With the federal government planning to phase out sales of gas-powered vehicles during the next decade, many drivers question how they will fare on cold Prairie days like this week’s.
But two electric car enthusiasts who chatted with host Leisha Grebinski on CBC’s Blue Sky this week say they love driving their vehicles in the winter.
“It heats up faster than any gas car I’ve ever had. It’s more reliable,” said Tyler Krause, who sits on the board for the Saskatchewan Electric Vehicle Association and founded the Tesla Owners Club of Saskatchewan.
“You know, there’s no starting of the car. It’s always just kind of on, right? It’s like a phone, basically, or a computer on wheels.”
The major downside in winter is the loss of driving range in really frigid temperatures, Krause said. His Tesla Model 3 can generally travel 500 kilometres on a single charge in the summer, but on cold winter days that decreases to around 300 kilometres, he said.
With the charging infrastructure that has come online in the last few years in the province, that’s still enough to feel confident leaving town, he said.
Matthew Pointer, who also drives a Tesla Model 3, said he his electric vehicle to be a much better driving experience in the winter than a gas car.
“I believe that an electric is the best vehicle in these temperatures, just because it’s a simpler car. It’s taking care of itself even if I’m not thinking about it,” he said.
“I can leave my vehicle unplugged overnight to minus-40, fire up the app on my phone, preheat the car, heated steering wheel, heated seats … Basically I hop in the car, everything is defrosted, toasty warm and away I go.”
Both Pointer and Krause acknowledged that battery-electric vehicles like theirs won’t work for all drivers in the province, including anyone who has to travel long distances regularly — particularly in areas of the province with very little charging infrastructure like northern Saskatchewan.
But plug-in hybrid vehicles, which are included in the federal government’s mandates, are a good option, Krause said. They can be driven like a gas vehicle, but still give drivers some of the benefits of going electric, such as cheaper fuel costs.
Fuel savings vary from car to car, but Krause said that for a car with an average-size battery (about 70 kilowatt-hour), charging from zero to 100 per cent will cost about $10 when charged at home at an electricity rate of about 14 cents/kWh.
Pointer said the cost savings of driving an electric vehicle for five years are “insane.” He and Krause have both calculated they have saved between $25,000 and $30,000 over five years in fuel and maintenance. The upfront cost of longer-range electric vehicles can still be a barrier, they acknowledged.
One thing they’d like to see more of in Saskatchewan is small towns with charging stations. Since a charging session takes longer than a fill-up at a gas station, towns should consider the benefits of having visitors wandering the downtown while they wait, he said.
“Reinvigorate your main street by putting an electric vehicle charger to encourage business in your restaurants, local shops and recreational activity areas,” Pointer said.