– Guest blog by Brad Cundiff, environmental writer
First they came in ones and twos. Then whole families, groups of raucous young guys, kids in shirts hanging down to their knees, and loyal fans in full team regalia. It was hockey night in Guelph.
But, this particular classic Canadian hockey night came with a bit of a twist. Emerge Guelph, a local environmental organization with the aim of making Guelph a 100 per cent renewable city, had set up an electric car show on the doorstep of the arena.
Inside the Old Quebec Shoppes Mall, which is attached to the arena where the Guelph Storm hold their on-ice tilts, were a half dozen electric vehicles (EVs). Just outside were close to a half dozen more. There was everything from a fully electric Tesla X with futuristic gull wing doors, to a family friendly Chrysler Pacifica minivan hybrid model.
Electric cars are the future
What would hockey fans think of the idea of driving electric? They loved it. The most surprising reaction was the simple acceptance that EVs are where the world is heading. “Oh yeah, this is the future for sure,” was a common refrain. But the surprise for many at the show was how close we are to that future.
“Four hundred kilometres, really?” they replied when told how far a GM Bolt can go on a single charge. “That would get me pretty much anywhere I need to go.”
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On game night, people slipped behind the wheel of a GM Bolt and Volt, the Chrysler Pacifica and Ford Fusion and imagined themselves silently winding down the road. The next morning, they got the chance to do it for real. Despite the drizzly conditions, test drives were booked solid for six hours. By the end of the weekend, 5,000 people had visited the electric car show area.
Ask an EV owner
One of the people at the electric car show was Larry Trakaic, who brought his Chevy Bolt down to the plaza in front of the mall to talk batteries, range and ride with dozens of tire-kickers. Like so many EV owners, Larry is a very enthusiastic fan of going electric. He cheerfully told me, “My background is as an accountant, so I am really cheap.” He then demonstrated his penny pinching ways by adding, “I have already driven more than 38,000 kilometres and I have only spent $40.67 on electricity.” Larry estimates he has saved over $4,000 in fuel costs in six months thanks to his Bolt.
It’s those kinds of eye-popping numbers that caught the attention of a young couple who came specifically to check out the fully electric car offerings. What was unusual was that they quickly explained that they had just recently purchased a car, but then added “We made a mistake.”
The young woman explained that she has a long daily commute that resulted in gas bills of around $500 a month. They were green with envy looking at the EVs on offer at the Guelph show, and it wasn’t just because of the reflection from the green licence plates that allow EV drivers access to the province’s HOV lane system, another nice perk for long-distance commuters.
What had drawn them back so soon to vehicle shopping was the provincial EV incentive that can reach $14,000 for fully electric models. Larry Trakaic understands that motivation well. “Without the 14, I would have had to think long and hard about making this purchase,” he noted. A father and son duo giving the minivan a look over concurred. “The $14,000 really puts these vehicles more in the range of what most people can afford,” said the dad.
Fully functional – and pretty cool
Meanwhile, it was more than the surprising range or the sleek design that impressed the shoppers. It was also how technologically advanced the vehicles are, from high beams that adjust themselves to oncoming traffic to rear view mirrors that instantly switch to camera mode after dark for clearer night vision.
The Tesla’s ability to pulse its lights and swing its hanging doors in time to the music booming from its sensational stereo system was a somewhat more frivolous example of the serious computing power of these cars, but it sure drew a crowd.
The young couple, for one, were sold: “We’ll be showing our car at the electric car show next year,” they laughed. That said, the Volt model on display had already been sold earlier that night.
Interested in learning more about how choices like driving an electric car can help fight climate change? Visit yournextchoice.ca and sign up.