Motor vehicle fuel sales, 2021
40.2 billion litres
The total volume of motor gasoline sold in Canada was 40.2 billion litres in 2021, an increase of 4.1% after an unprecedented annual decline of 13.9% in 2020. Total gasoline sales fell to a 20-year low during 2020, as restrictions to combat the COVID-19 pandemic had a detrimental effect on the demand for travel.
The 2021 increase in gasoline sales was driven by several factors, including a rise in the number of new motor vehicles registered. An easing of restrictions saw more commuting as the number of employees working from home began to wane as well as more Canadians on the highway during the busy summer travel season.
Gasoline sales on the road to recovery
Recovering from a 20-year low in 2020, gross sales of gasoline rose nationally in 2021, as the country started to ease pandemic restrictions and the demand for motor fuels increased. Gross sales rose to 40.2 billion litres in 2021, an increase of 4.1% from the previous year (38.6 billion litres). Despite this increase, gross sales were 10.3% lower than in 2019, before the pandemic. The same factors that explain why fuel sales have increased may also point to why sales remain below their pre-pandemic level.
In 2021, the number of new motor vehicle registrations increased by 6.5% and Canadians began to use their vehicles more as COVID-19-related restrictions were easing across the country. For example, at the onset of the pandemic in April 2020, 41.1% of employees reported working from home and this declined to just over one-quarter (27.2%) by June 2021. The National Travel Survey noted that Canadians took 4.4% more trips from July to September 2021 compared with the same period in 2020; almost all (98.9%) of these trips were domestic and the majority of them were by personal vehicle.
These same factors, however, may also point to why gross sales in 2021 remained more than 10% lower than in 2019. First, low-emission vehicles (battery-electric and plug-in hybrid) accounted for more than 5% of new motor vehicles registered in 2021. Next, while more Canadians returned to the workplace, many were doing so on a hybrid basis, continuing to work some days from home. Finally, while Canadians began travelling more during the busy summer travel season, domestic trips remained down 6.3% compared with the same period in 2019, before the pandemic.
Some provincial unevenness
Sales of gasoline rebounded across the country in 2021. After experiencing consistent decreases in 2020, all provinces and territories reported increases in 2021, except Yukon. Saskatchewan posted the largest increase among the provinces, with gross sales of gasoline growing 10.1% (+163.1 million litres). This was closely followed by Nova Scotia, up 9.2% (+103.1 million litres). Ontario, which accounted for 35.2% of the total gross sales of gasoline in 2021, had minimal increases compared with 2020. Total gross sales of gasoline in Ontario rose by less than 1% (+72.3 million litres).
Other fuels mixed
Also experiencing a recovery in 2021 was net sales―on which road taxes were remitted―of both gasoline and diesel. Net sales of gasoline increased 4.2% from 2020 to 38.5 billion litres. It should be noted that this is the second-lowest volume recorded in almost 20 years. In contrast, net sales of diesel rose 10.3% to 17.9 billion litres in 2021, edging above the 2019 pre-pandemic volume.
Net sales of liquefied petroleum gas continued to rise in Canada. This gas is a popular fuel alternative for fleet vehicles, costing less than gasoline and diesel and having a lower carbon footprint. After posting a year-over-year increase of 15.6% in 2020, net sales of liquefied petroleum gas grew another 35.7% to 683.7 million litres in 2021.
Note to readers
The Gasoline and Other Petroleum Fuels Sold survey collects data used by the Department of Finance for the calculation of fiscal equalization payments to the provinces pursuant to the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act and territorial financing for the territories.
Motor vehicle fuel sales data are available from 1987 for Canada as well as provinces and territories.
The Transportation Data and Information Hub, a web portal developed jointly by Statistics Canada and Transport Canada, provides Canadians with online access to comprehensive statistics and measures on the country's transportation sector.
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