You can’t see Electrons, but you can track them.

A guest blog by Plug’n Drive outreach coordinator, Emile Stevens. Emile Stevens is also the brains behind Emileage Inc.

A question we often get asked is what happens when my electric car is fully charged. Although it’s possible and sometimes convenient to manually start and stop charging via your smartphone, it’s not required.  Once charging is completed, the session automatically ends.  Some EVs offer the ability to set charging timers.

Regarding tracking costs, there are a number of ways to do this.  Depending on the vehicle, there may be a summary available on a display in the car of kWh of electricity consumed.  But this may not be an entirely accurate way to track your energy usage for charging at home, due to small efficiency losses and since you might also charge your car elsewhere, from time to time.

Network connectivity and monitoring is often a feature of commercial charging installations.  But some home charging stations do offer the ability to track energy consumption.  For example, a new product from ChargePoint is wi-fi enabled and thus offers the ability to track and monitor energy usage of your electric vehicle. Our partner Autochargers is currently taking orders for this new Home charging station.

 

Some automakers also offer specialized charging solutions for their vehicles that are capable of providing energy usage details along with other advanced features.  For example, BMW offers their iWallBox Pro solution which can automatically notify you of your electricity consumption via e-mail.

 

Most home charging stations are basic units which simply provide a safe and reliable way to charge your EV.  However, it’s possible to have your electrician install a separate meter to measure the amount of electricity used by your vehicle.  There are a number of products which offer this ability.  (For example, EKM Metering, Leviton Sub-meters and Sun Country Highway), which can work for any charging station. You could also install a whole home energy monitor.

Finally, if you typically only charge at home using the 120V cord-set that comes with every EV, then a simpler solution might be a device like the Kill-A-Watt meter, which plugs in between your cord-set and wall-receptacle to track usage.

 

Keep in mind that on average, the typical electrical cost to charge an EV using off-peak rates, is approximately $30/month.  This varies based on distance driven, your local utility rates, etc.

Emile Stevens

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California to Alberta: The story of a Chevrolet Spark EV owner

Ryan Stanfield next to his Chevrolet Spark EV
Ryan Stanfield next to his Chevrolet Spark EV

An EV Owners Blog from Ryan Stanfield

Ryan Stanfield is the proud owner of a Chevrolet Spark EV and a member of the EV Owners Club of Canada. Recently, we caught up with Ryan and had a chat about life as an EV driver and he had quite the story to tell.

Ryan was in the market for a vehicle below the $30,000 threshold with the best performance and driving range and settled on the Spark EV. At the time, the Spark EV wasn’t available in Canada, so Ryan went to California to purchase it. After the papers were signed and with keys in hand, Ryan needed to get his Spark EV over the Canadian border and what better way to do that than to drive.

So, Ryan set out on his Spark EV road trip. To put things in perspective, California to Alberta is a 2,900 km trip that takes close to 23 hours of straight driving. Of course, that kind of range just isn’t possible in an EV without stopping to charge along the way. In total the trip took Ryan nine days to complete.

Despite range limitations, Ryan is a converted EV driver for life. The savings on fuel alone cover Ryan’s lease, (that’s like driving a free car!), and he has left behind the clunk, noise and crude vibrations of a gas engine forever.

As a member of the EV Owners Club of Canada, Ryan feels the most important thing EV drivers can do right now is spread awareness, because once drivers get behind the wheel of an EV, there’s no turning back. What follows are some excerpts from Ryan’s EV experience road trip journal.

Day Two – Breaking records and laws

It was a rainy day in Bakersfield, California, which set the tone. First, I had to pick up my car from another hotel that I parked at a couple miles away. I was trying to stay on the cheap side if I could, but hotels were a necessary evil. After getting a lift to my car, I drove it back to the hotel where I was staying and loaded up.

I didn’t think this would be the case, but Day Two would be my record setting day in terms of the number of miles driven. There were two fast chargers on my route spaced about 100 miles apart. Also, Hwy. 99 North runs through a central valley that is very flat with a slight downhill slope. Needless to say, my driving efficiency was quite high and the weather was decent most of the way. In total, I needed to stop four times, twice at Level 3 and twice at Level 2.

