The electric road-trip acid test

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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.

Go with the Flo.

That’s not a typo. It’s one of the many companies that offer electric vehicle chargers in Canada. And I checked out a few of them on my summer adventure.

I’d dreamed of taking my EV on a long road trip since I bought it in 2019. Covid put the kibosh on that until this year. On June 17, I hopped in my Hyundai Kona and drove from my home near Seagrave to my sister’s place near Halifax — a total of 1,760 km one way.

The trip wasn’t as spontaneous as it sounds. Driving electric means doing some planning. It’s not like there’s a charging station on every corner.

As of June Canada had 16,573 public EV charging ports, according to Natural Resources Canada. Of those, about 1,200 are DC fast chargers which can charge to 80 per cent or more in 20 to 60 minutes. The rest are AC chargers like the one I had installed at home. It’s great for a “fill” overnight or if you’re stopping for a few hours. At my sister’s I plugged into a three-prong outlet capable of charging up in a couple of days.

Before leaving, I used the PlugShare EV trip planner. You set your start and end points, how far you’re willing to go off route for a charge, and the map pinpoints charging options.

My Nova Scotia drive was blissfully uneventful. On the way out I charged seven times over three days. The average cost of using a fast charger is $15 an hour. Total cost of “fuel” for the trip out: $105. When I’m charging at home – which is most of the time – that same distance costs less than $20 at off-peak rates. Had I used our small SUV, driving one way to Halifax would have cost about $300.

Tips for EV trips:

* Plan your charging stops and use a navigation system to get you there. Google Maps works, but most often I relied on my car’s navigation system. It shows charging stations.

* Ideally, plan stops at mealtimes. At one New Brunswick truck stop I enjoyed a great lobster roll for dinner. At another in Nova Scotia I visited a popular market for lunch.

* Use charging apps like Flo and ChargePoint. Order their cards and top them up ahead of time; then just swipe at the charger to save fiddling with a phone app. My Flo card worked its magic not only at Flo and ChargePoint chargers, but also with Electric Circuit in Quebec, and the eCharge Network in New Brunswick.

* Check your app to see if the charger is available – and if it’s working.

* Where possible, book places to stay that have EV chargers so you can leave topped up in the morning.

Lessons Learned

  1. Driving an EV takes a different mindset. Don’t expect to “fill up” in five minutes.
  2. We need more fast chargers. Several times I had to wait for that Volvo or Bolt to finish before I could plug in.
  3. Being able to swipe a credit card at the “pump” would be nice.

For me, this trip was an acid test for long-distance EV driving. And the car passed the test.

The Advocate Podcast recently accompanied Ginny on an EV drive through Lindsay. Listen here

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