Tesla customers take a hit after Ontario ends incentive programs

Jeff Sturch drilled a hole through his house to install a charger for an electric car that he may never see.

The Toronto-area man is one of many Tesla customers affected by the Ontario government's sudden end to an incentive program for electric and hydrogen vehicles.

​Sturch was counting on a $14,000 rebate from the province when he opened his wallet for a down payment on a Tesla Model 3 last year.

Now, he's trying to figure out if he can afford the $63,400 car at all — and lamenting that he's also out a separate rebate for the charging station he had installed on his home.

"It's very annoying… I think the government and people in general think the people who are buying these cars are super rich, and I can tell you that I am not," Sturch told CBC News.

"I'm just trying to do the best thing for the environment and my daughter."

Sturch said that when he decided to spring for the Tesla, he was also counting on the $700 rebate for its charger that was listed on the Ontario government's website as part of the Electric Vehicle Charging Incentive program. Without the rebate, the charger will cost roughly $1,400, he said.

Because Tesla does not have dealers and sells directly to consumers, some customers say they feel like they've been unfairly targeted.

Thiago Neves is another of them. The Brampton, Ont., man will pick up his Tesla Model 3 on Wednesday, but he is also missing out on the $14,000 rebate because he's receiving his car after a July 11 deadline. 

"I feel like I lost $14,000… in my mind I had that $14,000 from the start," he said.

"The whole world is going toward green, smart, renewable energy, and I just wanted to be part of the change."

Can't apply for rebate

In a statement to CBC News, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation said for a person to meet the requirements of a charging station rebate, they have to own or lease an electric vehicle that is registered and plated in Ontario in the name of the person seeking the rebate.

Charging stations bought and/or installed before July 11 will still be eligible if the application is submitted within 60 days. 

Sturch said his car isn't expected to arrive for another one to three months, and he can't apply for the rebate until it does.

"The problem is if I cancel the order on my car because they've pulled the car rebate, I won't be able to apply for the rebate for the installation of the charger and the charger itself, because you need the [vehicle ID] number and the registration complete on an actual car to apply for the rebate for the charger," he said.

That would leave him with an expensive electric charger and no electric car.

"Basically, I'm screwed out of that non-refundable deposit, or I need to decide to get the car."

Tesla has offered some customers refunds of their deposits. The company did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Cancelled with cap-and-trade

According to data compiled by Fleet Carma, an information and technology company that helps firms integrate electric vehicles and hybrids into their fleets, 7,477 battery and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles were sold in Ontario in 2017. Sales in the province increased 120 per cent from 2016, when increased rebates were implemented.

Incentive programs for electric and hydrogen vehicle and electric vehicle charging were cancelled shortly after the new provincial government ended Ontario's cap-and-trade program as a part of cost-saving measures.

Both incentive programs were funded by cap-and-trade and were cancelled as a result, according to the Ministry of Transportation.

The provincial government says cancelling cap-and-trade will help it achieve its goal of bringing gas prices down by 10 cents a litre and cutting costs for Ontarians by $1.9 billion per year.

The province announced last week that the electric vehicle incentive program will end on Sept. 10 for those who have their vehicle delivered, registered and plated if it was purchased from a dealer. But it ended immediately for those who ordered their vehicle directly from the manufacturer.

adam.carter@cbc.ca