For the Level 2 stops, it’s not that hard to find a place to hang out at like Starbucks, a restaurant or inside a dealership. I had built up a significant amount of grading over the last couple of weeks, so spent a lot of my time taking marking. If you feel like driving has become too mundane, I assure you that getting an EV will quench your appetite for crunching numbers and there’ll rarely be a time for a dull moment on your long distance trip.

Although I did have a record setting day in mileage (about 515 km), the victory was dulled by an unfortunate traffic stop. Less than a mile away from my exit in Atwater, a CHP officer pulled me over for not driving with my headlights at dusk. The sun had set at about 4:45 pm and the officer pulled me over just before 5:00 pm. I angrily had a subway sandwich while my car quick charged and carried on.

The rest of the evening went off without a hitch. Despite having to brave some heavy rains in Sacremento, I was able to make it to my destination in Willows, California by about 11:30 pm.

Day 5 – Supercharger Heaven

I was most looking forward to this day because I had the most quick charging stops along the way (Salem, Portland and Arlington). Fast charging for EVs is a real game changer, making long distance travel possible. Waiting for 30 minutes isn’t bad; grab a cup of coffee, walk around, grab a snack, use the restroom, etc. and your car is ready to go.

The first stop into Salem was probably my closest call of the day. I had only 2 miles of range left when I arrived. A few folks who were at the motor pool where the charger was located commented on how few people they had seen using it; either as a consequence of how fast it is, or perhaps it was in a location that many did not see fit to put a fast charger.

The common practice of placing these chargers is in the most heavily populated areas, which makes sense in the economic short term for the charging equipment provider, but in the long term it doesn’t really do anything. After all, for around town trips, a fast charging station isn’t necessary and Level 2 is more than enough.

My next stop was Portland. Portland hipsters wish they were as trendy as me in forgoing convenience during this road trip. Someone else was plugged in at the dual standard SAE Combo/CHAdeMO station. I tried out a trendy pizza shoppe while my Spark charged. I wish I could have stayed longer in Portland, but the dynamic of fast charging on long road trips means I needed to move on quickly.

About an hour and a half down the road, East of Portland, I arrived at my next stop. I remember being very flustered about the legalities of importing my car into Canada. I thought I needed to officially import it, but I later found out that this was not necessary because of my temporary residence status provided by my student visa. After a rather long stay at Starbucks, I headed over to the last stop in Arlington for my final quick charge, which I might add, is a perfect place for one. I ended the day in Richland, WA, where my journey would start slowing down.

Day 8 – The Canadian Rockies

Heading into Canada, I noticed a distinct temperature drop of three to four degrees. This would most likely continue as I climbed into the more mountainous regions of Canada. Temperatures would mostly be below zero from here on.

Because of the extreme weather and sparse charging infrastructure, long distance travelling in Canada is a touch more difficult, but possible and I made it. Nine days later a trip that should have taken two days was over. Range limitation is a very real thing when driving EV, but all it takes is a little creativity and patience.

Dealerships are key to EV sales and we’re celebrating the great ones!

A Blog by Cara Clairman, President and CEO of Plug’n Drive

2015EVAwardsLogo

Two years ago Plug’n Drive approached the Canadian Electricity Association (CEA) with the idea of running an EV Dealership Awards program. Dealerships are crucial to the sale of electric vehicles; they’re the first place customers go for a test drive and the final place where papers are signed, keys are exchanged and the road of an electric car driver begins.

CEA immediately jumped on board and we set to work forming the criteria, assembling an expert panel of judges and letting Canada know nominations were open.  The Awards are now in their second year and have spread across Canada from coast-to-coast.

But why are the EV Dealership Awards so important?

When we hit upon the idea, we had just completed an EV dealership study. 20 secret shoppers were trained and 24 EV certified dealerships were surveyed. We were looking for the availability of messaging (pamphlets, posters, etc.), the knowledge and enthusiasm of sales people and the sales approach and attitude among other factors.

What we discovered is that cars weren’t often available for test drives, promotional materials weren’t easy to find and sales people had limited knowledge about the incentives, environmental benefits, economic benefits and unique features of electric cars.  And to be honest, it’s understandable.  These cars are new and occupy a tiny niche in terms of the cars currently available for sale. Sales staff want to sell the cars they have, and often that doesn’t include electrics.

So instead of criticizing the dealers, we thought we should instead reward the great ones!  The truth is that selling electric cars requires a different approach.. Electric cars reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save drivers thousands of dollars a year on fuel and contribute to a sustainable transportation and energy model.  And that’s why the EV Dealership Awards are so important; they recognize those dealerships that understand why using electricity for fuel makes sense and there are keen to let the world know.

