Zero-emissions vehicles have come a long way from when they were compared to ‘souped-up’ golf carts.
B.C.’ers who have embraced electric vehicles love their cars as much the economic and environmental benefits and they’re spreading the word.
“The driving experience is fantastic. They are quiet. They are smooth. The acceleration is tremendous and once you’ve driven one you just never want to go back to gas,” says President of the Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association Bruce Sharpe.
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Sounding like an advertisement for the industry, he says he took the plunge to driving electric three and a half years ago and it has been fantastic.
“We’ve been as far south as San Diego. We went from there to hours, you want a break and by the time you’ve got a cup of coffee in your hand the car is charges up and ready to go. So people would ask us if they saw us plugging-in, ‘gee, how long does it take to charge?’ And the answer was it feels like no time at all. The car was generally ready to go before we are.”
Sharpe says his Tesla gives him access to the company’s free and fast charging network. But you don’t need to have a top of the line Tesla to make the change.
Tom Pederson, a Victoria-area enthusiast and professor in the Earth and Science’s school at the University of Victoria, has been using his electric car for four years. His Nissan model goes 150 kilometres on a charge versus around 450 for a Tesla. But he has no regrets.
“I used to drive a Honda Civic which is a pretty economical car and I’m saving about $1,500 a year in gasoline costs because electricity is quite cheap in British Columbia relatively speaking. It’s one-fifth the cost of gasoline to power a vehicle. And the other thing that people have to think about is there is very little maintenance to an electric vehicle.”
And while Pedersen says there is a good network of charging stations in the province, he’s made it as far as Parksville, he says the province needs more for those wanting to take road trips.
“I’ve had to wait to use charging stations because there’s a Tesla or some other electric vehicle already there charging up. And, so, I think we need more capacity and I think that’s coming (the government has announced additional support for electric vehicles) and we want to see more charging stations across the country.”
One company has spent the last five years trying to expand Canada’s network is Sun Country Highways. President Kent Rathwell says they’ve installed charging stations on the TransCanada giving people the ability to drive electric from coast to coast.
“We wanted to shatter the myths of an electric vehicle and really make it a no-brainer to switch to a green vehicle so you can travel across basically the largest country in the world virtually anywhere in a green vehicle for free, you could say. Some places do charge but most of our locations don’t charge.”
Those locations are businesses, often restaurants or hotels, who host charging stations in their lots to entice customers. So far Rathwell says there are 1,000 stations across the country. And there’s another network called the West Coast Electric Highway running from Vancouver south to San Diego with provincial or state supported stations every 40 to 80 kilometres.
Pederson says the model to aspire to is Norway, where he says an all-party plan is to ban gas cars by 2025.
“Norway has turned the corner and they’ve got a phenomenal number of cars on the road there now. I think there’s up to 23 per cent of their national vehicle is now electric. They’ve installed about 8,000 charging stations across the country, the government did that. And they offer tax-free purchase of electric vehicle and taxes are high in Norway so that’s a big benefit right there. They offer free ferries, free parking, free tolls, free access to the HOV lanes and there is no charge at the charging stations for electricity so it’s essentially free fuel. So why wouldn’t you buy an electric vehicle.”
However, cost is an issue, lower-end models run around $40,000 and a couple hundred thousand for a top of the line Tesla.
But manufacturers are offering more and more options. Right now in B.C., there are 4,800 people who own no-emission vehicles. The government working on doubling that with a program offering up to $12,000 in rebates for a new vehicle.
“They do cost a little more upfront but you do save money by not ever having to put gas in them or oil in them. The maintenance is very low. Most people don’t appreciate that about them. We’ve had an electric car for three years and we’ve spent zero dollars on any kind of maintenance.”
If you’re not ready to go all-in on electric, Sharpe says maybe start with a Hybrid.
“We see the plug-in hybrids as kind of a gateway drug to the full real thing. They’re very efficient cars and there’re lots of people who because they’re just doing short trips around town, short commute to work whatever.”
For all the benefits Sharpe says he’s found from driving electric he says the only warning is that once you have an electric vehicle, you can’t shut up about it.