The Ontario government wants one in every 20 cars on provincial roads to be electric by 2020, and to get there it is promising rebates from $4,000 to $10,000 to those who buy a plug-in hybrid after July 1, 2010, Premier Dalton McGuinty announced yesterday.

“We want to make it easier to buy green cars,” McGuinty told a news conference at a Chevrolet dealership in Toronto. The cash incentive is meant to ease sticker shock for plug-in hybrids, expected to cost around $40,000.

“We want people to become comfortable with these new technologies and help them become more widespread in the marketplace,” McGuinty said.

Auto analyst Dennis DesRosiers called the cash incentive a bribe. One in every 20 cars adds up to about 350,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2020, he said. At $10,000 apiece in rebates, that means the province is looking at a $3.5-billion program.

“It is foolish policy,” he said. “It is misdirected, not thoroughly thought through. There is much more the Ontario government can do to green the auto sector.”

McGuinty also announced plans to buy 500 electric vehicles for the government fleet and promised to set up a system of reliable charging stations — integral to the wide-scale acceptance of electric vehicles. Recharging will be available in some government-owned and GO Transit parking lots, and the province is working with the private sector to come up with more.

The premier did not have a clear answer on how much the incentive program will cost, but noted it will not last forever. The province still needs to figure out how many vehicles will be eligible, he said.

GM hopes to be a front-runner in the electric car market with the Chevy Volt, which will be available in 2011.

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