Just off the coast of British Columbia is the tiny island of Salt Spring. From end-to-end, it stretches a paltry 27-kilometers and is populated by a little over 10,000 people. But this small island that could hosts a green secret: Salt Spring has the highest concentration of electric vehicles in the entirety of the North American Continent. And is perhaps one of Canada’s greenest municipalities.
Salt Spring Island is one of the perfect places to drive an electric car. At only 27 kilometers end to end, it fits well-within most economic electric car ranges, and the temperate winters mean the EV batteries last much longer (extreme cold lowers their efficiency, a problem for those living in more frigid places in Canada). There’s also the fact that the provincial government of B.C. and the Federal government offers rebates of up to $5,000 to anyone buying electric vehicles.
But even in what is basically the EV utopia of North America, many EV owners still aren’t happy. It’s for the same exact reasons that gas drivers grapple with when it comes to considering the switch to electric: fewer choices, a limited driving range, and of course, cost.
When it comes to buying cars, many Canadians think: bigger is better. Unfortunately, for the more ecologically-conscious buyer, their choices of transportation are limited to smaller vehicles that, perhaps, might not suit their needs.
Especially for families or for people who need to haul cargo, electric vehicles aren’t the best choices: how do you pack a family of 5 in a tiny Peugeot? Answer: you can’t. You’re going to have to shell out big bucks (more on that later) to get something even remotely close to fitting in the rugrats and the wife all at the same time.
For many people, a happy intermediary would be hybrid vehicles: cars that run on a mostly electric engine, but switches to gas when the batteries run out. And for many people, this works. A lot of hybrid car owners report that a full tank of gas can last them up to months at a time. Provided, of course, that they plan their trips accordingly, so they get to charging stations before they deplete their batteries.
But this setback of minimal space shouldn’t last long. Already, manufacturers both in Canada and other parts of the world are designing electric vehicles that can fit parties of five into a zero-emission car.
Tesla, of course, came out with the Model X, while Korean manufacturers Kia and Hyundai are busy introducing five-seater SUVs in the form of the Niro and Kona, respectively. Down south, Tesla and Ford are locked in an EV arms race to churn out an energy-efficient, zero-emissions, and spacious pick-up truck that can compete with its gas-guzzling counterparts.
It might not happen in the next couple of years, especially with the setbacks that the 2020 pandemic wrought on various industries, but if the issue of space is addressed ASAP, it might just encourage other Canadians to jump on the (clean, green, zero-emissions) bandwagon.
Placating Range Anxiety
Back in Salt Springs, range anxiety isn’t much of a worry: after all, with just 27 kilometers end-to-end and with minimal traffic, a fully-charged EV could last for days.
But what about in other parts of Canada, especially in rural areas where the nearest metropolitan is a couple of hours away? The limited range of electric cars are one of the major hurdles that prevent people from switching. It’s not like you can ask a passing moose on the 501 if there’s have an electric station nearby.
Even in Salt Springs, residents have to worry about range anxiety once they have to consider going into the city and taking a ferry ride. Of course, the range of current electric vehicles is exponentially better than it was just a few years ago, but it’s still a justifiable cause of concern for many potential buyers.
But with every passing year, manufacturers are slowly building up the ranges of their electric vehicles by a few dozen kilometers every time. Of all the current EV manufacturers, Tesla is the one that set the gold standard: most of their EV’s surpass the 400km mark regularly, and while it’s a pretty high bar to beat, manufacturer’s around the world are busy competing.
It’s Still Quite Expensive
But out of all the concerns people have about switching to EV, one issue comes to mind: price. With electric vehicles (even the ‘economical’ models) starting at around $35,000, it’s not the most affordable of cars. For comparison, a Tesla Model S starts at around $64,000 Canadian, roughly the same price as a BMW M2 coupe (give or take a few hundred).
Sure, there are rebates and the money you save from gas builds up over time, but the initial capital is simply too much for the average Canadian. Proponents of EV’s, however, argue that one could save up to $2,000 in operational costs because charging up at home (around $3 for the whole night) is still cheaper than filling up at the nearest gas station.
Electric cars are still not cost-efficient, however. Even with the savings a person makes from charging up, they’d still need to drive their EV for 5 to 7 years before their savings make up for the expensive up-front costs.
A Community Effort
Still, many EV proponents say that the more people drive electric cars, the more charging stations there will be, and the more manufacturers will be forced to come up with innovations to address all these concerns.
Elon Musk, the closest we have to a real-life Bruce Wayne (or Lex Luthor? Only time will tell), is busy trying to figure out ways to reduce the initial cost of manufacturing an electric car without compromising reliability, speed, or raw power. But if you think we’re going to see an electric car that costs around the same price as a Pinto in the next couple of years? Don’t hold your breath.
Are we anywhere near a Canada that is completely free of gas-powered vehicles? Probably not. But there are places like Salt Springs where people are constantly hoping for a greener future, one electric car at a time.