I’m ready for my first electric car, but is the electric car industry ready for me?

I’m currently driving a 2006 Honda Civic, which is actually still tooling around pretty darn well. It never has to go too far, but it remains reliable (knock on wood) even in the hardest of (long) Canadian winters.

However, the reality is that my car is living on borrowed time and I decided that I’d take a look at electric car options, or EVs, as I now know they’re called. We have a few friends and acquaintances who have taken the leap to Teslas, which is clearly the ultimate status symbol for geeks (and I say that with the deepest of respect for all the geeks I know and love). However, even though the prices are coming down, and even though I could undoubtedly be considered a geek by some, I’m not looking at Teslas.

After a week of online research and going from car dealer to car dealer to get a firsthand feel, I have learned a few things that may be worth sharing.

In Canada, a few provinces give fairly generous rebates for buying an EV. Not ours!

In order to incentivize auto makers to produce affordable electric vehicles and also incentivize buyers to consider switching to all-electric, some provinces in Canada are offering generous rebates of several thousands of dollars off the list price for new EVs (well, actually just two now, thanks to Doug Ford). The federal government currently offers a $5000 rebate on top of whatever provincial rebate there may be. The full rebate in our little province of New Brunswick is $5000, including federal and provincial portions! On the other hand, I hadn’t realized there was any rebate at all, so still a positive. Of course, there is a reason for proposing a rebate – they’re expensive.

In Canada, finding dealers with available EVs is not a walk in the park (at least not outside big cities).

Keeping in mind that we live in a small place where the demand undoubtedly isn’t huge, I did expect that if we decided to go this route in the end, we might have to wait and have the car ordered in. But I wasn’t prepared for my first stop at a dealer. I had thought that the Volkswagen eGolf looked appealing, so had started there. So … no eGolfs. None at all. It actually says on the Volkswagen Canada website that they typically take 12-18 months for delivery. Twelve-18 months! Definitely a supply problem. I furthermore learned that:

  1. The eGolf is currently only licensed for sale within Canada in Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia. Wow!
  2. If I wanted one, the salesman suggested that I should go to the nearest dealer, in Rimouski, Quebec (about a 6 hour drive), and put my name on their waiting list.
  3. They wouldn’t be able to bring any in anyway without first investing in training technicians and having a separate area for servicing electric cars. Another dealer I visited is in the process of setting up for EV sales, and hopes to be able to offer their Nissan Leaf within 6-9 months.

Image credit: pocket-lint.com

Most people would rather buy a cheap, gas-guzzling, exhaust-emitting truck than an EV!

The market for EVs and the dealerships that are trained and licensed to sell and serve them is slow to develop, and there is a reason. As I visited more dealers I came to realize that this is a big step for dealers in with smaller populations, where the demand is currently low and the upfront investment for the dealers is high. As one salesman said to me, “Before this, I worked for Dodge. It was all about selling gas-guzzling trucks.” I wasn’t sure he was convinced about EVs at all.

The salesmen (sorry, they happened to all be men) always asked about my motivation: was I looking to save money on gas, trying to save the environment, etc. Well, I’m definitely not concerned with saving money on gas, since I drive a basic Honda Civic and never more than 10,000 kms per year. Maximum of $50/month in a one-time gas fill-up. My answer is that it’s philosophical. One of them asked me with a smile if I’d been to Woodstock, meaning THE Woodstock, not Woodstock, New Brunswick. I told him he had nailed my generation, but, no, I wasn’t at the concert!

But we must as a society transition from fossil-fuel based vehicles, so our governments must step up with incentives for industry and customers, and invest in the required infrastructure.

Politicians have been taking the, shall we say, non-brave way out. Tiptoeing around how in heavens name we challenge (aka upset) our economies that have been happily and successfully fossil-fuel based for more than 100 years. But challenge it we must. It’s possible. Take a look at this chart and think about what Norway must have put in place to allow their numbers to look like this. Not only industry subsidies and customer rebates to encourage a push for an economy based more on renewable energy, but plug-in stations for people to “refuel” their EVs on the road, at work, at hotels, etc. In this worldwide transition from oil-based economies to renewal-energy and less energy-based economies, it is incumbent on every country, every state, and every province to step up to the plate.

Image credit: weforum.org

And we all know why this is important. It’s incumbent on us all, in every country, to do what we can to reduce CO2 emissions. Canada’s emissions per capital aren’t far behind the U.S., we just have a lot fewer people.  We need to do our part.

Image credit: The Economist, Sept 21, their Climate issue

EVs are coming down in price every year. Their batteries are getting bigger to be able to sustain longer drives without recharging (currently most full EVs are in the 300+ km range), thanks to improving battery technology. As demand increases, production should increase as well. More electric vehicles, longer range, lower cost.

There are some options: hybrid, hybrid plug-in (PHEV), and all-electric (EV)

Hybrids have been around for some time. They are very good on gas, and store energy from your running motor and braking action in a battery that can be used to run gas-free for extended distances. The car is smart enough to figure out when it is fuel-efficient to switch between gas and battery.

Hybrid plugins are newer. They actually have a separate plug to charge the battery, as well as having a gas tank. The car operates similarly to a regular hybrid but can run as fully electric for certain distances. They’re advertised as “having the best of both worlds”, although at the moment most can only go about 40 kms on fully electric before the gas kicks in.

Electric vehicles are just what they sound like, all-electric. No gas. None. They are a different driving experience altogether. They don’t make any engine-roaring sound. They can go from stop to full throttle with nothing in between. There’s plenty to learn to get used to them, but for those who have them, they are cherished. Caveat: They’re not cheap!

