Contrary to what industry-watchers were saying even just a few years back, electric vehicles continue to increase their foothold in the automotive market.
Last year in Canada, 8.9% of new vehicles registered were battery-electric rides. But as you might suspect, given the state of charging infrastructure, the overwhelming majority (85.6%) of those vehicles were operated in urban settings.
Rural folk seem a little more reluctant to make the leap from gasoline, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
Recently, in the small eastern Ontario town where I hang my day-job hat, a chapter of the Canadian Federation of University Women organized and hosted a well-attended EV panel discussion with local EV owners taking questions and relating their experiences leaving fossil fuels behind.
Due in part to the lack of public charging stations in smaller towns and rural areas, most of the panellists reported charging their EVs at home unless on an extended journey. Some tried living with the simple Level 1 charging cord included with their vehicle, but only for a short time before upgrading their home garage with a Level 2 unit.
Level 1 chargers plug into an ordinary 110-volt outlet, and depending on the battery size and state of charge, can take between 12 and 20 hours to completely recharge the drive battery. Level 2 units employ a 220-volt power source, similar to electric cooking ranges and clothes dryers. These will return an EV battery to full charge in eight hours or less. Level 2 charger installs are not a DIY project unless you’re a licensed electrician, and costs (including the charger) range from $1,000-1,500.
Knowing how an EV battery charges and depletes is a must for living without gasoline. This comes with some easy trial-and-error for local trips, and most drivers become accustomed to their ride’s range over varying terrains and climates. Just as cold outdoor temps can reduce an EV’s range, warmer climes can extend it. One speaker told of a 340-km round trip he started on a cold morning with his range display showing he’d need to recharge somewhere along the way. But as the drive progressed, the mercury rose enough that he reportedly made it back with over 80 km to spare without recharging.
Fast DC or Level 3 charging stations are becoming popular for roadside service facilities because they can deliver 80% of charge within 30 minutes or less, but are harder on the battery. Some vehicles are programmed to slow down the charge after 80% is reached, and one panelist stated it wasn’t worth waiting for that last 20% of power. They instead recommended simply travelling as far as personally comfortable before plugging in again.
Not all public chargers are compatible with all vehicles. Tesla chargers, for example, still won’t work with anything but a Tesla product, and there are others that won’t use common public stations. Most panelists recommended downloading an EV app to a smartphone to be able to plan trips where a recharge (or more) would be required, and even for everyday use.
Plugshare and EV go are two top-rated apps, and will provide routing information to only the chargers compatible with what you’re driving as well as a host of helpful information such as pricing, status and available plug-ins, and user reviews.
Because an EV does away with a lot of maintenance items, most shoppers think (or are led to believe) that means paying nothing over the life of the vehicle. But while an EV may not need oil changes, coolant flushes, or periodic engine maintenance, it still rides on wearable tires and ICE-era suspension systems. Rural roads are known not to be kind to these components.
Tires should be inspected regularly, and replacements should be EV-rated — usually meaning a stiffer sidewall and tougher tread to withstand the extra weight of the ride. Suspension systems should be checked at least once per year or whenever seasonal tire change-overs are completed.
If your normal routes are extremely rough, check ground clearances to ensure you can make it to the cottage without bottoming out. Remember that floor-packaged EV batteries live very close to the ground, and nothing will give your insurance agent a shock like having to process a claim for a damaged battery.
One possible side benefit to living in the woods with an EV is something that manufacturers are still a little slow to offer: two-way power delivery, also known as Vehicle-to-Load (V2L).
Ford’s F-150 Lightning offers this as an option, and with it (and the correct home electrical panel connection), the truck can power a house in the event of a hydro outage. On a full charge, the truck’s battery can power the average home for up to three days or longer depending, on electricity demand. Other manufacturers are vowing to provide this functionality in the near future.
Keep in mind that like all other vehicles, EVs can only receive warranty repairs at an authorized dealership or repair centre. As their technology is still rather foreign to many independent shops and techs, you need to consider how far you may have to travel (or get towed) to find qualified repair services, and especially warranty fixes. Hopefully you’ll have the range.