A fundamental principle of Sales 101 is to be a visible proponent of the product one is selling: the cosmetic-counter sales person whose face is adroitly made-up, the travel agent who has first-hand experience about the vacation spots she recommends, the personal trainer whose physique is well toned.
When it comes to displaying confidence in a core product, one might assume Manitoba would be the poster province for promoting the advantages of electric vehicles (EVs), but that assumption would be wrong. Relatively few Manitobans own EVs, partly because this province doesn’t offer incentives for drivers to switch from fossil-fuel vehicles, or for businesses to install charging stations.
It’s puzzling that a province that has invested billions to develop hydroelectric generation isn’t more eager to get more EVs on Manitoba roads. With a vast capacity of electrical power to sell, Manitoba should champion EVs as a visible symbol to potential customers that electric energy is a superior choice to planet-poisoning fossil fuels.
While it lacks action, the province talks a green game. The throne speech on Nov. 23 promised a "greener Manitoba," through "innovative technologies… to reduce emissions while stimulating our economy.
Innovative technologies that reduce emissions? Seems like EVs would fit the bill.
There are only about 800 fully-electric vehicles in Manitoba, woefully less than the per-capita EV ownership in most other provinces. One doesn’t need to be a marketing guru to understand why. Unlike Manitoba, other provinces and territories offer EV rebates and incentives, which are in addition to those already available from the federal government.
Other than a void where provincial rebates should be, Manitobans are also discouraged from going electric by a shortage of EV fast-charge stations. Figures for 2021 compiled by the non-profit Climate Reality Project show Winnipeg has about nine EV charging stations per 100,000 people, compared to 96 in Montreal and 31 in Toronto.
An encouraging indication that many Manitoba drivers might be willing to make the switch is that there are currently about 8,000 hybrid vehicles in Manitoba owned by drivers who have taken a tentative half-step along the right path. Many hybrid owners would rather go all the way and drive all-electric, but are deterred by the lack of fast-charge stations, according to Robert Elms, president of the Manitoba Electric Vehicle Association.
If fast-charge stations were more plentiful, more Manitoba drivers would be willing to stop filling up with gas and start plugging in for electricity. Such stations would be of particular interest to travellers and people who are unable to install personal chargers, such as apartment dwellers or people without driveways who must park on the street.
EVs have a reputation for being more expensive than equivalent fossil-fuel models, but have declined in sticker price in recent years. Typically, thanks to savings in fuel and maintenance costs that average about $2,000 a year, and with government incentives such as the one that Manitoba should provide, the price difference erodes after about five years of driving.
The financial wisdom of Manitoba encouraging EV use becomes obvious when weighed against the billions of dollars that leave the province annually as Manitobans pay to import gasoline and diesel from the U.S. and other provinces. Manitoba can and should generate enough energy — clean energy — to electrify many more aspects of Manitoba transportation.
A province trying to sell electricity should be an EV leader, not an EV laggard. It should display confidence in its product and show that, when the rubber meets the road, Manitobans believe electrical power is the right way to go.
Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board.