Photo: Five electric car FAQs

Chargers range in speed. The quickest provides 80 kilometres of range in as little as six minutes. (Credit: Paul Krueger via Flickr)

Like many of you, my family plans to buy an electric car.

I asked for your electric car questions and you came through! Here are answers from Steve Kux, David Suzuki Foundation renewable energy and climate solutions policy analyst:

How much do EVs cost?

Prices vary depending on battery size, make, model and options. They start at about $16,000 for a smart EV with a battery range of around 110 kilometres, to $100,000-plus for a fully equipped luxury model. The Nissan Leaf starts at about $32,000 — before subtracting government incentives — with a range of up to 172 kilometres. The first EV with mass consumer appeal is anticipated to be the Chevrolet Bolt EV (sales start in 2017). It starts at almost $43,000 with a range of 383 kilometres.

What's the lifespan of an EV battery?

Most manufacturers offer a warranty on their batteries for 10 years. Warranties guarantee that the range will not degrade significantly. EVs use lithium ion batteries like those found in laptops and cellphones. Over time, performance can become an issue if batteries are routinely overcharged or completely drained. Most manufacturers build programming into their cars to protect the battery from overcharging.

Tip: Avoid completely draining the battery.

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Where can you charge EVs?

Charging stations are expanding at an incredible rate, thanks to investments and policies from all levels of government, companies whose entire business is providing chargers and automakers growing the network.

Chargers range in speed. The quickest provides 80 kilometres of range in as little as six minutes. More typical chargers can provide an 80 per cent charge in about 30 minutes, depending on the size of the battery. AND drivers can refuel at home or at work — where experts predict most people will.

Tip: Look for websites that map charging stations or check your local community centre.

Are EVs easy to find?

EVs are rare in Canada. Automakers have been slow to adopt the new technology and we lack government policies that focus on increasing supply. Quebec recently became the first province to adopt a zero-emission vehicle standard, requiring car manufacturers to ensure a growing percentage of new vehicle sales are EVs each year! This policy is modelled after a similar regulation in California, since adopted by nine other states. Expect availability to increase as mass-produced models like the Bolt and Tesla Model 3 become available in 2017.

Tip: Check used car lots and listings, too.

Are EVs good cars?

EV owners find them fun to drive. Electric motors are able to instantaneously transfer energy from the battery to the wheels rather than waiting for fuel to travel to the engine, turn a piston and transfer that energy to the wheels. So EVs have remarkable acceleration. The Bolt, for example, can reach 96 km/h (60 m.p.h.) in 6.5 seconds, about as fast as a supercharged Ford Mustang, according to NBC news. EVs are also almost silent!

Canada is increasingly urban. Many of us can forgo owning a car in favour of walking, cycling and public transit. For those who remain car-bound, EVs are something worth getting excited about.

What else would you like to know about EVs? (I could feature your question in a future blog. Subscribe to my monthly digest so you don't miss the answer!)

Lindsay Coulter, a fellow Queen of Green

January 13, 2017

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Feb 14, 2017
3:24 PM

Is there any truth to the rumour that it is equally destructive to the environment to produce the electricity for powering EV’s?

Also, have you checked out the labour conditions under which the batteries are produced and the cost to the environment of disposing of used batteries?

Feb 13, 2017
4:47 AM

What hapens to the electric car batteries when they are no longer useable? Can they be recycled and are they expensive to replace?

Feb 12, 2017
12:25 PM

Just pre-ordered our Bolt last month. We did a lot of research to find the best EV for us just to discover that our only real option was the Bolt because 1) only dealerships that have been trained to sell (ie know the car) and service the EVs can sell them. The only dealership in our northern city that was able to sell EVs was Chevrolet 2) we were not about to travel more than 4 hours to service our car so the Leaf, the kia Soul EV, etc were out of the question. 3) with Tesla only being able to produce likely 50,000 per year and pre-orders of 160,000 to 300,000 (depending on your source), it looked like we would wait a loooonnnnng time for the Tesla 3. As it is, the local dealership was only allotted ONE BOLT….and we won the lottery by asking early enough. PS do your research because we knew more about the car than the salespeople. :) Looking forward to no more gas station visits!

Feb 12, 2017
11:55 AM

Heaters in winter and air conditioning in summer are mostly standard now. What happens to range of all-electric vehicle if driver uses these?

Feb 12, 2017
11:21 AM

My question and concern is: Won’t EV cause more demand for electricity? … more hydro dams, more call for nuclear power, ……. or perhaps more call for renewable energy… Please comment. Thank-you, Dania

Feb 12, 2017
8:54 AM

You write “investments and policies from all levels of government” but here on Galiano I have found that there is almost no government support. We are trying to install our first EV Public Charger with not help so far.

Feb 12, 2017
7:21 AM

I wonder what powers the car heater in Winter and what that does to the range. Still I can’t wait to own one.

Feb 12, 2017
5:34 AM

All I can tell you is that the batteries can be recycled when their lifespan is up (to what extend, I don’t know). We were hoping to put in an upgraded battery with a better range when our battery is done, but unfortunately right now it looks l like this might not be possible. We pay extra for bullfrog power, so our car is an even more environmental investment. We drive a Nissan Leaf, which also uses recycled materials in the car itself to reduce CO2 emissions in manufacturing. I believe Tesla has a similar philosophy and is trying to produce environmentally neutral vehicles.

After driving our Leaf, we’re never going back to gas. The hydro cost is minimal compared to gas, no oil changes (less car maintenance), and when driving in ‘eco’ mode (which restricts acceleration so less electricity is used) it reduces the amount of braking. The most unexpected perk is how great it is to listen to music with no engine noise!

We have a single car for our family (we try to walk, transit, bike when possible), so we sometimes do have to rent a gas car for a long distance drive. Though, as battery technology improves for better distance ranges and more charging stations are installed, electric cars will be an even better choice.

Jan 15, 2017
5:41 PM

We’re does the Lithium come from? Is the mining of Lithium environmentally safe?

Will we need to build nuclear generating stations to provide enough fossil fuel free electricity to power them?

Just asking.

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