Electric Is Better – Even On A Remote Island

By Roy L Hales

British Columbia’s EV tipping point may be closer than you think. When you factor in the cost of gasoline, the average electric vehicle is already substantially less expensive that a gas car. Level three charging stations, capable of delivering an 80% charge in 30 minutes, are creeping up the east coast of Vancouver Island, BC. There are now seven stations along the coastal route between Sidney and Campbell River and sixteen in the Greater Victoria area. (In addition, there is a Tesla Fast charging station in Nanaimo and another planned for Campbell River.) Now even people in remote locations like Cortes Island are going electric. On Saturday, April 12, three of the island’s six (and counting) E-car owners explained why electric is better — even on a remote island. 

Cortes EV owners held a mini-faire in the parking lot at Manson’s hall during the Friday market, to promote electric transport. On display were four full size cars and three E-bikes.

In the Podcast:

Tesla Model 3 controls – Roy L Hales photo
  • I ask each owner…
  • How much their vehicle costs?
  • How much do they save every month in terms of reduced energy costs?
  • How many kilometres do they get to a charge?
  • The story behind one of the first Toyota Prius (hybrid) sales in British Columbia.
  • How EVs are like computers on wheels.
  • How the Tesla’s touch screen, seen above, shows every Supercharger station in the world and which stalls are empty, and makes the necessary preparations before a car arrives.
  • Why EVs, and Teslas in particular, have such excellent safety records.
  • How Teslas update their software every month and what this means in terms of the vehicle’s overall performance. (How the range of Barry Saxifrage’s Tesla increased from 499 km to 525 km per charge.)
  • Where do Teslas go for maintenance?
  • Surveillance technology: Self driving cars; Anti-collision technology; EVs that apply the brakes if/when you do not.
  • How reliable is an EVs surveillance technology? Does it make mistakes?
  • How the EVs computer calculates your anticipated range.
  • Regenerative braking; how EVS can recover energy and recharge the battery while driving.
  • EVs with Eco Driving mode: you don’t even have to use the disc brakes, just take your foot off the accelerator and the car comes to a gentle stop via regenerative braking.

Nissan Leaf

Hannu Huuskonen in front of his 2017 Nissan Leaf – Roy L Hales photo

Hannu Huuskonen explains how, thanks to the reduction in fuel costs, he is practically getting his Nissan Leaf for free. 

“This was a three year-old model and it cost us $17,500 [in  August 2017] … What we pay for financing it is pretty much exactly the same as what we paid for gas and maintenance on our old [gas] vehicle.”

He has to pay for electricity of course, but the cost is minimal.

While the frequent charging stops mean that trips to Victoria or the Mainland take considerably longer, the Leaf is far more convenient than a gas car on Cortes. Hannu doesn’t have to drive out to Squirrel Cove for gas anymore. He obtains all the electricity he needs by plugging the vehicle in during his lunch break.

Tesla Model 3

Barry Saxifrage doesn’t have any range anxiety. His Tesla Model 3 goes more than 500 kilometres on a single charge. On routes where there are superchargers, this translates to about three hours’ driving for every half hour at the station. However the ratio abruptly changes in more remote areas where there are only level two chargers.

Image from Barry saxifrage’s handout at the Cortes EV Mini-Faire

The Saxifrages switched over to electric for environmental reasons. Over the course of its lifetime, the average EV produces only 2% of the CO2 used by its gas powered equivalent.

“It surprising how much cleaner it is. You don’t use gasoline; You don’t have any oil leaks; When the car is running, you don’t have any exhaust.”

Barry wasn’t fully aware just how clean an EV is until he had to replace one of the computer chips. The maintenance area was “an immaculate room; people were walking around in clothes just like we are.” There was no oil or grease.

“That’s when it hit me, these things are not big dirty toxic machines.”

Thanks to their many inbuilt safety features, which are described in the podcast, EVs are also far safer than their gas counterpart’s. (Tesla was given the highest safety score ever.)

Most people do not realize that the most expensive part of a gas car is fuel.

“We used to have a Subaru Outback. That car would burn $40,000 in gasoline during its lifetime. To drive this car the same amount costs $6,000 for electricity.”

Under the hood of a Chevy Bolt – Roy L Hales photo

Chevy Bolt

De Clarke took us under the hood of her Chevy Bolt: almost nothing we saw was recognisable. She explains how regenerative braking works to recapture energy from the car’s mass and momentum; also, how the car “tells you” how much energy you are using and rates your driving style (and prevailing conditions like terrain and temperature) to estimate your anticipated range. Sensors warn you of the proximity of other cars (or pedestrians), and if the sensors detect an imminent collision the car will slam on its own brakes.

“The thing is like holding your hand. I swear, the next generation will not know how to drive.”

She also took some of us for a demo drive. The engine was so quiet that two people standing in front if us did not even hear the car start. I was suggesting she honk her horn; but bystanders alerted them to the car’s forward creep, and they moved aside.

Apparently the Bolt could have been even quieter, but Chevy built in an unnecessary “whine” to alert nearby pedestrians at low speeds (when tyre noise is minimal). The near-silence was a surprise.

So was the fact that a Bolt can go from 0 to 60 kph in six and a half seconds. Electric motors provide impressive torque.

De explained that one factor affecting her choice of EV was local support; she purchased from the Chevy dealer in Campbell River and can get service and parts there.

Four vehicles at the EV Mini-faire: A Prius (hybrid); Tesla Model 3, Chevy Bolt & Nissan Leaf – Roy L Hales photo.

Please do listen to the podcast which offers a lot more detail; this article is just a summary.

Top photo credit: EVs on show at Friday Market (De Clarke).

Theme song: Rick Bockner “Old Stone Walls’, from the album “Trouble The Moon”.

Originally Published April 14, 2019.

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