When Heidi Rast and her husband moved to P.E.I. last fall, they wanted to upgrade their Toyota Prius to a plug-in hybrid or battery electric vehicle, which can be charged by plugging into an outlet or charging station.

But after contacting four dealerships, she was only able to find one model available on the Island. 

“It’s been a bit frustrating,” Rast said. “We went into this process expecting that vehicles would be available and that they would be supported by the local dealerships and that hasn’t turned out to be the case.”

Rast said the dealerships she approached throughout her search told her the electric or hybrid plug-in models are not available and she hasn’t been given the option to order one to the Island. 

Heidi Rast says she’s considering looking off-Island to find the car she wants. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

She said she’s now considering looking off-Island to find the car she wants.

“Which ends up making it a much more complex process,” Rast said. “Not only would you have to figure out how to manage your insurance to get the vehicle here but … you have to pay the tax a second time and go through the process of getting the tax from the buying province where you purchased it back.

“So it really is quite a disincentive, it makes the process much more complicated than it needs to be.”

Dealerships say electric cars in short supply

The CBC spoke with a number of dealerships in the Charlottetown area, which say electric vehicles are in short supply due to a lack of inventory produced by manufacturers.

It’s just availability of electric vehicles right now … we do not have the incentives here on P.E.I.– Peter MacDonald, MacDonald Automotive Group

Peter MacDonald, president of MacDonald Automotive Group, which owns Ford and Hyundai dealerships in Charlottetown and Summerside, said while hybrid-model vehicles are available on the Island, hybrid plug-in or battery electric cars are harder to find.

“Demand has been very low. We do have some requests and unfortunately we cannot fulfil those requests right now.”

Peter MacDonald says hybrid plug-in or battery electric cars are in short supply on the Island. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

MacDonald said availability of electric cars is not only a challenge on P.E.I., but cross Atlantic Canada. 

“It’s just availability of electric vehicles right now, it’s going to jurisdictions that have high incentives from government and we do not have the incentives here on P.E.I.”

Limited availability across country 

John White, President and CEO of the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association agrees that difficulty in finding electric cars boils down to availability.

“You only have a limited number of manufacturers who are currently offering either full-battery electric cars and light trucks or plug-in hybrids,” White said.

The supply of electric cars is limited across the country. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

White said most electric cars available in Canada are sold in Ontario, Quebec, and B.C., where there are customer incentives to purchase electric, but those provinces are also struggling to keep up with the demand.

He said most car manufacturers plan to offer more electric or hybrid plug-in models by 2022, and until then, those looking to purchase one should speak to a dealer about placing a factory order or look off-Island.

Province looking into incentives

P.E.I. currently has 25 electric car charging stations and the province has plans to install more, according to Todd Dupuis, executive director of the P.E.I. Climate Change Secretariat. 

The province is looking into adding incentives on P.E.I., he added.

Todd Dupuis says the province is looking into the possibility of adding customer incentives for buying electric cars. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

“We have a transportation committee that’s looking at a strategy for transportation which will be available this fall, and they’re looking at all that. All the matters around electric vehicles, should we provide incentives, if there are to be incentives, what should they be,” Dupuis said. 

Dupuis said the low supply of electric cars is not unique to P.E.I., but he anticipates in the coming years, demand will increase and production costs will go down, making the cars easier to purchase throughout the country. 

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