The following was given as a presentation to the Unitarian Fellowship of Regina. I enjoyed my time this morning after being invited to speak about Electric Vehicles.
Most adults in Regina have driven a car before, but fewer than 1 in 100 have an electric vehicle. As a driver, why would you want to drive an EV, instead of a gas vehicle? There is a long list of reasons to do it, while the reasons not to are shrinking as the years go by. At the end of my talk, I promise you’ll know more about EVs, and can use this knowledge to save money, reduce pollution, and help others to resist the disinformation campaign to keep EVs mysterious and less-used than their petroleum burning cousins.
The first thing to know about EVs is that they were the original motor car. Gas cars came later, and didn’t have as much appeal to many people, because they were less convenient. You had to crank start them, for instance, and find fuel for them. Electricity was more easily available. Battery technology was heavy, however. You couldn’t go on the long, convenient trips that people expect from their automobiles now. So as electric starters came into being, gas cars took over. The prevalence of fuel stations had expanded too, making travel by gasoline more convenient.
Technology has flipped this situation again though. With improved batteries, the more simple and efficient electric vehicle is again on top for technology and convenience. Most Regina homes have a driveway or garage with electricity, so you can fill up at home, on an ordinary 120V outlet like your gas vehicle’s block heater uses. There are long-range EV from many manufacturers like Hyundai, Kia, Tesla, GM, Ford, and others. There are also convenient filling stations for EVs across the province, and the charging network is getting better each year. There are apps like Plugshare.com that show you where virtually every charger is located.
So that’s where things stand for the moment.
Why should you trust my opinion about this? In comparison to 99% of other Saskatchewanians, I’m an expert in EVs. I’ve owned an EV since 2017. I’ve managed a fleet of two other EVs for Regina Car Share Co-operative. I took a borrowed EV on a 6100km vacation road trip this summer to Ottawa and back to Regina. I’ve driven 4 makes of EVs, and I’ve been given rides in every sort of production Tesla model. And I’m confident in the technology gaining wider market share so I’ve invested in 4 different EV-specific automakers too.
I’ve spent a decade and a half working to build alternative transportation to the predominant privately owned automobile that has misshapen our city. What do I mean by that? How have cars misshapen Regina? Practically every community project revolves around parking cars, whether it’s an event, or even the construction of a new building. We’ve placed less emphasis on public transportation for generations, and it shows in how we think about, build, and move ourselves around our city. It’s difficult to exist in Regina without access to a car.
In 2007 I learned about car sharing, and with a few dozen other Reginans we formed the Regina Car Share Co-operative the following year. We’ve held several of our AGMs in the basement of the Unitarian Centre, over the years. The idea is to have cars available to people for hourly rentals, 24 hours a day, using the Internet to book time with them. This reduces the cost of using a vehicle. Most people pay for a vehicle even when it sits idle in their driveway. Insurance is a daily cost we tend to overlook. People pay for carsharing vehicles mostly when they’re driving them, instead of while they’re asleep. We’ve managed to add 2 EVs to Regina Car Share Co-op’s fleet, as electric vehicles are less costly to maintain and to recharge. They also don’t need oil changes, which saves hassle and expense while maintaining a fleet of vehicles.
I mentioned that there’s a disinformation campaign keeping the electric car from widespread adoption despite its advantages over the more common gasoline vehicles. Regina City Council got a taste of some of it in past years when it turned down free EV chargers from Sun Country Highway. Council was given some unusually high cost estimates for installation, to dissuade it from accepting the chargers. It didn’t take the gift. Now the City has an electric pickup truck, and could have charged it on that free hardware.
In early 2021 a city Councillor pitched the idea of preventing fossil fuel companies from advertising on city-owned property. The Premier of Saskatchewan, whose party happens to take large donations from fossil fuel and advertising companies, responded angrily. Ward 6 Councillor Dan LeBlanc lost his job at a law firm in the organized backlash. As you can see, there is big money, and powerful people behind keeping us stuck on gas powered transportation, so you have to be skeptical of negative things you hear about EVs. That’s not to say they’re perfect, they certainly have their faults, but stacked up against gas burning vehicles, they’re better in most ways.
Have you heard of problems regarding EVs? What are some of them? Let’s address those ideas:
Winter, battery recycling, slow charging time, range, cost, limited servicing options, conflict minerals, pollution shifting, etc.
What makes an EV cost less to operate than an Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicle? Physics. An electric motor is far more efficient than an ICE. For each unit of energy you put into an electric motor, you go further and produce less waste heat compared to any ICE. Energy is expensive, and in most cases in Saskatchewan it’s produced from dirty sources. However, Saskatchewan’s electrical grid is only 40% coal powered right now, and that figure is dropping this decade, approaching 0%. Even on today’s fossil fueled grid, SaskPower confirms EVs charged by it produce 30% fewer emissions than if they came from the tailpipe of a similar vehicle.
The cost comparison when you look at electricity vs. fuel, is stark. In April 2022 I took a trip to Moose Jaw in my EV, and it used $3.33 of electricity for the entire round trip. With gas at about $1.55/L it’s more like $24 for that same trip if I burned gas. It used to be about 4-5 times less expensive to use electricity instead of gas, but with the price of gas much higher, it’s more like 7-9 times less expensive.
Now you have a sense of how much money you’d be saving if you switched from driving a gas-burning car to an EV. A back-of-the-napkin calculation would be to think what you spent on gasoline in the last month, divide that number by 7, and apply the result to your next power bill instead.
If you charge it using SaskPower’s electricity instead of a solar array at home, you’d be producing at least 30% fewer emissions, with no tailpipe emissions inside Regina.
And if you share some of these bits of experience with people replacing their cars, they may have a greater opportunity to save money, and reduce emissions than if they stroll into an auto dealer ready to accept outdated gas technology that will cost them more to operate while making more pollution than they would with an EV car or truck.