BY: JULIAN LABANDA-ARMSTRONG
Get a car that stays charged up.
Students gather excitedly at Humber College’s Lakeshore campus – all ready to test drive the latest buzz on the streets: electric vehicles. Plug N Drive, a non-profit organization that provides information on electric cars and charging stations, spearhead the event as part of a series of pop-ups on university and college campuses in Toronto.
According to a study from FleetCarma, a communications technology company aiding in the growth of electric vehicles, Ontario had the highest increase in electric vehicle sales in the world with a 67 per cent increase in annual sales in 2016.
“It’s definitely grown a lot since I’ve gotten into it,” says John Gordon, CEO of EVEN Electric, a Canadian global sales and distribution company for electric transportation. “I remember when we hit the 10,000 EV mark and now we’re approaching the 30,000 EV mark in Canada. Last year we hit 1 million vehicles globally and later this year we should hit 2 million.”
Plug N Drive communications advisor Brian Miller says one reason consumers gravitate toward buying electric cars is the lower cost to drive as electricity instead of gasoline equals lower fuel cost.
Gordon agrees. “The cost of electricity on average is about six times less expensive to drive versus gasoline,” he explains.
“I know Ontario has free charging at night and all sorts of incentives that will also take down the total cost of ownership.”
Cost may be part of what’s appealing to millennials.
“I think it’s the younger generation that’s just graduating now and even a few years behind that I think we’re gonna start seeing them coming out as their first vehicle to be electric,” says Gordon. “And as the price drops as well it’s becoming more affordable for them to find their suitable electric vehicle.”
It’s why Plug’N Drive has been looking at engaging the younger demographic through its college and university campus events. It seems to be working.
Plug N Drive employee Glen Mukli says at York University there was “a huge interest” in electric vehicles.
“We’ve been going around colleges and universities but are also going to be reaching out to high schools to showcase just how great electric vehicles can be for the people just exiting high school [in] need transportation,” he says.
The big knock on electric vehicles is the distance they can travel. It has been a concern for people during intercity travels because of limited charging stations in Ontario.
“Right now, for most EVs, going from Toronto to Ottawa for example is a bit of a stretch but with the chargers it helps with those long-distance journeys,” Miller says.
Ontario is aware of these concerns and is investing in the charging infrastructure. The CBC reported the Ontario government will have just under 500 charging stations in 250 locations in Ontario by fall. About 300 of those will be level two chargers, which fully charge an electric vehicle in about five hours and the other 200 will be level three chargers, that can have an EV fully charged in just over half an hour.
“When it comes to charging stations, even in places such as California and Norway where there’s an abundance of both level two and three charging stations, about 90 per cent of charging is done at home, so as much as it’s great to have charging stations they’re not used as much as people would think,” says Gordon. “The federal government just announced an additional $120 million over four years for green vehicle infrastructure which is primarily charging stations.”
The lack of charging stations currently is why Humber Lakeshore Principal Wanda Butote, who test drove one of the electric vehicles at the Plug N Drive event, says she’d have a second gassed-up vehicle as well. That way if she and her husband did want to take a long trip they’d have a back-up. Aside from that she says the experience was pretty “awesome”.
“The only thing that I felt was very different was when you take your foot off the gas immediately it starts to slow down so you’d have to get used to that feel but other than that it’s pretty similar to drive,” she says.
Aside from cost, young people may be attracted to electric vehicles for their environmental benefits. “The average vehicle produces about somewhere around 5 tons of greenhouse gas per year,” Gordon says. “If you were to run an electric vehicle off 100 per cent renewable grid, then you would essentially reduce greenhouse gas by 5 tons per year.”
It’s one of the things that 24-year-old Humber College student Gina Franco likes most about her electric vehicle.
“I think they’re better for the environment. Not necessarily good, just better. When people speak to me about electric vehicles their entire point of view changes on it for the better.”
“Not having to go to a gas station and smell all those fumes is a lot better. My car doesn’t make any smoke in the back or smell like gas at all and I don’t have to do maintenance. I love it!”