Me and my EV

Cool Tips for a Hot Planet series

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By Ginny Colling

Ginny Colling was passionate about the environment before retiring from teaching college communications students. After retiring she trained with Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project and has presented to numerous groups about the climate crisis.

Advocate columnist Ginny Colling with her EV.

When my mother was 96 she watched Al Gore’s second climate documentary, An Inconvenient Sequel. “Ginny,” she said, “I didn’t know things were so bad. What can I do?”

She didn’t drive, didn’t fly. Her main global warming contribution was cranking the heat a little high on her natural gas furnace. I was not about to tell her to buy a heat pump. Two years later, my feisty mom passed away and posthumously did something for the planet. My small inheritance paid for my first electric car — a 2019 Hyundai Kona.

Upside:  It’s been two years this month since I last rolled into a gas station or paid for an oil change. There are no spark plugs, timing belt or muffler replacements in my future.

Ninety-five per cent of the time I charge my car at home, overnight or on weekends when electricity is cheapest. And cleanest: Right now, only 10 per cent of Ontario’s power comes from natural gas, and that only during peak demand. Our last coal power station closed in 2014.  The environmental benefits include cleaner air and less global heating.

Everything we buy has an environmental cost, including batteries for electric vehicles or EVs, but things are improving. Companies are working on a cobalt-free battery.  And up to 95 per cent of the metals in lithium batteries is being reclaimed and sold to battery manufacturers by Canadian companies like Lithion and Li-Cycle.  These days expectations are that an EV battery will outlast the body of the car.

Because a gas-powered version of the Kona is available it’s easy to determine gas and environmental cost savings. According to Natural Resources Canada’s fuel consumption tool, the cost of “fuelling” my electric vehicle is one-quarter of that for its gas-powered cousin, saving me about $1,500 annually. It’s like getting a rebate every year that I drive the car.  And the environmental savings? About 3,200 kg of C02.

Downside: While operating costs are less, right now EVs are more expensive than their gas counterparts. Forecasters tell us those prices should be on par in about three years. In the meantime, EV buyers can receive a $5,000 federal rebate for a mid-range set of wheels. My specialty home charger was also an upfront cost — about $2,000 installed.

Like the transition from horse and buggy to cars, moving from gas to electric vehicles has its growing pains. For one, we early adopters carefully watch our phone apps (or in my case, the car’s navigation screen) to find charging stations while away from home. More are being added all the time, and that helps. Canada has more than 6,000 charging stations, and this fall GM said it will install 4,000 public chargers across the country over the next year. There are only a handful in Kawartha Lakes, including one fast charger at the Rec Centre.

Thinking of an EV purchase? I highly recommend starting with a visit (either online or in person) to Plug ’n’ Drive in North York. It has models you can test drive, knowledgeable staff and there’s no sales pressure. It’s all about education.

Once most vehicles are electric, health care costs will drop due to cleaner air. And the noise pollution from gas or diesel engines? Gone — unless a manufacturer decides to add that revving sound.

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