A Complete Guide to Buying an Electric Car

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With the recent unveiling of Tesla’s latest generation of electric vehicles, mainstream buzz around these energy efficient vehicles seems to be reaching fever pitch. Even as Tesla grabs headlines left and right, a slew of other EVs from leading brands like, Toyota, and BMW are also capturing the public’s attention. When well-regarded industry publications like Motor Trend name a compact, mass-market EV like the Chevrolet Bolt as their favourite car of the year; you know that there’s more to this electric trend than just simple hype.

Although the past year has seen the number electric vehicles on Canadian roads, more than double from 20,000 in 2016 to almost 50,000; these cars still represent a comparatively tiny portion of the overall automotive market in the country. Despite the numerous benefits of owning EVs, from clean emissions, to low maintenance costs, and dirt cheap refuelling; most Canadians either have little knowledge of the electric vehicle market, or are turned off by the relatively high up-front costs of these cars.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled a few facts that can help you make an electric purchase you won’t regret.


Types of EVs

Hybrids


As far as battery powered cars go there are a few options on the table. Hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius, and Honda Insight, have been around for a while now and represent probably the most familiar alternative available to mainstream car buyers.  The vehicles are primarily powered by a traditional combustion engine which runs on gasoline, just like any other vehicle, but they are also equipped with a battery pack, and at least one electric motor usually utilized at lower speeds. The advantage is less emissions, and lower fuel costs.

Plug-In Hybrids


Unlike a traditional hybrid, plug-in hybrids use the electric motor as their main source of propulsion which means you can plug the engine in at a charging station to fuel it up. With these vehicles, the combustion engine is only used to extend the range when the battery becomes depleted past a certain point. So if you’re planning a trip to destination where you’re not likely to run into a charging station along the way, you can plan ahead and minimize your fuel consumption with a plug-in hybrid.  Examples of these cars include the Chevrolet Volt and the Chrysler Pacifica.

All-Electrics

These are the EVs that you’ve seen popping up in the news lately. All-electric vehicles rely solely on their batteries for propulsion, which means you don’t have the failsafe of a gas engine to fall back on if your car does run out of juice.


Range & Refuelling

Perhaps the most pertinent sticking point for Canadian car owners when it comes to EVs is range. After all nobody wants to be stranded with a dead battery in the middle of nowhere, without a charging station in sight. While the Canadian government has pledged to invest an additional $62.5 million in to EV charging stations across the country, currently EV owners have to rely on a network of about 1200 stations, mostly centred around Quebec, BC and Ontario. When you consider the fact that there are 12,000 gasoline stations in the country, those worries don’t seem without merit.

Another issue drivers may face when it comes to charging is convenience. Most charging stations throughout Canada only have space for 2 cars at a time, and even then if they’re only making use of standard three prong charges, then they make take up to 20 hours to completely recharge the average electric car battery. However, if you’re lucky enough to find a level 3 charging station which makes use of DC Fast Charge capabilities, and your car is compatible, then you can expect a full recharge in as little as 20-30 minutes.

That being said, if you’re planning on driving around 20-100 kilometres a day then most EVs should be able to handle the workload on a single charge without any issue.  For example, the mid-market Tesla Model 3 has a predicted range of about 500 km, while competitors like the Nissan Leaf, the Volkswagen E-golf, and the Chevrolet Bolt all boast a range in excess of 160 km on a single charge.  So, everyday commuters should be able to satisfy their charging needs at home, without having to rely on public charging stations.


Cost of Ownership

It’s an unavoidable fact that EVs are more expensive than their regular counterparts; this is largely due to the unavoidable expense of manufacturing high-tech batteries that are able to propel large vehicles for hundreds of kilometres at a time. While production prices are expected to fall rapidly in the next few years, currently these prices put EVs beyond the reach of many prospective buyers.

There are however a few mitigating factors to take into account when pondering your purchase. Firstly, EVs will save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars every year in fuel and maintenance costs. Although gasoline is comparatively inexpensive right now this isn’t always guaranteed, and as costs rise you’ll definitely feel the advantages of owning an EV.

Secondly, many provincial governments have incentive programs in place to substantially reduce the burden of purchasing an EV:

·       The Ontario government is offering a rebate of up to $14,000 on qualifying vehicles

·       Quebec advertises a rebate of up to $8000

·       British Columbia has a rebate program offering up to $5000


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