Thinking about the possibility your next vehicle may be powered up in the garage rather than at the gas station? You’re far from alone.
While electric vehicles still comprise a relatively small share of the market, Julia Kent says there’s been strong growth, especially since Transport Canada introduced a point of sale rebate of up to $5,000.
“There was a 400 per cent increase in sales in Canada between 2018 and 2019,” noted Kent, who is the director of public and government affairs for CAA Atlantic.
“While the numbers a relatively small in terms of market share, we expect them to grow.”
The CCA has devoted a section of its national and regional websites to electric vehicles to help give consumers unbiased information so they can decide if an electric vehicle is a good fit for them.
The first thing to keep in mind is there are four types of electric vehicles, and Kent advises potential purchasers to consider the size and type of driving they generally do to determine the best option.
A battery-operated vehicle relies entirely on electricity stored in onboard batteries to make the wheels turn. While the sticker prices will be higher than comparable gas-powered vehicles, there will be considerable savings on fuel and maintenance.
While the vehicle can be plugged into a 110-volt household electrical socket, a residential electric vehicle charging station (240 volts) is recommended for quicker charging. The stations cost anywhere from $700 to $2,000 and they have similar electrical requirements to a stove or clothes dryer. Most models will go between 200-250 kilometres on a full charge.
“If most of your driving is shorter distances, this may be a good fit for you,” Kent explained.
A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle runs on battery and gasoline. These models feature rechargeable battery packs that provide 20-80 kms (depending on model) of all-electric driving before a gas engine or generator kicks in for longer trips.
Another option is the Hybrid Electric Vehicle, which has both a gasoline engine and electric motor. Unlike the other models, the hybrid is not plugged in, but rather from regenerative braking. Hybrid electric vehicles predominately use gasoline, but the cycle in and out of electric mode does make them cheaper to operate than traditional gas-only vehicles.
Finally, there is the Fuel-cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV), which is the most expensive electric vehicle and is not yet widely available across the country. It creates electricity from hydrogen and oxygen, instead of storing and releasing energy like a battery.
Kent is expecting this type of vehicle to become more widely available within the next five years.
Things to keep in mind
Kent says the availability of DC Quick charging stations is often the biggest concern expressed when people are considering an electric vehicle. While the network of 400-volt stations is expanding across the country and the CAA has a list of stations on its website, going on a long trip with a battery-electric vehicle does take some pre-planning. The public sites can recharge a vehicle from empty to 80 per cent in 30 to 45 minutes.
However, that is changing. In late February, the federal and PEI governments announced funding for 50 additional charging stations across the Island.
It’s a move that has the full support of Summerside-South Drive MLA Steve Howard. As the Green Party critic for transportation, infrastructure, and energy, he is introducing a pair of private member’s bills in the PEI legislature designed to prepare for a cleaner energy future. When it comes to vehicle charging stations, Howard is proposing something called ‘vehicle-to-grid technology.’
Vehicle-to-grid technology uses the batteries in electric vehicles while they are plugged in to help stabilize the electricity grid.
Howard explained this can create a new revenue stream for electric vehicle owners while at the same time improving the electricity grid.
He is expecting a substantial increase in the number of electric cars as the federal government moves forward with its plan to have only zero vehicle emission cars sold by 2040.
“That could put a tremendous strain on our electric system and, by having a vehicle-to-grid program, you turn a potential problem into part of the energy solution,” he explained.
In the third quarter of 2020 (the latest figures available from Statistics Canada), there were 18,771 zero-emission vehicles sold across the country, which represented 3.7 per cent of total vehicle sales during that period.
Battery electric vehicles were by far the most common – representing 67.1 per cent of the sales – but the most telling statistic might well be the fact 92.9 per cent of the sales occurred in just three provinces: Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia.
Kent said it’s really no secret why – both Quebec and British Columbia have rebates of their own in addition to the federal point of sale rebate.
Nova Scotia recently introduced a $3,000 rebate and Howard would like to see PEI follow suit in the near future.
“That is something I have advocated for since my first day as an MLA,” he said.
Kent explained the price gap between gasoline and battery-electric vehicles is narrowing, and she is expecting it will likely disappear sometime in 2023 or 2024. The makes, models, and options available on electric vehicles are also increasing as their popularity grows. Both those trends will likely convince many people to take a look at going electric, she says.
CAA Atlantic has a Telsa that is available for test drives in the Halifax Regional Municipality and Kent said there has been strong demand from people wanting to try the vehicle, even during COVID. Kent adds that CAA does not advocate for one particular brand of vehicle (whether electric or gas).
“We simply want to help people choose the best vehicle option for them,” Kent says.