The 2015 winners all bring an innovative approach to the sale of electric cars.

  • Motorize Auto Direct in Sidney, British Columbia: Motorize Auto Direct has established a donation program based on referrals that is helping to install public charging stations.
  • Bourgeois Chevrolet in Rawdon, Québec: Bourgeois Chevrolet lets potential customers take an extended test drive of a few days.
  • Green Rock E.V.S in Mount Pearl, Newfoundland: Green Rock E.V.S provided Dr. David Suzuki and the Blue Dot Tour Volunteers with six battery electric cars and six plug-in hybrid electric cars to create a PR buzz.

EVAwardsWinners

These winners show that electric cars don’t need to be the pink elephant on the sales floor. When consumers are armed with awareness and understanding, electric cars sell themselves. Congratulations to 2015’s winners! They’re helping to make an all-electric future come true.

We’ll see you in 2016!

Electric Vehicles: Helping Ontario Reduce GHG Emissions – A Plug’n Drive Report

Last week, Plug’n Drive published a report on how electric vehicles (EV) can fit into Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan by helping to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the transportation sector. You can download the full report at Electric Vehicles: Helping Ontario Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Here’s a summary of our findings:

Introduction:

Ontario is calling for GHG reductions of 15% below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80% reductions by 2050. Ontario has made significant progress lowering emissions by phasing out coal-fired electricity. However, emissions from the transportation sector have continued to grow and account for 34% of all GHG emissions in Ontario.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions By Sector
Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Sector (2012) – Ontario Environmental Commissioner

The Threat of Gasoline:

There are more than 7.6 Million light duty vehicles in Ontario using more than 16 Billion litres of gasoline per year. That’s close to 6,400 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Those 16 Billion litres emit more than 37 Mega-tonnes of GHG emissions, the equivalent of 4.9 million elephants, every year. The writing is in the air…

How Electric Vehicles Help:

Plug’n Drive estimates that a driver can reduce their GHG emissions by as much as 67-95% by switching to an EV and using Ontario’s clean electricity for fuel.

CO2 Emissions By Vehicle Type
Carbon Dioxide Emissions per 100km Driven in Ontario

As of February 2015, there were more than 3,825 electric vehicles in Ontario with the potential to offset as much as 12,910 tonnes of GHG emissions and reduce gasoline usage by as much as 5.8 million litres per year.

Electric Vehicle sales today represent just 0.05% of car sales in Ontario, but sales have increased each year since the Chevy Volt, Mitsubishi i-MiEV and Nissan LEAF were introduced in 2011. Plug’n Drive undertook an analysis of five EV sales penetration scenarios:

  1. Status Quo – 0.05% sales rate through to 2050;
  2. Sales increase 10% annually to 2020 and stabilize at 1% through to 2050;
  3. Sales increase 25% annually to 2020 and stabilize at 2.4% through to 2050;
  4. Sales increase 50% annually to 2020 and stabilize at 8.7% through to 2050;
  5. Sales increase 100% annually to 2020 and stabilize at 32.5% through to 2050.
Electric Vehicle Sales and Emissions Reductions By Scenario
Electric Vehicle Sales and Emissions Reductions by Scenario 2015-2050

As you can see, in each scenario the GHG reductions from EVs is significant and EVs can play a key part in helping Ontario reduce its dependence on oil.

Next Steps:

To ensure the success of EVs in Ontario, Plug’n Drive has put forth several recommendations to Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change:

  1. Implement a price on carbon either through cap and trade or a carbon tax
  2. Continue the Electric Vehicle Incentive program
  3. Accelerate the deployment of a public charging stations by implementing an incentive program as has been done in Québec and British Columbia
  4. Provide an incentive for off-peak charging by introducing a ‘super low’ rate during off-peak hours when the GHG emissions from electricity generation are lowest
  5. Revise the Building Code Act, 1992 and the Condominium Act, 1998 to make installing charging stations in multi-residential units easier
  6. With less gasoline being purchased, consider a replacement for lost gas tax, such as taxing by kilometre driven or implementing a carbon tax
  7. Survey Canada’s EV drivers to better understand what influences drivers to switch to an EV
  8. Research end-of-life applications for used EV batteries, such as recycling them or reusing them for energy storage
  9. Provide an incentive to Ontario’s municipalities that make EVs a part of their fleets.

