Record number of gasoline vehicles in Quebec

(Quebec) Even though Quebec has ambitious targets for the electrification of transportation, gasoline cars have not said their last word. The most recent figures show that their numbers peaked in the province in 2023, despite government intentions and generous assistance programs for the purchase of electric vehicles.

As recently as last December, the Minister of the Environment publicly rejoiced at a first: the number of gasoline vehicles had fallen in 2022 in Quebec.

“Since 1985, this is the first time that we have noted a reduction in the number of gasoline vehicles, i.e. 40,000 fewer thermal vehicles,” said Benoit Charette.

But a few months later, the picture is entirely different. The Press obtained the figures as of December 31, 2023 from the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ), in order to verify whether the 2022 decline was the start of a trend. It seems not.

Between 2021 and 2022, the number of gasoline-powered passenger cars and light trucks (excluding electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and plug-in hybrids) decreased by 46,385 in the province. This was a first in 40 years. But from 2022 to 2023, their number increased by 162,249 to reach a peak of 4.8 million on Quebec roads.

It is true that the number of “green” vehicles is increasing much faster, all things considered. It almost doubled in 2023. The number of electric, hydrogen and hybrid automobiles and light trucks increased from 148,862 to 247,025, notes the SAAQ.

Remember that Quebec has announced its intention to ban the sale of new gasoline vehicles from 2035. The Legault government also set out the objective of having two million electric vehicles on the roads by 2030.

Demographics pointed out

How can we explain this significant statistical reversal? “We do not do this type of analysis,” replied the SAAQ.

Asked to comment on these figures, the Minister of the Environment pointed to demographics. “The growth of the population of Quebec seems to be the main determinant of the growth of the car fleet in 2023,” writes Benoit Charette’s office in an email.

The Institute of Statistics of Quebec (ISQ) notes that the population of Quebec increased by 218,000 inhabitants in 2023 to reach 8.98 million on 1er January 2024. “This growth is based almost exclusively on international migration, and mainly on temporary immigration (+174,200),” notes the ISQ.

The Corporation of Quebec Automobile Dealers (CCAQ) wonders if the economic context has not favored the sale of gasoline vehicles. “It can be assumed that the question of affordability of electric vehicles weighs heavily in the purchasing decision. This is all the more true in an economic period marked by inflation and rising interest rates,” underlines Ian P. Sam Yue Chi, CEO of the CCAQ.


Has the economic context favored the sale of gasoline vehicles? asks the Corporation of Automobile Dealers of Quebec.

“In this context, the abandonment by the Quebec government of subsidies from the Roulez vert program sends a negative signal to consumers,” he adds.

“Magical thinking”?

The province’s subsidies to buyers of electric vehicles will begin to melt in 2025 and disappear in 2027, Quebec recently announced.

Former Quebec Minister of the Environment Daniel Breton criticizes the current government’s approach in this matter. “I have been telling the government for years that the most effective way to reduce emissions is to implement a bonus-malus that would cost zero dollars per ton and that would encourage the sale of electric vehicles and discourage the sale of energy-intensive vehicles,” says Mr. Breton in an interview.

Sales of gasoline vehicles started to rise again in 2023, after a lull in 2022. So, for me, the government wants to remove the rebate on the purchase of electric vehicles and not discourage the purchase of gasoline vehicles. , it’s magical thinking. They won’t get there without real measures.

Daniel Breton, CEO of Electric Mobility Canada

While the number of gasoline-powered automobiles increases, the use of public transportation stagnates. In fact, the country’s carriers are seeing that ridership is capped at 80% of the pre-pandemic level, according to Statistics Canada data.

At Équiterre, we are not surprised by the latest statistics from the SAAQ. “It doesn’t surprise us, even if it saddens us. This shows that there are still too few alternatives to solo driving,” says Anne-Catherine Pilon, sustainable mobility analyst at Équiterre.

According to her, efforts must be mainly invested in the modal transfer of motorists towards collective or active transport. The vehicle fleet, whether thermal or electric, is growing faster than the population, she notes.

“There is very little talk about making a real modal transfer towards collective transport, active transport. We need to have a vision for public transportation. It must be part of the government’s vision,” says Mme Pilon, even though public transport companies are experiencing a financial crisis.

The Minister of the Environment points out that “several investments in electrification have been made and that, without this action by our government, the growth in the number of gasoline cars could have been higher since in 2023, 20% of new registered vehicles were electric or plug-in hybrid cars.”

Benoit Charette’s cabinet recalls that in any case, Quebec wants to ban the sale of gasoline cars in 2035, which will mean the beginning of the end for the thermal car.


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