All of the salesmen I dealt with were very nice, but it was clear that for those that haven’t yet made the investment in increasing the size of their operation and having their technicians trained, they are struggling with the return on investment they might get. I can’t help but think that if the governments came on board with promotions and incentives, their return on investment would be just fine. The sooner the better.

As for me, I’m planning on test driving this Hyundai Ioniq hybrid plugin next week.

Image credit: forbes.com

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20 Responses to I’m ready for my first electric car, but is the electric car industry ready for me?

  1. Keeping in mind that we live in a small place where the demand undoubtedly isn’t huge.

  2. smilecalm says:

    smiling to your conscientious
    thoughts on getting
    around, Jane 🙂

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, SmileCalm. Hopefully, alternatives to fossil fuel vehicles (and power generation) will become cheaper, better accepted and more easily available before too terribly long.

  3. Sartenada says:

    People of Norway are rich! In my country price are in heaven. They are Luxury cars. Range is not enough for us, because our distances are long. While waiting I will continue driving my BMW. 🙂 Well, someday…

    Happy weekend!

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Very good point! But they will keep coming down in price, and hybrids and hybrid plugins are more reasonable. My guess is that the prices would come down faster if countries’ public policy supported and incentivized the move away from fossil fuel instead of bowing the lobbying and money of the oil and gas companies.

  4. Roy McCarthy says:

    Those Norway stats are staggering. I’m afraid Jersey’s monster 4 x 4 owners, too big for our narrow lanes, will never be parted from them 😦

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Norway shows what a difference enlightened public policy and political courage can do. It will come everywhere else as the younger generation takes up the mantle of leadership. I hope the world can wait that long.

  5. Also, will be interested in getting a review of the Hyundai.

  6. Thanks for the research, it is helpful as we (mostly me) are thinking of replacing our 2006 Camry and have started looking at Hybrids as EV’s are not practical here yet. At the moment only looking online but our local Toyota does have a Corolla Hybrid in stock so will be checking it out. Interestingly we attended our local potential MP’s panel tonight on climate and environment as part of a cross Canada event and it was quite interesting to see the university students in attendance.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Given the interesting challenges we’ve found here, I can imagine they’re there in spades in Wolfville! It’s early-ish days in our region, but it’s coming. Excellent news about interest in the election on the part of young people. That’s what’s going to swing a more courageous change in public policy. Our Green candidate is doing very well here; she may well pull it off!!

  7. As Kiernan points out above if we are using electricity where is that coming from? I know people here who have solar panels on their roofs and the power generated and stored in their batteries are used to fuel their electric car. Nothing perfect but we move towards better….. on the wet West Coast we cannot generate a lot of solar power in the winter. Our electricity mainly comes from Hydro Electric dams (another point of contention)
    Another thing I am asked…… don’t I have to think about the charging all the time. It has been an interesting flip in my mind as I now see my new mode of transportation. It is like a roving computer, the body of the car being the hardware…..the computer screen the software. 20 moving pieces as opposed to 2000. Like a cell phone, at the end of the day I look at where the battery level is and keep it around the suggested 80% for the next day depending on my plans.
    The range on a full charge 388 kms much more than I need most days but far enough to feel confident I could go on a long trip with peace of mind.
    As you can tell I am a Tesla ‘groupie’ and although I have never named a car in my life there is a spot on the screen for a name. So she is named….”Mystic”

  8. Hello Robby…..As of a week ago I am now an owner of a Tesla Electric car (totally electric)
    I am in my late sixties and not what anyone could call a ‘techie’ it has been a learning curve
    but the moment I took possession and drove past my first gas station there was a perceptible change in my mindset….never again would I need to fill my car with fossil fuel
    I received a gift from my aunt a few years ago and used that money to buy the car. I got the federal $5000 grant and the provinicial $3000 (basically paying for the taxes) and those grants will dry up either by change of government or runnin out.
    When Elon dropped the price so that Canadians could get the grant I was told that a few days later 120 cars went off the lot in Vancouver, we picked up ours a week ago…..50 cars that day. So since late May hundreds of Teslas have been streaming on the roads in Western Canada (not just Teslas, I originally had my name in for a Hyundai Kona but with the 9 month wait list I opted for the available Tesla I wanted/needed to take advantage of the grants.
    I am now able to walk my talk, when I protest the Trans Canada Pipeline twinning to the west coast, the insanity of putting barges of bitumen into our pristine waters …… I can now say I did not use fossil fuels to get there. That was the question I most often got “How did you get here?
    Nothing is perfect, we need solar charging stations and more people to wake up but …..one step at a time.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Bravo, West coast woman. BC is definitely leading the way in Canada. Ontario was as well until their change in govt. I’m with you, I feel like I have to walk the talk. I have two friends with Teslas. They are Tesla groupies; one has had a naming contest for her Tesla, which she had to order and wait for. Let’s keep those one-steps going. Thanks for telling your story and sharing important points.

  9. Kieran says:

    How does your area generate electricity? If it’s coal fired, you personally might have less emissions (and toxic waste from batteries) sticking to high mileage gas car… Sad but may be true.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks for asking, Kieran. Our province happens to be a balanced mix of hydro, oil-based, and nuclear, with a smattering of wind. We’ve phased out coal. But it is a good question and an important point. All our fossil-fuel usages need rethinking, starting – yesterday – with the dirtiest ones.

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