Lion Electric, King of the EV Jungle Grants?

A recent article in the Financial Post titled: “Lion Electric posts profit as sales and subsidies pick up speed” was eye-catching simply for it’s inference on how it was worded, and suggesting “subsidies” played a role in it posting a profit. The article went on to quote their chief executive as follows; “We delivered the highest quarterly number of vehicles ever with 105 deliveries in Q2,” said Marc Bédard, Lion’s chief executive. The article went on to state: “The good fortune is set to continue, at least for the next little while. As of Aug. 4, the Quebec company’s order book was flush, with 2,357 vehicles valued at $575 million and 226 charging stations representing $3 million.”

Curiosity piqued, a look at how Lion Electric’s stock has performed on the TSE was a must and as it turned out the price over the past year fell from $18.47 CAD a share on August 9, 2021 to a close of $6.95 CAD on August 5, 2022 for a drop of $11.52 (-62.4%) a share over the past year.  Hmm, wonder why, as one would assume a company roaring to a profit would attract investors but that doesn’t seem to be the case for Lion Electric?  Maybe it’s not the king of the school bus and truck EV jungle?

Taxpayer subsidies

An article two weeks before the above article appeared in the FP and headlined “Lion Electric CEO predicts Ottawa’s new EV-truck subsidy will boost demand”.  The following quotes from the article might explain (partially) why Lion suddenly achieved profitability!  The article stated:“Stacking the Quebec subsidy of $144,000 on top of the federal grant would result in a total rebate of nearly $250,000 on the Lion6 model, putting it on par, price-wise, with a comparable diesel-powered truck.” And a further sentence said: “Similarly, stacking the Quebec rebate of $200,000 on the federal grant for the Lion8T would result in a total rebate of $350,000, making it just slightly more expensive than its non-electric competitors.”

An article two weeks before the above article appeared in the FP and headlined “Lion Electric CEO predicts Ottawa’s new EV-truck subsidy will boost demand”.  The following quotes from the article might explain (partially) why Lion suddenly achieved profitability!  The article stated:“Stacking the Quebec subsidy of $144,000 on top of the federal grant would result in a total rebate of nearly $250,000 on the Lion6 model, putting it on par, price-wise, with a comparable diesel-powered truck.” And a further sentence said: “Similarly, stacking the Quebec rebate of $200,000 on the federal grant for the Lion8T would result in a total rebate of $350,000, making it just slightly more expensive than its non-electric competitors.” 

Yet another article appearing in e-magazine Sustainable Bus in March 2022 was about how the Quebec government was investing $18 million into 120 school buses and stated “The subsidy for each bus is worth $150,000. The government’s plan is to electrify 65 per cent of its school buses by 2030.”  It also noted: “Quebec announced last year that the government will fund the majority of the $5 billion purchase of electric buses with $3.65 billion of the contract supplemented by the federal government”! If one goes back to examine the 2nd Quarter results for Lion you note the 105 deliveries consisted of 90 school buses and 15 trucks generating revenue of US $29.5 million  and if we use the $150K per school bus grant and $300K per truck grant the government subsidies amount to approximately CAD $15 million representing approximately 40% of gross revenue in the quarter. Without those subsidies the “operating loss” would have amounted to CAD $43 million!  With those kinds of subsidies, we shouldn’t be surprised Lion is receiving more orders.

Source of Grant Money

As noted above the grants to Lion are sourced principally from the Federal taxpayers with additional funds provided by Quebec taxpayers but in the latter case we should probably surmise it also is funded in large part via those same Federal taxpayers via the “equalization” payments the Federal government pass out.  As noted in the undated letter from Finance Minister Freeland sent to the Quebec Minister of Finance, Eric Girard, Quebec will be handed $13.666 billion or 62.35% of the total equalization payments to the five provinces who receive them, for the 2022-23 year.  Surely that kind of a handout goes a long way to allowing the Province of Quebec to be able to provide grants without tapping into their own tax revenues!

School Bus Orders

One of the largest orders received by Lion for those electric school buses came from First Student a company whose head office is in Cincinnati, Ohio with operations in the US and seven of Canada’s provinces.  Back on May 17, 2021 a press release they issued announced the “largest zero-emission school bus order of 260 buses”.  Assuming the Quebec government handed out the $150K per bus would suggest $39 million will go or has gone to Lion Electric for those buses. 

Another order for Lion’s buses came from Transdev Canadaa public private transport company limited with a Board of Directors and jointly owned by the Caisse des Depots Group (66%) and the Rethmann Group (34%) a German family owned company.  It should be noted CDPQ is the Quebec version of the Canada Pension Plan so they invest the contributions of all Quebec taxpayers to the plan. The order from Transdev Canada was made in early July for another 30 Lion electric school buses in addition to the 27 previously ordered and reputedly already in service.  So, at the $150K per school bus handed out by the province another $8.6 million will find its way into the Lion Electric bank account and future recipients of CDPQ pension payments should cross their fingers those school buses will be as efficient as those fossil fueled ones or Transdev might turn out as a negative investment.

It seems obvious that Lion Electric has twigged the politicians into being convinced electrifying everything is the way to go and will create jobs and benefits to the Quebec economy (possibly via Quebec Hydro for charging those buses)?  As a result Quebec politicians have somehow decided they need to hand out taxpayer funded grants to save the world from “climate change” while picking what they consider new technology and the companies that will benefit!  As an observer over several decades, I am skeptical politicians have ever been able to pick winners but have often picked losers’!

My vote for “King of the EV Grants” goes to Lion Electric!

Author: parkergallantenergyperspectivesblog

Retired international banker.

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