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Industry Pulse: analyzing the changing ZEV landscape in Canada

Posted by Meg Bernazzani on June 20, 2019

At CarGurus, we’re always looking for ways to share more industry insights with our valued dealers. Today, our Director of Automotive Industry and Economic Analysis, George Augustaitis, takes a look at the ZEV landscape in Canada.

The Chevrolet Bolt and Nissan Leaf are poised to lead EV market in Canada

The Chevrolet Bolt and Nissan Leaf brands are both primed to take advantage of the new federal ZEV credit in Canada. Both vehicles are produced in the US and the days’ worth of supply for both vehicles is over 100. As of April 2019, Chevrolet Bolt had 191-days’ worth of supply and the Nissan Leaf had 128, meaning the US is well stocked and both OEMs can focus on shipping inventory to meet demand in Canada created by the ZEV federal program. This creates the fundamental base that will allow the brands to act quickly and take advantage of early demand of the ZEV program.

In 2018, it was reported that the Chevrolet Bolt had a waiting list of over a year in Canada. As a result, General Motors shifted supply to Canada, which is why the CarGurus inventory index saw an uptick in 2018—well before the announcement of the federal ZEV program.


Quebec and British Columbia are the two provinces that we anticipate having continued success with EV sales as a result of the newly launched federal program. Both provinces have the Chevrolet Bolt supply to take advantage of the program, especially since General Motors has filled some of the demand from the waiting list over the past six months. Plus, looking at the share of EV inventory as a percentage of all inventory in each province, both Quebec and British Columbia have seen a tremendous increase in EV inventory share overall.  This means both provinces should have strong inventory to support early demand.

It’s likely that Nissan will also start sending Leaf inventory to Canada to support early demand from consumers who want to take advantage of the federal program. The Nissan team has experience with these types of federal programs and know to strike when the iron is hot. For example, Atlanta is one of Nissan’s biggest EV markets in the US, and this was largely due to Georgia’s program that supported EV sales.

Search traffic in Canada is another supporting factor for the Nissan Leaf. Nissan Leaf has a three to four times higher share of search traffic on CarGurus as compared to the Chevrolet Bolt in 2019.

There are several factors though that indicate both vehicles will have strong 2019 sales in Canada:

  • US-based production and a high days’ supply in the US means inventory can be focused on Canada and shipped quickly
  • Both vehicles qualify for federal and province credits:
    • The Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Bolt both hit the trifecta in British Columbia, qualifying for the Scrap-it, CEVforBC, and ZEV federal incentives
    • Both brands also qualify for ZEV credits in Quebec
  • There’s already enough Chevrolet Bolt inventory in Canada to support early sales demand
  • The Nissan Leaf has the lead in search interest on CarGurus, suggesting higher interest levels from consumers

The framework that makes for successful sales of an electric vehicle – interest, supply, rebates/incentives, low supply from competitors – are all present for these two brands, supporting the idea that they could be the first to take advantage of demand in Canada.

Can the public charging network support the increase in EVs?

While both British Columbia and Quebec will offer local and federal incentives and are poised to see the largest increases in the country, the question is, do they have the charging network to support EVs?

According to the Natural Resources Canada website, Canada has 4,342 public charging stations offering 9,505 sockets.

That data shows that the country has decent support for the current amount of vehicles on-road. However, as demand and sales start to increase as a result of the new federal program, the number of EVs on the road may soon start to outpace the availability of public charging.

2017 & ’18
EV Sales
Number of Public
Charging Stations
Vehicles Supported Per
Public Charging Station
Number of Public
Vehicles Supported
Per Outlet
BC 11,778.00 845.00 13.94 1,834.00 6.42
ON 24,873.00 1,181.00 21.06 3,220.00 7.72
QC 25,273.00 1,837.00 13.76 3,623.00 6.98

While it’s likely that a number of customers will install private charging stations, price-sensitive consumers who are only able to purchase an EV because of the government programs may rely solely on the public charging network in the short term. This is why it’s crucial that the public charging network needs to keep up with sales growth. It doesn’t need to follow the same growth curve as sales, it just needs to stay close enough to support all EV owners.

Topics: CarGurus data, industry insights, industry pulse, trends