EVs that had a higher price tag than their gasoline-powered counterpart found that five of them such as, the Volkswagen ID.4 Base 4D Utility and the Nissan LEAF SV 5D Hatchback recovered their additional cost within the first year when factoring in lower maintenance costs, savings on gas, and government rebates. Another six managed to do so within five years. The remaining vehicles took six years or more to offset their higher initial price.

While Tesla models weren’t on this list, we can use a tool created by the Electric Vehicle Association of Alberta (EVAA) to compare between the Tesla Model 3 and the BMW 330ix, a comparable Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicle that many potential Model 3 buyers might consider.  

According to the tool, the Tesla Model 3 SR+ could save you $2,632 in annual costs, costing just $411 to operate compared to the BMW 330ix’s $3,043. Over a typical loan period of 5 years, you could save a total of $13,160.

All vehicles, including EVs, depreciate over time — no car truly “pays itself off”. However, despite EVs being $11,000 more expensive than their gas-powered equivalents upfront, they offer an average of over $15,000 in savings on ownership costs over time.

Related: 5 ways to slash your car expenses

How safe are EVs?

Electric vehicles have been found to perform well in protecting their passengers. However, due to their significant weight, they can pose a greater risk to lighter vehicles and pedestrians in a crash.  

EVs weigh much more than traditional gas-powered cars because of their large battery packs. Electric versions of vehicles from Ford, Volvo, and Toyota were about 33 per cent heavier than their gasoline-powered counterparts.

Safe and sound, or (way too) sound-proof?

The motors of hybrid and electric vehicles are notably quiet and emit almost no sound. This can make it difficult for their presence to be detected on roads. This poses a heightened risk of collision for cyclists, pedestrians, and Canadians with disabilities.  

To mitigate the risk posed by quiet motors, the Government of Canada has mandated minimum levels of noise from hybrid and electric vehicles.

With the new regulations, all hybrid and electric vehicles will be mandated to have sound emitters that generate noise at low speeds. While automakers have the flexibility to decide the type of sound the vehicle produces, the volume and pitch must be such that a road user can discern whether a vehicle is accelerating or decelerating.

No matter what type of vehicle you drive - be it an EV, a hybrid, or a conventional car - the golden rule remains the same: Drive smart, drive safe. A good driving record is a key factor in reducing your car insurance premiums. By prioritizing safety, you’re not just protecting lives, you’re also protecting your wallet.  


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