The Learning Curve on Electric Vehicles

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My trusted Matrix took its dying breath on the Hanlon a few weeks ago.  Saying good-bye was harder than I thought it would be, because so many memories with my kids happened in that car – road trips, camping, horse shows, and teenagers learning to drive with their G1.   But I won’t miss the roll up windows, the familiar rattles and the gas mileage in its later years.

And so I began the search for my next vehicle… and learned quite a few new things along the way.  The installation of new electric car charging stations  — Stone Road Mall, University of Guelph and the County of Wellington office on Wyndham Street  — made the idea of buying a full electric vehicle (EV) worth considering.  The more I looked at buying an EV, the more sense it made.

  • no gas!
  • up to $14K rebate from Province (lease or purchase)
  • a rapily-growing network of charging stations in Guelph and across Ontario
  • evolving technology means batteries can be swapped for higher-range versions
  • zero emissions

I’ll admit that I did have “range anxiety” at first.  This is a common initial hesitation of many potential electric vehicle consumers.  Over the course of two weeks, I did a mileage audit of my frequent trips and realized most of my driving is local, and even GTA or KW trips can be accommodated with planned parking where an EV charging station is available.  I even found a cool mobile app (PlugShare) where EV owners offer to share their home charging stations with other EV owners.

The next step was a trip to the Plug ‘n’ Drive EV Centre in Toronto.  Plug’n Drive is a non-profit organization that offers information on electric vehicles, but is not a sales centre, so the information is unbiased.  They have test drive vehicles from a variety of manufacturers (yes, they have a Tesla on site too).  I was able to test drive three different EV (Nissan Leaf, Chevy Bolt and BMW i3).   The staff are knowledgeable about all of the benefits, models and incentives programs.  I followed up this field trip to the closest Kia dealership with an EV in stock (Burlington) to test drive the electric Soul.

After a test drive, I was sold on the Soul.  It’s been three weeks with my new EV and so far so good.  Most public charging stations (such as County of Wellington building) were free until July 1, but are now recouping their costs by charging or flat or hourly rate.  Charging at home is now the most economical option.  As an added bonus, there is a $1000 provincial rebate for new owners to install a home charging station.  Incentivizing the purchase of an electric vehicle is based on the same principle as low-flush toilet and washer rebates — there is a great social or environmental benefit to promoting a cultural or technological shift.

Since becoming an EV owner, I have discovered even more benefits….

  • Regenerative brakes help to extend range (they recharge the battery on deceleration), so cool
  • Three different charging levels (1, 2 and 3) means I can fully charge the car in 25 minutes, or 24 hours, depending on the hook up
  • No oil changes, no engine fluids…my first maintenance check is at 30,000 km
  • So quiet!  A combustion engine sounds very noisy to me now!
  • EVs in Ontario come with green licence plates, which can be used in HOV lanes
  • There are many mobile apps that map the location of EV charging stations and I have not had any issues finding a location to charge
  • Pick up acceleration is amazing, even on the Gordon Street and Eramosa hills
  • People love to ask about the EV and I have had many great conversations with other EV owners and curious EV future owners

Transportation infrastructure is changing. Climate change and the transition to clean and renewable energy in Ontario is driving (forgive the pun) a new economy.   New EV models are coming in the fall — the VW e-Golf and the Hyundai Ioniq for example.  Auto manufacturing in Canada could see a new future if we are able to produce electric cars here at home.   Volvo recently announced it will only make EVs and hybrids as of 2019.

Guelph has always been on the forefront of the shift to green technologies.  EVs are the future in my opinion.  I see a role for the municipality in building the infrastructure to support this shift sooner than later.  EV charging stations are planned for the future Wilson Street parking facility.  This is just the beginning ….

 

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