The full report is available for free download at Electric Vehicles: Helping Ontario Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

7 Reasons to Drive Electric This Earth Week

Electric Car

  1. The Cost to Drive

Even with low gas prices, EVs can still save drivers between $2,000 and $2,500 per year on fuel costs. We’ve done the math! Over the typical seven year lifespan of a car, that’s over $14,000 in fuel savings.

  1. The Environment

Transportation is a leading source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada and EVs can reduce a driver’s emissions by as much as 90% when compared to a gas car. The burning of diesel and gasoline also contributes heavily to air pollution. Thankfully, Canada’s electricity sector is one of the cleanest in the world (Source: CEA).

  1. The Economy

Electricity is made locally, whereas oil is usually imported. This means billions of dollars per year leave the country. By switching to an EV, you’re helping to support infrastructure and jobs that are close to home.

  1. The Maintenance… or lack of

Gas cars are very complex. Electric motors have one moving part. That’s it! Fully electric cars don’t require oil changes, transmissions or exhaust systems and plug-in hybrids have greatly reduced wear and tear saving you on maintenance costs.

  1. The Convenience

No more trips to the gas station! By installing a charging station at home you plug-in at night and wake up every morning to a full “tank” of electrons.

  1. The Performance

Electric motors don’t have gears like gas engines, meaning you get full torque and horsepower from the get-go. Furthermore, EVs provide a smooth and steady ride while making zero noise.

  1. The Choice

Do you prefer a high performance sports car, a compact utility or a luxury sedan? With more than 15 models available from 10+ manufacturers and more on the way, there’s an electric car for everyone. (See Plug’n Drive: EV Models)

For more information about Plug’n Drive, visit our website at www.plugndrive.ca. You can also find us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

When it comes to EV charging stations, what’s old is new again!

A Blog by Ron Groves – Plug’n Drive’s Manager of Education and Outreach

Attendants on roller skates? Drive-up EV chargers under a solar canopy? Wait! We’ve seen this before and it sounds like the A&W drive-up burger joints we saw back in the 50s. A little bit retro methinks.

This was the conversation my buddy Kent and I were having the other day. What might a DC Quick station for EVs look like? And the more we talked and joked about the features, the more it started to sound like one of those A&W burger joints.

The old and new.fw

Consider this scenario… You and your family have decided to head to Niagara Falls from Toronto in your EV. At highway speeds, most pure EVs (Tesla excepted) won’t quite make it, especially in the winter. And stopping for 2 hours or more to charge at 30A doesn’t have anyone jumping with excitement. So, stopping at a DC Quick charger along the way that can almost refill your battery in 25 minutes is just the answer.

But sitting in your car, with nothing to do, without refreshments, and for the kids, no entertainment, heaven forbid even for 25 minutes, is not a pleasant prospect. So what to do for 25 minutes? A free wi-fi hotspot would keep the kids happy. So if you don’t need a bathroom break, the next obvious answer is food. A drive thru doesn’t work because no EV is driving anywhere while charging.

So what if the food came to you? Using an app on your smartphone, you can order and pay for your food.  While you are waiting, a large screen in front of your parking spot can be connected to the cars sound system via Bluetooth.  Using another app on your phone controls the screen to deliver news, weather, sports, traffic updates or the menu for the restaurant.

Of course there would be some advertising around the screen real estate a la CP24.  And then your meal comes on a tray that can be attached to your vehicles rolled down window. Right out of the 50’s!  While the vehicle is charging, shore power can keep the interior warm or cool, heating the seats, running the sound system and the navigation. Very cozy!

There won’t be oil to check, but the attendant could clean the windows and top off the washer fluid.  Tires might need a few pounds of air. 25 minutes later both you and your car are refreshed ready for the next leg of your journey, and you never left the vehicle.  If that had been a gasoline powered car, all that idling would have wasted fuel and contributed to green house gas emissions.  But your EV was sipping on an electrical grid that in Ontario is almost carbon free.  Now that is an efficient pit stop.  And even better than in the old days.

“We love it, we drive it, we live it:” The experience of buying an EV from passionate folks!

