Public electric car charging station at Edgmont on the Sunshine Coast.

B.C. joins clean vehicle club in Paris

Zero-emission vehicles group wants to reduce vehicle greenhouse gas emissions 40 per cent by 2050.

With 2,000 electric vehicles and charging stations in place and a program to keep subsidizing their purchase and use, B.C. has joined an elite club of countries and U.S. states.

Capping her second week at the United Nations climate change conference in Paris, Environment Minister Mary Polak announced Thursday that B.C. has joined the International Zero-Emission Vehicle Alliance.

The alliance hopes to reduce vehicle emissions 40 per cent by 2050, promoting use of battery-electric, plug-in hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Its members include Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, the U.K., California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Quebec.

In 2011, B.C. replaced its earlier $2,000 subsidy for hybrid cars with a clean energy vehicle program that pays between $2,500 and $5,000 in point-of-sale rebates for new battery electric, plug-in hybrid, fuel cell or natural gas vehicles.

It also offered a $500 subsidy for installing a dedicated vehicle charging station at home through LiveSmart BC, a program that ended in 2014 and was replaced.

Natural gas power has mainly been limited to short-haul truck fleets based around a central fuelling station. B.C. ran pilot projects with hydrogen fuel-cell transit buses in Victoria and Whistler, but they were wound up after the 2010 Olympics.

Energy Minister Bill Bennett acknowledged that electric vehicles are mainly confined to urban areas in the Lower Mainland and southern Vancouver Island.

Asked how the program appears from rural areas, where taxpayers with muddy pickups subsidize sleek electric cars driven by wealthy West Coasters, Bennett said the program is funded out of natural gas royalties, not general taxation.

He noted that B.C. is better suited to electric vehicles than many places that burn goal or natural gas to generate electricity, and is setting an example for other jurisdictions.