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Harsh winter conditions an obstacle to EV adoption in Canada: survey

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A Rivian R1T electric vehicle is seen at the New York International Auto Show at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York. (Photo by Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
A Rivian R1T electric vehicle is seen at the New York International Auto Show at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York. (Photo by Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

A growing majority of Canadians would consider picking an electric vehicle (EV) for their next set of wheels, according to a new survey, but most continue to worry about range and reliability issues in harsh winter weather.

KPMG surveyed more than 2,000 Canadians in December and January. The accounting firm found 71 per cent of respondents would consider an EV for their next vehicle purchase, with 49 per cent saying they're more likely to do so compared to a year ago, or even pre-pandemic.

Range anxiety and reliability in punishing winter weather rank among the top concerns, according to the survey. Seventy-nine per cent say they wouldn't consider buying an EV with a driving range less than 400 kilometres. For reference, a base-model Tesla (TSLA) Model 3 has an estimated range of 430 kilometres. A cheaper Chevrolet Bolt EV has a reported range of 417 kilometres.

Canadian winter conditions worried 64 per cent of respondents who say they believe EVs aren't reliable in cold, harsh weather. The Canadian Auto Association recommends EV drivers keep their cars charged enough to double their expected driving needs to account for reduced range arising from the impact of cold temperatures on the battery cells.

KPMG's results were collected days before a winter storm left scores of vehicles stranded in deep snow on Highway 401 near Toronto, one of the busiest traffic corridors in North America.

According to Natural Resources Canada, there are 15,668 public charging ports nationwide, spread across 6,698 locations.

Ottawa has mandated that half of new cars sold in 2030 must be emissions free. KPMG estimates Canada would need to add as many as four times the number of public charging points currently available in order to support 20 million EVs on Canadian roads by 2035. Statistics Canada data show there were nearly 36 million vehicles registered nationwide in 2019.

Time spent at charging stations was another common concern among survey participants. More than half (51 per cent) say they're not willing to wait more than 20 minutes for a vehicle to charge at a public station. Eighteen per cent say they would not wait longer than five minutes for a charge away from home.

Most (89 per cent) say they expect auto manufacturers to invest in national charging infrastructure.

"As EV production revs up, the established automakers will need to pay close attention to consumer wants and needs," Peter Hatges, partner and automotive national sector leader for KPMG in Canada, stated in a news release. "Our poll findings reveal brand loyalty isn't as strong as automakers might think."

Jeff Lagerquist is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow him on Twitter @jefflagerquist.

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