I am the proud owner of an electric vehicle (EV), and also co-owner of Bourgeois Chevrolet in Rawdon, Quebec. On behalf of our team here at Bourgeois Chevrolet, I recently accepted the 2014 Electric Vehicle Dealership Award for the Leading Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle Dealership in Canada given by the Canadian Electricity Association (CEA) and Plug’n Drive. I would like to share with you some of my thoughts about our experience selling EVs in the last two years.

To be an EV owner, you have to be open-minded, aware of what’s happening on our planet, and most of all, be ready to make a difference. Because we do make a difference!

Samuel Jeanson (centre), co-owner of Bourgeois Chevrolet, winner of last year's Leading PHEV Dealership Award.
Samuel Jeanson (centre), co-owner of Bourgeois Chevrolet, winner of last year’s Leading PHEV Dealership Award.

Changing consumer habits

It’s not easy for consumers to change their habits. We’ve been driving gas-powered cars for over a century. It’s part of our DNA and the general public views it as completely NORMAL. To suddenly ask people to consider another way of fueling their automobile might seem insignificant, but trust me, there is significant push-back from consumers.

Most of us are reluctant to change and this is a perfectly normal defense mechanism. This is exactly what we are experiencing with new EV buyers. We’re asking them to change their habits, the way they drive, the way they think about cars. We are asking for a shift in mentality!

But mentalities don’t change fast or easily. There is always a period of adaptation and in the case of EVs, I personally think it will take at least 10 years.

The wonderful team that we’ve put together at Bourgeois Chevrolet is trying to assist in that shift.

The challenges for dealerships and salesmen

I know many dealers are less than enthusiastic about plug-in vehicles. Neither the owner of the dealership, nor the sales manager, nor the salesperson is interested in low-profit, high-expense, and time-consuming vehicle sales, and it makes perfect sense when you think about it:

  • EVs are expensive compared to gas-powered cars (often twice the price). So for a dealer, it’s double the cost to keep these cars on the lot.
  • There is less profit for a salesperson selling EVs. EVs often net just half the profit of a similarly-priced gas-powered vehicle on the lot, so half the commission for the salesperson.
  • It takes three to four times longer sell an EV than a gas-powered car.

So why do we at Bourgeois Chevrolet put so much effort into selling EVs? Because we are passionate about them and their benefits. We decided to attack this market and see if it could be profitable.

Bourgeois Chevrolet - Winner of the 2014 Leading PHEV Dealership Award
Bourgeois Chevrolet – Winner of the 2014 Leading PHEV Dealership Award

Our award-winning strategy to sell EVs

We jumped into the EV market with both feet!  We’ve undertaken a range of measures to adapt EVs ourselves, and help our customers adapt them:

  • All of our employees have driven an EV for at least 2 weeks.
  • We invested time and training on EVs for all of our employees.
  • Eleven out of our 23 employees drive Volts as their personal vehicles.
  • We purchased 25 level-2 chargers that we installed all over our dealership building.
  • We invested a lot of time in events and blogs about EVs.
  • We always have 50 or more EVs on our lot.
  • We offer extended test drives (three to five days) so that customers can experience the everyday lifestyle of having an EV.
  • We talk to people about our experiences, charging stations, government rebates, the economy of owning an EV, and all that comes with being an EV owner.

And customers are beginning to shift their mentality and respond positively to EVs. They’re asking legitimate questions like: the price of batteries, battery life expectancy, locations for charging stations, ability to charge at work, all-electric range of the vehicle, fuel savings, resale value, and time to recharge.

Yet it still takes three to four times longer to sell EVs than it takes to sell a gas-powered car, as potential buyers need time to consider if the purchase makes sense for them.

I have not had a single customer tell me: I am ONLY buying an EV to be more ‘green!’ Every customer calculates if there are some cost savings to be had.

As salesmen, we have to be prepared to answer those questions, to show customers the financial value of driving an EV.  We have to show them how much money they will save in fuel, on top of cheaper maintenance costs and less frequent visits to the dealership.

The fruits of our labour

All of the actions that we’ve taken to bring our sales staff up to speed on EVs and make them more attractive to customers has paid off. In 2014, EVs represented more than 214 of the 600 total vehicles sold by our dealership. Not only were EVs 35% of our sales, but they represented a 35% increase in our total sales as well.

And, we were the proud winners of one of CEA and Plug’n Drive’s first-ever Electric Vehicle Dealership Awards.