For Sale: Used EVs

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This new incentive program aims to help consumers get into a used EV of their own.

Thanks to generous support from a local philanthropist, Plug’n Drive—a non-profit organization committed to accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles—can offer Ontario residents a $1,000 incentive when purchasing a used EV or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle.

The program, which officially kicked off on April 14, 2019, has already handed out over $25,000 to consumers in the first six weeks of operation.

Cara Clairman, President & CEO of Plug’n Drive, says the idea for the program started when the organization was working on a way to combat the notion that EVs are only for the rich, and that incentives only help the few who can afford to buy one.

Cara Clairman, President and CEO of Plug’n Drive (Photo: Plug’n Drive)

“A lot of the people we meet say they’d love to own an EV, but they just can’t afford it,” Clairman explains. “But there’s actually a pretty good supply of really affordable used electric vehicles, and this allows a whole new demographic to get into EVs. We like to say that EVs are for everyone.”

As the organization was working on ways to promote the purchase of used EVs, they received a welcome visit from Michael Brigham, Director, M. H. Brigham Foundation. “We were approached by a private philanthropist who said he really loved what we were doing and wanted to know what he could do to help,” Clairman adds. This new partnership paved the way for a used EV incentive program.

A three-step process

To qualify for the incentive, consumers must complete the following steps:

  1. Test drive an EV at Plug’n Drive’s Electric Vehicle Discovery Centre in North York, Ontario or at one of Plug’n Drive’s community outreach events around Ontario;
  2. Attend an “EV 101” seminar on the benefits of electric driving and what to look for when shopping for a used EV; and
  3. Purchase a used EV within up to one year of taking the seminar and submit proof of ownership and insurance to Plug’n Drive.

“The reason for the emphasis on education is that we’ve done a lot of research and the key issue we’ve come up with when we survey consumers is a lack of awareness,” Clairman explains. “People simply don’t know what’s available and what it costs. They don’t know they’re going to save money. They don’t know it will really reduce emissions. They don’t know very much at all.”

Clairman says the half-hour seminar doesn’t guarantee that everyone who attends is going to buy an EV, “but at least we have raised the awareness level, and maybe two years from now or five years down the road they might. So at a minimum, we want to make sure we cover the basics so that people are informed.”

Plug’n Drive also wants to give as many consumers as possible an opportunity to get behind the wheel of an EV to experience one first hand. “We know that test drives are key to getting people to make the switch,” Clairman adds. “Once they get in the car, even if it’s not the one they ultimately end up buying, it’s the positive experience that makes them want it. We learned what the automakers learned a long time ago: butts in seats sell cars.”

The bigger picture

So far the program is doing very well. “It’s been amazing,” Clairman says. “The seminars are really popular. We have at least 50 people showing up for a seminar. We know our approach works because we asked purchasers if they would have gone ahead with their purchases had they not attended our program, and many say they’re not sure they would have taken the plunge. So we’re making a difference.”

As for the bigger picture—what’s it going to take for more consumers to make the move to EVs? Clairman says raising awareness is key. “People need to know what’s available, that it’s totally viable, and we need to clear up the misconceptions. Incentives definitely help, and they won’t be needed forever.”

Consumers also need to do the math when they purchase a new vehicle. “If they did,” Clairman adds, “they would see that the total cost of ownership of an EV is actually lower and that you’re actually going to save money, even with the additional upfront cost.”

The other piece of the puzzle is infrastructure. Quite simply, we need more of it. “Tesla has led the way and done a really good job,” Clairman says. “Some of the others could emulate what Tesla has accomplished.”

When it comes to EVs, Clairman walks the talk. She has been driving a 100% electric vehicle since 2011. Like many EV drivers, she plugs in at home and doesn’t often take advantage of public charging stations. “But when you do need one,” she adds, “you want to make sure it’s available.”

She says consumer interest in EVs is on a steady upswing, after falling off in Ontario when the government cancelled the provincial EV incentive program. In her opinion, the move towards electrification is not a question of “if” we’re going to see an electric future, but rather “when” that’s going to happen.

In the meantime, Plug’n Drive continues to promote EVs and to educate the public, while exposing a whole new demographic to the wonderful world of electrification with the help of their used EV incentive program.

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