Rise of the Electric Automobile


There’s a battle rumbling south of the border. And it’s one Canadians aren’t hearing a lot about unless they plumb the news feeds online.

It started for Tesla Motors during the 2012 U.S. presidential race. As the electric car company paid off its bailout loans earlier this month, American government news watchdog AllGov reminded readers that during the recent U.S. election republicans Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin both referred to the company as “losers.”

Tesla Motors is in the news a lot these days. If it isn’t a controversial New York Times review that caused the venerable newspaper to eat crow, it’s making headlines about selling their automobiles direct to the consumer, whittling away the middle man.

The company ought to get a sincere pat on the back for their efforts to introduce electric cars into the mainstream. Instead, their efforts were derailed in Texas despite a favourable opinion of the company on Wall Street. What this seems to indicate is that despite political backlash and negative press, Tesla Motors continues to move forward — disrupting the current fossil-fuel dominated automobile industry by offering a radical choice for consumers.

So how are you able to take advantage of this choice?

Well, it’s not easy of course. Our roads and geography in British Columbia weren’t made for the electric car in mind. But as proponents will point out, the options are getting better every year. Right now, there are basically four types of electric vehicles. In B.C., the provincial government offers a wide range of interesting incentives for consumers, which includes covering some of the costs to install charging stations at multi-unit residential buildings in the province.

If you already have an electric vehicle requiring a fuelling station, then Richmond is the place to go. The Lower Mainland city boasts 10 such terminals. And for those thinking about buying an electric car, Clean Energy Vehicles for B.C. provides all the information you need to make a decision.

It even lists all the places in B.C. where you are able to plug-in.


2 thoughts on “Rise of the Electric Automobile

  1. Friday, 07 June 2013 09:10 posted by Greg Shea

    So, where is my ZENN?


    Thankfully, I did not see anyone promoting the Site C dam to help increase the grid to run these electric cars! That would be a travesty!

    Here on the Island we have a baker in Colwood who mainly uses solar power to charge his Nissan Leaf.


    The auto industry has a long history of short-circuiting the move away from petrochemicals. In the beginning was the electric car and the alcohol based car. Along comes Rockefeller and boom we have prohibition, not a movement about “temperance”, but all about money and lots of it, from BIG oil.

    Ford gives in, and prohibition quickly ends. Who knew?

    And the issue is the emissions from the vehicle, once produced. There shouldn’t be any difference in the cost to the environment of actually manufacturing each type of transportation.

    Greg Shea (Lake Cowichan)

    Thursday, 30 May 2013 20:16 posted by Surrey 2010

    Just because GM didn’t want to issue the Volt and call it a hybrid does not mean it doesn’t use more than one power source (electricity and gasoline). I’ll concede the motor is all electric however it’s dual power source puts it solidly in the hybrid class because it uses two fuels. Introducing another class of vehicle is just producing marketing gaffleflab to confuse the buying public. GM purposely reduced battery capacity to force purchase and servicing of a fossil fuel engine. Parts had to be produced and warehoused around the world forcing customers to service the gas burner and pay out hard cash to service the second systme. In my opinion GM is out to kill the electric vehicle a second time round. As Oprah says “When someone shows you who they are; believe them”

    Wednesday, 29 May 2013 09:33 posted by Matthew Klippenstein

    Lastly, Richmond’s 10 charging stations are commendable (we used the one in Steveston the other weekend) but there should be about 500 publicly-accessible charging stations around the province by now, most of them in the Lower Mainland.

    Metrotown mall in Burnaby alone has 10 stations (6 for customers, 4 in the employee parking lot). WalMart put in 28 charging stations at their various stores around the province. (Or at least, they applied for rebates for 28, if I’m remembering the numbers correctly.)

    The best place to find station locations is probably the PlugShare app or website (www.plugshare.com), which the CEV for BC website links to.

    Given that most people do most of their recharging at home (and perhaps at work) our current level of infrastructure is probably adequate enough that as people become more familiar with the technology, sales will start rising higher. I write a monthly column on the Canadian EV market here:

    (hmm… my bio’s disappeared. Better fix that)

    Wednesday, 29 May 2013 09:20 posted by Matthew Klippenstein

    @Surrey2010, Volts are electric vehicles (part of the time) and they aren’t “hybrids” as most people use the term.
    Volts can run off grid electricity for about 60 km before the battery is depleted and the gas engine kicks in, so they are in every way plug-in electric vehicles. Hybrids like the conventional Toyota Prius don’t have plug-in capability.

    @ronwilton, GM isn’t closing its electric car manufacturing in the US (where the Volt is made) but they will make their Spark Electric in South Korea. (Almost half of Chevy cars are made in South Korea to begin with, and the Spark is a small car, and these don’t sell all that well in North America to begin with.)

