This year, at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nissan announced that its next LEAF will feature self-driving technology that makes it virtually autonomous under certain conditions. So, what’s up in the electric car market? How are new technologies being integrated into new cars? We reached out to Mr. Robert Dupuy, spokesperson for l’Association des véhicules électriques du Québec (AVEQ) to get the inside scoop.
Q. How is Québec’s electric car market faring?
R.Well and poorly! On one hand, the market is doing well in that demand from consumers is fairly high. We saw the number of electric cars in Quebec grow by 70% last year. Generally, Quebecers are curious about and interested in this kind of vehicle. And half of all electric cars in Canada are in Québec. So the situation here is good, but, of course, there is always room for improvement!
Here’s an interesting fact: Québec’s provincial government was the first in Canada to introduce incentives encouraging people to purchase electric cars. Québec’s Drive Electric program offers a rebate of up to $8000 on the purchase or lease of an electric vehicle. It’s proof that Québec is playing a leading role when it comes to electric cars.
On the other hand, the market is lagging because automakers aren’t keeping pace with consumer demand. Some dealerships are still not selling electric cars, even if the make they represent includes electric models. Media coverage tends to be sparse or less than flattering, as the subject doesn’t make for good press. And, dealerships don’t do much advertising to promote sales.
Q. What sets Québec apart from other Canadian provinces in terms of electric vehicles?
R. In Québec, we are at an advantage because we have the cleanest and cheapest electricity in the country. Quebecers tend to have a green conscience, which isn’t necessarily the case in the rest of the country. Since we’re ahead of the curve, we are developing knowledge and expertise that will have significant economic benefits for Québec.
Q. Nissan Recently announced that its next-generation LEAF will virtually drive itself on highways thanks to highly advanced autonomous driving technology. What are your thoughts about their announcement?
R. It comes as no surprise! More and more technologies are being integrated into electric cars to enhance their autonomy. But this development is something else entirely. Vehicles will be capable of making decisions and anticipating and avoiding accidents.
Tesla’s Autopilot is a good example. The company is convinced that tomorrow’s car will be autonomous. With its cameras, ultrasonic sensors, and radar that collect data about the environment surrounding the vehicle, Autopilot’s capacities are mind-blowing.
The Tesla website even goes so far as to claim that Autopilot can be used for ride-sharing with the aim of generating revenue. You can almost see it becoming a new form of public transportation.
In Québec we still have a ways to go in our efforts to promote electric cars and their features. We’re in the middle of a paradigm shift. From a big picture perspective, the future seems bright. And technophiles will be well served by the market.