With growing interest in electric cars, experts say they have not yet become widespread

When he spoke with his friend Seymore Applebaum about the efficiency of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, he was intrigued.

Applebaum, who lives north of Toronto, was looking for a new car. While safety features have been our top priority, the high cost of fuel cannot be ignored.

So, in January, he replaced his car with a brand new hybrid vehicle (PHEV), a car that can run on both electricity and gasoline. Applebaum says it can travel nearly 50 miles using only the battery, which is more than enough to get around the city.

On his recent trip to the city center, he recalls: “I drove 45 kilometers … The only thing I used was the electric motor and the electric battery that powered the car.

Usually on a day like this, [it] That’s comparable to a $ 10- and $ 15 driving fee. »

Automotive industry analysts say rising gasoline prices are driving more consumers to buy electric and electric vehicles.

Gasoline prices have risen nationwide in recent weeks. According to GasBuddy fuel price tracker, the national average price of regular gasoline was just under $ 1.98 a liter on Sunday afternoon. (Kirk Fraser / CBC)

Pump prices have risen across Canada in recent weeks. It is estimated that Vancouver could see the highest prices in the country this weekend, which could arrive $ 2.34 per liter for regular fuel. According to GasBuddy fuel price tracker, the national average on Sunday afternoon was just under $ 1.98 a liter.

“Canadians are excited about rising fuel prices, but they really think this is the new normal,” said Peter Hatgis, KPMG Canada’s national leader in the automotive industry. Regarding a recent survey by the advisory group.

“When consumers believe it or perceive it as true, they will adjust their behavior to the type of vehicle they are buying.”

Kevin Roberts, Director of Analysis and Knowledge of the U.S. Online Car Market Industry CarGurus, said: cross country exam He experienced a similar trend.

“With rising gas prices, interest in electric cars has grown almost exponentially with only a two-day delay for new and used cars,” he said.

But even with the renewed interest in electrified cars, experts say too few options, and too high prices, mean they have not reached mainstream.

While American consumers prefer larger vehicles, such as SUVs and minivans known for their usefulness, electric vehicles usually come in compact or sedan models. Electric Vehicle Line: Charger Availability These are also considerations for many Canadians, Hatgis said.

The availability of charging stations and the range of electric vehicle models is a priority for Canadian drivers. (Doug Ives / The Canadian Press)

intensification of production

However, major investments in electrification of major carmakers are beginning to bear fruit.

Analysts say a variety of models and sizes will hit the market in the coming years. Battery life is also improving, with many models capable of traveling more than 400 miles on a single charge, according to the manufacturer’s estimates.

“It’s definitely a turning point,” Hatgis said. “I think there is a combination of factors that suggest an alternative to the internal combustion engine. »

The biggest test for consumers will be whether manufacturers can reduce prices enough to lure customers to the showroom, and electric vehicles are on the road, said Greg Mordo, associate professor and chair of ArcelorMittal. in Advanced Manufacturing Policy at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

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While some models start at less than $ 50,000, many are north of that number, and some sell for more than $ 100,000.

The perfect place for Canadian shoppers? Between $ 35,000 and $ 45,000, says Mordo. The key to reaching that price, he added, is mass production.

“We have to produce cars in North America at this level, and we need big vehicles, not a few specialized vehicles where 10,000 or 15,000 are sold a year, because that’s a lot of vehicles we have now, Tesla,” Mordo said. . verification.

In April, General Motors announced a $ 2 billion investment, with With the support of the Ontario government and the federal governmentwhich will bring electric cars out of assembly lines in Oshawa and Ingersoll, Ontario, earlier this year.

Similarly, Stylantis owns brands such as Dodge and Jeep Invest billions in electricity Its plants are located in Windsor and Brampton, Ontario.

However, suppliers warn that as factories begin to produce electric models, it will take time to get to the current production of gasoline vehicles.

Seymour Applebaum says the recently purchased plug-in hybrid gives him the option to make longer trips, but he can place orders around town without using gasoline. (Ben Nelms / CBC)

Focused on energy efficiency

While interest in electric vehicles may increase, Hatges also anticipates a shift to gasoline vehicles.

“I think you’ll see the quest to make cars lighter and more fuel efficient, even when it comes to electricity,” he said. “Heavy vehicles use more energy to drive on the road, whether it’s electricity or fuel.”

As long as gasoline prices remain high, the market could see a shift from SUVs and trucks, which consumers and manufacturers have favored in recent years, to gas models.

“We are fascinated by vans and SUVs, like the Americans, and now there are many on the road … I don’t see that changing any time soon,” he said.

“But in the medium and short term, will you see a more fuel-efficient car transformation or re-examination? I think so. The price at the pump is very, very important. »

Applebaum has promoted the flexibility of plug-in hybrids, saying it doesn’t care about the scope. And while its PHEV costs more than a comparable non-electrified model, changing its previous vehicle combined with three or four years of fuel economy made it affordable, he said.

With gasoline prices now higher than in January, he said, “it’s much healthier.” verification.

Now friends say be careful.

“They say the next car they buy will be an electric car. »

Written by Jason Vermes with files by Abby Pliner.

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