Energy Minister Bill Bennett looks at the power system of a plug-in electric vehicle on display at the Vancouver International Auto Show.

B.C. recharges rebate for electric vehicles

Up to $5,000 for plug-in hybrid or battery-only car under program that starts April 1

The B.C. government has revived its emission-free vehicle subsidy program, offering up to $5,000 to buyers of battery-powered and plug-in hybrid cars.

Energy Minister Bill Bennett announced the program at the Vancouver Convention Centre as it set up for the annual auto show this week. B.C. will spend $10.6 million, most of it for vehicle purchase rebates and the rest to finance new car charging stations.

The program takes effect April 1 and is funded to continue until March 2018. Those scrapping a 2000-or-older vehicle can receive an additional $3,250 toward a new battery electric or eligible plug-in hybrid under the BC Scrap-It program.

Even with the rebate, an electric car is more expensive to buy than a comparable gasoline-powered vehicle, but the fuel savings average about $1,600 a year compared to gasoline.

B.C.’s last electric vehicle rebate program ran from 2011 to 2014, subsidizing the purchase of 950 electric vehicles and more than 1,000 charging stations.

[Charging locations are available here. For eligible vehicles, click here.]

Bennett said electric vehicles and charging stations are not just a big-city option, and some are used in his home town of Cranbrook and other towns across the province, despite their shorter range.

“Anybody with a 200-amp service can put a 30-amp breaker on their panel, put a charging station in their driveway or in their garage and charge their vehicle at home,” he said.

That option won’t qualify for any provincial subsidy, other than for the vehicle.

The program also includes rebates of up to $6,000 for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, which are still not sold in B.C.

Hydrogen vehicles were heavily promoted leading up to the 2010 Winter Olympics, with a fleet of 20 transit buses provided for Whistler. They were parked late last year, after bringing in hydrogen fuel from Quebec to keep them running. If they can’t be sold they will be converted to diesel.

Hydrogen fuel cell cars are available in California, although at least one manufacturer expects to have them available in B.C. within two years, Bennett said.