    @motorcycleguy, you’re right that there’s no free lunch, but on balance electric vehicles are much cleaner than regular gasoline cars. 80%+ of a car’s emissions come from the gas it burns. It does take more energy and emissions to create an EV, but the reduced fuel emissions more than makes up for it, unless the grid is dominated by coal. This presentation has more info:

    Wednesday, 29 May 2013 08:26 posted by Bob Broughton

    I was in Aguascalientes, Mexico a couple of weeks ago, and they’re becoming a pioneer in the use of electric taxis. They’ve built a charging centre that can handle 50 vehicles. A similar project is under way in Mexico City.

    In both places, the vehicle of choice is the Nissan Leaf. See http://nissannews.com/en-US/nissan/usa/channels/us-united-states-nissan-models-leaf/releases/video-report-growing-the-grid-ev-taxis-drive-infrastructure-transformation-in-mexico-latin-america

    Tuesday, 28 May 2013 12:01 posted by Surrey 2010

    Volts are NOT electric cars…they are hybrids. I have put 34,000 km on my Leaf which is fully electric and I have to say Nissan has done a wonderful job of calculating average range vs. battery.
    I appreciate the ability to charge my car in other municipalities when I run low on battery charge but I usually charge at home. I use an offsite charging station once every week or two. I find people are quite derisive about my getting free electricity at offsite charging stations but I only take about 40 cents worth of electricity to top up my vehicle. If I fully charge my vehicle the cost of electricity is under $3.00. I believe they think I am getting a huge cost benefit but their perception is prejudiced by their own fuel costs. What used to cost me $400.00 per month for gasoline now costs me $40.00 per month in electricity.

    Tuesday, 28 May 2013 10:03 posted by John King

    Yes, it’s a complicated situation there is no doubt about that motorcycleguy. And the greatest emissions do come from industrial-commercial projects, equipment, and vehicles. The elements involved to create an electric vehicle is a good point, and one worth exploring in some depth. Thanks for the comments.

    Tuesday, 28 May 2013 08:36 posted by motorcycleguy

    The answer is to improve efficiency, not necessarily concentrate on fuel source. Go slower. Carry less weight. Go less often. New internal combustion engines are extremely efficient and clean burning, they are not the enemy they used to be. Hybrid vehicles are a better choice than all electric, they allow internal combustion engines to work at their peak efficiency for a much longer part of the duty cycle. Batteries are charged by regenerative braking rather than solely “plugging in”. The range is greater so the need for brand new charging infrastructure (and all the copper for the wire) is minimized. If the provincial government was truly interested in reducing emissions and fuel consumption rather than increasing revenue from taxes and insurance premiums……they would allow us to insure a small hybrid vehicles and motorcycles on the same policy as larger vehicles that we may need to use periodically. My guess is an immediate 10% overall reduction in provincial vehicle emissions would result….not too mention reduced fossil fuel consumption.

    Tuesday, 28 May 2013 08:35 posted by motorcycleguy

    Be very careful about touting the use of all electric vehicles. There is no free lunch. A horsepower is a horsepower is a horsepower, no matter it comes from decayed dinosaurs and vegetation or draining alpine lakes for IPP hydro projects….. there is a cost. If one wants to go to Point A from Point B faster, it takes more horsepower. If you want to carry more weight, it takes more horsepower. If you want to make the trip more times, it takes more horsepower. The proliferation of plug-in stations breeds a mindset one is completely “green” if one drives an electric vehicle…and they aren’t using “horsepower”. Though the overall impact of all electric vehicles is calculated to be less….it is only slightly less. Rare earth minerals for batteries require mining in sensitive areas like the Serengeti Wilderness, oil products are still used for manufacture of all the plastics required, recycling of retired vehicles presents unique problems……if the electricity is hydroelectric there are significant effects on the environment and fish habitat. Perhaps no GHG produced during actual operation, but does that sufficiently offset all of the other problems?

    Tuesday, 28 May 2013 07:23 posted by ron wilton


    Since the world price of crude has not moved significantly, and not a peep of complaint or outrage from any provincial, municipal or federal politician, I can only surmise the 25 cent/litre increase in the price at the pump was the oil companies rewarding themselves for ‘winning’ the BC election.

    Tuesday, 28 May 2013 07:17 posted by ron wilton

    Sounds like we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

    Interesting to note that GM is closing it’s electric car manufacturing in Detroit and moving the assembly plant to China.

    Can Ford and Chrysler be far behind?

    I guess just like CCM hockey sticks(and everything else), from now on every GM Volt we buy in North America will have that little (almost microscopic) label stuck in the most inconspicuous location “Made in China”.

    Or…join the 1% and pay $150,000.00 for a NA built Tesla.

    Monday, 27 May 2013 23:25 posted by Hugh

    Gas at $1.43/Liter.

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