Instead of updating current infrastructure, electric vehicles open up different options
In the last couple of Motor Mouth columns here, David Booth has raised some great points on the future of electric vehicles, alongside the hair-raising costs they will entail. I’m not going to question his math (hell, I don’t even question his hairstyle) but I want to toss a little wrench his way, a few what-ifs. We all know if there are ten factors to an equation, tweaking even one ever so slightly can drastically change the outcome. There are far more than ten factors to this subject, so you can imagine the combinations and permutations that could exist. Remember, it was only a couple years ago that diesel was the answer. Diesel who? Things move pretty fast.
I happen to think Booth’s suggestion of extended-range electric vehicles is sort of brilliant; don’t tell him I said so. Canada is a unique place with regards to geography and climate, and one size does not fit all. We are also the last country to the table when it comes to choice in our vehicles; for the most part, we get what everybody else has decided they want.
Just a few years ago, we were being offered hybrid vehicles that had electric ranges of about 30 kilometres. We laughed. I know they had to start somewhere, but that hybrid was basically like wearing a pair of five-inch stilettoes but bringing a pair of flats with you; we all know you can only last so long in the heels. But the development of electric technology has set a blistering pace in regards to battery range, with Tesla and even General Motors nudging up nearer to the current capacity of many gas-powered cars. One of everybody’s biggest concerns? Boom. Gone.
And I believe it soon will be gone with every electric offering. And here is where I offer up a slightly different scenario to Mr. Booth, to augment the one where he is envisioning long lines of traffic clogging up those gas-and-pee stops along the TransCanada Highway. My cottage is 275 kilometres from my home. I used to laugh at the thought of owning an electric vehicle, except now? Well, now with electric engine offerings coming in family friendly sized vehicles (no offence, Smart), and a range well within reach of my own private splinters-and-mouse turd paradise, why not?
In Booth’s scenario, I won’t do it because I’ll never make it home; I’ll be stuck in some charging nightmare at an ONroute station. Except …
Except, I’ll have charged up at the cottage. Just like I’d have charged up at home. I never could have gassed up at the cottage, but I could certainly charge up, and drive back home bypassing the highway hell. The technology is changing, but so will people’s patterns.
I’m not suggesting that there will be a stampede to the EV sector, but there will be a shift. There are outliers who drive far longer distances to a weekend cabin or other destination and for whom EVs don’t make sense, but for the most part, cottage zones tend to be within two to three hours of major centres and people’s homes. Unlike Booth’s engineering math, mine is less scientific: how long can I stand to be trapped in a metal box with a handful of whining kids, a screeching cat and a migraine? It takes two and a half hours to get to our cottage.
We’ve been suggesting electrics will work for urban dwellers because they can charge at home, and then again at work places that are adapting with each new build and ongoing retrofits. That end trip either has to have a charging station, or the charge has to last long enough for a return trek. We’ve never questioned those consumers entertaining purchasing an electric vehicle will have to kit out their homes with a station; I’m saying those same consumers would consider doing the same at a vacation home.
Booth is right that the infrastructure equation sports too many zeros if we treat it like we do existing driving patterns. I’m proposing that vehicles with long-range capabilities will cause a shift in driver behaviour away from the traditional filling stations. That won’t solve all the problems, but it’s the beginning of those tweaks I mentioned up top. Make enough tweaks, and things that were once impossible can start to shift. Electric cars have so many variables at play.
I almost always stop for fuel on my way home from the cottage, but only because I don’t leave the cottage with a full tank.