Market Snapshot: Zero emission vehicles now account for over 10% of all new vehicles in Canada

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Release date: 2024-06-05

Zero-emissions vehicles (ZEVs)Definition* are gaining momentum in Canada, with close to 185,000 new registrationsDefinition* in 2023.Footnote 1 This represents a 49% increase from 2022, and accounts for 11% of all new motor vehicles registered that year.

In comparison, ZEVs represent just under 10% of light-duty vehicles sales in the United States,Footnote 2 and account for an estimated 14% of global car sales.Footnote 3 Global electric vehicle (EV) sales reached around 14 million units in 2023;Footnote 4 Canada’s share is around 1.3%, which aligns with its proportion of the global economy.Footnote 5

Figure 1: New zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) registrations in Canada by fuel type, vehicle type, and region

Source and Description

Source: New motor vehicle registrations, quarterly (

Description: This line chart shows the number of new zero-emissions vehicles (ZEVs) registrations—including battery electric (BEVs)Definition* and plug-in hybrid electric (PHEVs)Definition* for four different vehicle types consisting of passenger cars, multi-purpose vehicles (MPVs), pickup trucks, vans, and the total for all vehicle types. The bottom portion of the chart shows total ZEVs’ share of new vehicle registrations by vehicle type. Data is presented for 2017 to 2023 and it is available for Canada as a whole and four other regions—British Columbia & the territories, Ontario, Quebec, and the rest of Canada.

In 2017, PHEV passenger cars were the main type of new ZEVs registered across Canada (accounting for half of the total). By 2023 multi-purpose BEVs have become the most popular type of ZEV across the country. While a preference for larger vehicles is common across the main vehicle market in Canada, growing availability of ZEV models, combined with government policies and incentivesFootnote 6 help explain these changing trends in ZEV adoption across Canada.

Trends in ZEV adoption across Canada

The overall trend for ZEV adoption in Canada is a growing one, but regional differences in market and policy developments mean that the type of ZEVs Canadians are buying, and where those ZEVs are being sold, is also changing:

  • In 2017, the split of ZEV registrations between battery electric vehicles (BEV) (like the Tesla Model 3) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) (like the Toyota Prius Prime) was about 50-50. By 2023, BEVs accounted for 76% of new ZEVs registered.
  • Larger ZEVs (including pickup trucks, SUVs/crossovers or “multi-purpose vehicles” [MPVs], and vans) registrations have increased. In 2023, close to 80% of new ZEVs were larger vehicles (compared to 20% in 2017), with multi-purpose BEVs (like the Hyundai Kona Electric) accounting for two-thirds of that category.
  • British Columbia and the Territories, Ontario, and Quebec combined account for 92% of Canada’s new ZEV registrations in 2023, compared to 99% in 2017. This is due to relatively slower uptake of ZEVs in Ontario, and more ZEV sales across the Prairies and Atlantic Canada.
  • In British Columbia and Quebec (both provinces with low electricity prices and more generous ZEV incentives), ZEV adoption is almost double the national average—accounting for about 20% of new vehicle registrations in those regions. The share of new ZEVs in those regions is particularly high for passenger cars and MPVs—at 20-30%.
  • Montreal, Vancouver, and Toronto collectively, account for over half of all new ZEV registrations in Canada in 2023,Footnote 7 highlighting urban centers as hotspots for ZEVs

A growing number of ZEVs on the road require more electricity

The estimated number of ZEVs on Canada’s roads has grown from less than 50,000 in 2017 to over 500,000 by 2023—a more than ten-fold increase. The electricity consumption associated with those ZEVs has risen from around 132 giga-watt hours (GW-hrs) in 2017, to over 1,600 GW-hrs by 2023—accounting for 0.3% of Canada’s total electricity demand that year (similar in magnitude to the total electricity demand of Prince Edward Island in 2023).Footnote 8 The rapid increase of ZEVs on Canada’s roads, will lead to an increasing portion of the country’s electricity required to power them.

In time, ZEVs could play a key role in decarbonizing the transportation sector

New ZEV sales in Canada have surged recently, but they still only represent only 1-2% of the total stock of light and medium-duty vehicles.Footnote 9 This share is projected to increase gradually over time. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), it could take between 13-26 years to replace 90% of the current stock of cars, and between 14-29 years for trucks–assuming normal replacement rates.Footnote 10

In the Canada’s Energy Future 2023 Global Net-Zero Scenario,Footnote 11 the Canada Energy Regulator projects that achieving a 100% ZEV sales target for light-duty vehicles by 2035 (and thereon after)Footnote 12 would lead to ZEVs accounting for close to half of the total stock of vehicles on the road by 2035, over 60% by 2040, and more than 90% by 2050. Currently, road passenger transport, the main segment for ZEV adoption, accounts for 12% of Canada’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.Footnote 13 Widespread adoption of ZEVs would not only reduce GHG emissions from this sector,Footnote 14 but could also yield substantial energy and cost savings for drivers—ZEVs are significantly more energy efficient relative to gasoline/diesel-powered vehicles.Footnote 15

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