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:
- The eGolf is currently only licensed for sale within Canada in Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia. Wow!
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.