Manitobans are taking advantage of the $5,000 federal subsidy for electric cars, but some are hamstrung by a lack of available cars to buy. Electric vehicle sales increased by 80 per cent in Manitoba in April, May and June, compared with the same period last year, according to

Experts say that’s because a federal rebate came into effect May 1, knocking $5,000 off the price of any electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle costing less than $55,000 with a goal of levelling the playing field with cheaper gas-powered cars.

The effect of the rebate is "huge, absolutely huge, unequivocal, we don’t even have to qualify it," said Robert Elms, president of the Manitoba Electric Vehicle Association. "Folks want to go electric," he added, and the rebate is pushing them to do it.

There’s about 496 electric vehicles registered to drive in Manitoba, including fully electric battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) like the Chevrolet Volt that can run on gas when the battery runs out of charge.

Seventy-two of them have plugged in since May 1, according to data compiled by Matthew Klippenstein, a B.C.-based engineer who tracks the Canadian electric car market at Those numbers don't include thousands of hybrids on the road, like the popular Toyota Prius used by Winnipeg cab companies.

More than 14,000 Canadians bought electric vehicles and claimed the rebate in May, June and July, Transport Canada said. So far this year, electric vehicle sales are up 30 per cent nationwide. But Klippenstein said as demand rises, so do wait times to buy electric vehicles.

More people are coming in, they have to wait in line, the line’s getting longer," he said. "If the automakers could magically turn on a switch, we’d see more cars, sales would increase. But it’s kind of like turning a big ship. It will take them a little while to catch up to the demand that’s there. Manufacturers can only make so many electric vehicles as demand expands, and most are sent to other countries.


Transit services should also get a boost for going electric, says a U of M sustainability economics instructor. Robert Parsons wrote a paper on the need to rethink — mainly simplify — incentives to move to electric buses.