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Electric vehicles for the Kootenays

Pictured here is Jen Grebedinger of accelerate Kootenays, with test driver Paul Evans and Ann Damude from the Sustainability Commission.

accelerateKootenays was in Rossland on for Golden City Days with their fully electric  Chevrolet Bolt.  They answered questions about electric vehicles at their booth at the Fall Fair and then allowed curious Rosslanders to take the Bolt for a test drive.  accelerate Kootenays is Canada’s first community-driven, collaborative strategy to build a clean transportation network.  For more info about accelerate Kootenays, electric vehicles and rebates, go to accelerateKootenays.ca

Electric vehicles may be the coming thing in private-vehicle ownership.  Yes, they are different from gas-powered vehicles.

The difference many people notice first is that they’re generally  more expensive to buy; prices range from $30,000 up to over $250,000, depending on the make and model.  There are rebates available to lessen the sticker shock, though, and potential buyers should remember that electric vehicles cost much less to operate and maintain than fossil-fuel-powered vehicles.

Electric vehicles cost about one-quarter the amount that a fossil-fueled vehicle costs to travel the same distance, at current electricity prices and gas prices.  Electric vehicles don’t need oil changes, transmissions or exhaust systems, and electric motors are more durable than gas engines. Fewer  moving parts mean less chance of things going wrong.

Most electric car batteries are warrantied for about eight years, though there will be some loss of power -- of distance they can cover -- over time.

Local people may be wondering about how likely it is that electric vehicles will spontaneously catch fire, following a recent rash of car fires (including Monday’s flaming, exploding Ford F-150 pick-up on Columbia Avenue in Rossland) and Ford’s recent recall of F-150s because of fire hazard.  Studies have been done, but since there are still so few electric vehicles on the road compared with fossil-fueled vehicles, it may be too early to know for sure. Findings so far suggest that the risk of combustion is lower with electric vehicles than with gas-powered vehicles. For a more detailed discussion on that risk, click this link.

The range of electric vehicles has been improving. The 2019 Tesla Model 3 claims to be able to go just over 350 kilometers on a single charge.  The 2019 Chevrolet Bolt – the same model that people test-drove at the Rossland Golden City Days – has a range of just over 380 kilometers.  Yes, there are smaller and less expensive electric vehicles with lesser ranges; the SmartForTwo electric car can go for about 100 kilometers, or more if conditions are right.

Compared with internal combustion engines, conditions play more of a role in determining how far an electric vehicle can go on one charge. Warm weather gets better distance; extreme cold will reduce the range of an electric vehicle, and owners should prepare for that when taking longer trips in very cold weather.  On the other hand, fossil-fueled vehicles sometimes have difficulty starting at all in very cold weather. For an article written by an electric-car owner in Quebec this January in response to news coverage that he thought was unfair to electric vehicles, read this.

For driving in our Canadian conditions, potential purchasers still need to consider things like how rust-proof the vehicle is, and whether the wheel-wells are designed in such a way as to retain – or easily release -- packed snow that then freezes and inhibits wheel-turning to steer around corners, what sort of warranty is offered on the vehicle, and so on.

Of course, the big advantage of electric vehicles is that they don’t burn gas to get people from point A to point B. Yes, they still demand the use of oil to manufacture, but they don’t follow up on that by demanding constant fueling with gas or diesel. They don’t belch out combustion particulates to damage people's lungs, or greenhouse gases  to worsen global warming.