Anyone reasonably familiar with sustainability and the environmentalist movement is probably familiar with the concept of the electric car. The EV has been touted as the solution for reducing green house gas emissions related to transportation for years. In depictions of the future, the EV is a common feature, whizzing silently up and down smog free highways with charging stations as common as gas stations. It seems now we are finally on the cusp of the EV revolution, with more electric, plug in hybrid, and hybrid vehicles being released every year.
There is only one problem, where are all of these EVs?
If you don’t live in an urban center, the answer is: out of reach.
It is understandable that the makers of the currently available electric cars and plug-in hybrids (Nissan and Chevy in particular) would be selective about the roll out of their products across North America, and in particular, Canada, where cold weather can seriously sap the lithium-ion batteries. However, it is this extreme selectiveness that may be slowing the sales and acceptance of these cars in the first place.
There have been many articles reporting that the Nissan Leaf sold only a portion of their available stock in North America, and that Chevy Volt sales have been less than stellar. In fact, these cars aren’t even available across this country. Both the Leaf and Volt are only available in select Canadian cities.
It seems only logical to conclude that when a car is treated by the seller as such a precious commodity that it cannot be sold nation wide, the customers might come to regard the car with a similar viewpoint, as fragile, something to be babied. Not what the average North American wants in a car.
This did not deter the President of Maritime Geothermal Ltd, Glenn Kaye, from doing whatever was necessary to obtain the first Nissan Leaf available in Atlantic Canada. Having followed the progress of the first all electric car for years, Mr. Kaye knew that to truly set an example of sustainability, as Maritime Geothermal Ltd has strived to do for years, a Nissan Leaf would be the perfect addition to the company.
“We know how important it is to set an example within our community that these cars are a viable option for the every day North American, just like a geothermal heat pump.”
But obtaining one of these cars was not easy. While there are several Nissan dealerships in the area, the closest Nissan Leaf certified dealer was 300km away, well beyond the 120km range of the Leaf in the dead of Canadian winter. After jumping through the hoops of paperwork, Maritime Geothermal managed to acquire a black Leaf that had been used for demonstrations, with a mere 700km on the meter.
The next challenge became infrastructure. It soon became clear that the provincial government was not going to offer any sort of rebates or incentives to lessen the financial burden of purchasing a Nissan Leaf, nor do the utilities, local or provincial governments have plans to install high speed charging stations around the province. The bulk of the infrastructure building in the local area will be paid for out of Maritime Geothermal’s pocket.
With all the barriers that must be overcome just to obtain an electric car, let alone drive it comfortably on a day to day basis, is it any wonder that the average North American passes them by in favor of ever more efficient gasoline powered vehicles? The cost, inaccessibility, lack of charging stations, and the ever present ‘range anxiety’ go far when explaining the lack luster sales performance of these vehicles.
But we need these cars. If our society is to truly set itself on a path to sustainability, the gasoline-powered car has to fall by the wayside. The wide-spread adoption of the electric car, much like that of the geothermal heat pump, would go a long way to reducing carbon emissions, while still maintaining a high degree of comfort.
Bringing the first electric car to Atlantic Canada was a difficult endeavor, and without change, it may be one of the few that ever make it here.