More Vancouver car owners are going electric, and for good reason

Rising fuel costs, environmental concerns, government rebates enticing more drivers

Have you been thinking about buying a hybrid or electric car?

If so, you are not alone.

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With gas prices exceeding $1.70 a litre and growing concerns about air pollution and impacts of climate change, fuel-efficient and zero emission vehicles are gaining in popularity.

At this year’s Vancouver Auto Show, considerable attention was devoted to PHEVs (plug-in hybrid electric vehicles), BEVs (battery electric vehicles) and FCEVs (fuel cell electric vehicles).

Hyundai was one of a number of manufacturers of fuel cell vehicles on display at the Vancouver Auto
Hyundai was one of a number of manufacturers of fuel cell vehicles on display at the Vancouver Auto Show. Photo Michael Geller

On May 1, a federal program took effect offering rebates to purchasers of nineelectric cars and 13 plug-in hybrids. Fully electric cars with starting prices of less than $45,000 are eligible for the full $5,000 rebate. Plug-in hybrids can get up to $2,500 off.

These are in addition to B.C. program rebates announced last year offering $6,000 for a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle and up to $5,000 for a new battery electric or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle.

I first drove a hybrid vehicle in 2000. It was an early Prius brought over from Japan to accompany Severn Cullis-Suzuki and my niece and some friends on a bicycle ride across Canada, in a campaign for clean air called Powershift 2000.

After the Prius was introduced in Canada, I purchased one as a car-share vehicle for the burgeoning SFU UniverCity community.

This seemed appropriate since the car-share concept was developed by a part-time SFU student named Tracey Axelsson as a school project. She subsequently co-founded the Co-operative Auto Network in 1997.  Car-sharing has come a long way since then.

When I left the SFU Community Trust in 2007, I traded in a Lexus SUV requiring 20 litres per 100 km for a Prius requiring sixlitres per 100 km. A neighbour who owned a Porsche, Range Rover and Mercedes convertible called me a snob as I first drove by her house.

At the 2010 World Fair in Shanghai, a variety of electric cars were on display and in use. I decided then to one day buy an electric car.

In 2013,Tesla arrived in Vancouver. I booked a test-drive appointment and loved the car, but worried the company might go broke, until a year-end trip to California where many Teslas were on the road.

In 2014, Michael Geller ordered a Tesla just before the expiry of a $5,000 government rebate program
In 2014, Michael Geller ordered a Tesla just before the expiry of a $5,000 government rebate program. He’s driven it ever since without any problems. Photo Michael Geller

Returning to Vancouver, I ordered one for delivery in March 2014, just before expiry of a $5,000 government rebate program.

I have driven it ever since without any problems. My daughter continues to drive the 12-year old Prius. Neither vehicle requires much maintenance.

A key consideration with an electric car is how to charge it. As noted on the BC Hydro website, there are three basic approaches: Levels 1, 2 and DC fast charger.

Level 1 refers to the standard 120-volt outlet found in homes and businesses. Realistically, this is not a practical way to charge a car on a regular basis.

Level 2 power supply is the same as that provided for a stove or clothes dryer. Level 2 chargers can be installed in a garage by an electrician at a cost between $800 and $2,000.

The ongoing energy costs for electric cars vary but are often estimated at about $2 per 100 km.

The third type of charging is DC or direct current fast charging using 480-volt. Increasingly, these chargers are being installed in public facilities and commercial buildings. Charging time for most cars is significantly reduced. While some stations are free, others cost about three times as much as Level 1 and 2 charging.

Given the federal and provincial rebates, gasoline costs and environmental benefits, I highly recommend buying an electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle. However, a key consideration is whether it can be easily charged overnight.

While this is relatively easy for those living in single-family houses, it can be more difficult and complicated for those living in older rental or condominium apartments.

I cannot leave this topic without sharing a recent tweet from former city councillor and current chair of the David Suzuki Foundation Peter Ladner.

“If EVs are worth a $5k subsidy, why wouldn’t e-bikes and regular bikes get a subsidy? They produce far fewer emissions, promote greater health and are far more affordable. Why do we continue to pamper cars?”

Just one more consideration.




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