100 Years of Electricity

Susan Berlin

Published in the Lanark Era – Nov 26 2020

In this peculiar year, we could certainly all use a sense of a more attractive future.  I’ve been looking around at some of the positive ideas, activities and approaches that local people have come up with that make me feel hopeful about the world we’ll emerge into once Covid is tamed. And I thought you might want to hear about them, too. So this article is the first of a series on Good Things In Our Future.

The Era’s ‘100 years ago’ page last month showed that after a referendum to see whether Lanark wanted to ‘be electrified’ nine householders signed up to have their homes wired – at their own expense! – so they could hook up to the hydro service.

Things went pretty fast after that.

And now, 100 years later, predictions are that within five years, all new cars on the road will be electric vehicles. Five years?
You’ve probably noticed those electric car charging stations in the big Perth plaza, and you may have idly wondered whether you should think about an EV when you buy your next car.
A few ‘facts’ about electric cars that turn out to be myths may make you think harder.

  1. They’re waaaaaay too expensive!
  2. You can’t get very far on a charge – and
  3. Charging stations are few and far between, especially around here.

Let’s take them one at a time.

  1. Sticker shock: yes, the purchase price of an electric car will set you back quite a bit more than buying a gas vehicle would.
    • Did you know that Transport Canada will give you a $5,000 rebate for an EV with a purchase price of less than $45,000? There are quite a few EV’s in that price range, which means you can get one at list price for less than $40,000 (plus taxes). Although Ontario cancelled a provincial rebate, Quebec’s recent announcement of an EV rebate may put pressure on Ontario to re-instate it.
    • Consumer Reports did a 2019-2020 study of the lifetime costs (purchase plus maintenance) of an EV as compared to a ‘matched’ gas car. Here’s what they found: Lower maintenance costs and the lower price of electricity versus gasoline actually make electric cars much cheaper in the long run, despite their often higher purchase price.” Operating costs are low not only because you can skip the gas pump, but because an EV has fewer moving parts and much less need for repairs and maintenance.
  2. Driving distance: things change pretty fast in the EV world – especially how far you can drive on a charge, which has been doubling every couple of years. The 2020 versions of the Hyundai Kona EV and the Chevrolet Bolt both have ranges topping 400 km, and the two Kia models, the Niro and the Soul, come in at 380+ km.
  3. No place to ‘gas up’: Let’s see: right now, there are three charging stations in Perth (plus the Tesla array, which can only be used for Teslas), three in Carleton Place, four in Almonte, two in Smiths Falls, several on the way to Kingston, and 54 in Kingston. You can see a current map, with directions and information at  https://www.plugshare.com/location/118113.

There are three kinds of chargers: you can plug into any socket (level 1) which would require about 50 hours to charge a fully depleted battery; you can buy a level 2 charger for use at home (most of the public ones are also level 2) which does the same job in about 9 hours; and then there are level 3 chargers (480 volts) which take about half an hour to charge a car battery to 80% capacity.

So: what’s it like to actually own and drive an electric car?

My friend G. lives in Lanark Township and has had a 2019 Chevy Bolt for about a year. He installed a level 2 charging station at home, and has it programmed to do the charging during Hydro’s off-peak times. His car is rated as having a range of 384 km on a full charge, but this past summer he was actually getting up to 420 km on a charge, driving at 90-95 and with the A/C on. In the winter, he’s getting 280-300 km on a full charge.

What about repairs? There’s very little to do, G. says, as far as maintenance goes: “Brakes, shocks and not much else that’s major.” He says he’ll save about $2,000 a year using electricity instead of gas, and expects to have big savings on routine service and repairs.

So maybe all new cars on the road in five years will, indeed, be electric!

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