Are electric vehicles ready for the mainstream in Canada?

[ ♪ ] [David Common] How did things go so wrong? [ ♪ ] How do we end up driving with no heat at night outside Detroit late for an appointment and about to run out of the fuel we need? [ ♪ ] It’s our first adventure with a fully
electric car and it began by renting Arthur Potts entry level, battery-only vehicle. – [David] How are you?
– [Arthur] Very well indeed. Good to see you. This is it. This is it — the Kia Soul. They’re a little bit more expensive but now I think the cost benefit — you’re nuts to buy an internal combustion engine if you’re driving around a city. I save maybe $3,000-$3,500 a year in gasoline. [David] Turns out Potts pushed EVs in the last Ontario government. I was the junior minister for environment and climate change. [David] Drivers are still shy of battery- only offerings. No gas engine at all. So what’s holding us back? That’s four things. 1) Cost to buy. 2) Range — how far they can go between charging. 3) Whether there are enough charging stations and 4) The time it takes to recharge. Along with producer Jill and videographer Ed I’m testing those out on this journey. [ ♪ ] So eleven and a half million Canadians
do what we’re doing right now and that is commute by car to work. On average, they drive 23 kilometres one way. Which means 46 there and back. Starting with a 138 kilometers of range we drive 50 km on the highway — one way. Then add some stops on city streets for our return journey of 60 km. Remaining range, about 28 km. [ ♪ ] Total cost to recharge at home — under two bucks. How many times did we stopped at the gas station? – [Jill] Not once.
– [David] Not once. But we knew this part was gonna be easy. All the EV experts we consulted said these cars are a no-brainer for city driving But what if you need to take a
road trip? Yeah, so tomorrow we head to Detroit. Yikes. Overnight we’re using alevel 1 charger. The smallest and slowest there is. OK, so we parked the car at 6
o’clock last night. Started charging it at 7:30. Now 11 and a half hours later — How we doing? The car is at 86 per cent and it could actually take five more hours of charging to get up to 100 per cent. That’s OK. This is enough for what we need to do
today. And what are we doing? Well it’s actually a little bit risky. We are going 400 km all the way to Detroit. It’s a big road trip in an electric
vehicle. One we’ve never done. Tesla’s like the one next to us here can make the trip in just one stop but for us, in this much cheaper $35,000 car we’re looking at a max range of a 165 km. Cold weather can shrink that down by a quarter, so trip planning is key. If we go dead it’s not like you can just walk to a gas station because not everywhere can give you a charge. Exactly. Basically, our experiment is over. – [David] Is over.
– [Jill] Yeah. Jill is using an app to track where we can recharge along the way. And we can use that app to pay for the top ups as well. OK. Never done this before. So let’s see — plug the charging connector into your vehicle I think — it’s this one. Or is it? No. That looks right. Yeah. So, here we go. The app actually says how long it’s been how long it’s costing me. It’s $20 an hour to do this. But this is a fast charger so it’s gonna go pretty quickly. 20 percent charged right now. The stop gives us time to make a call. A chat with an EV expert
Simon Ouellette of ChargeHub. Hi Simon Well, it’s okay. We’re on our first stop. So you got about a hundred kilometres and you can see it — here we are with our car and our charging station. And it’s at 65 per cent right now after only about 10 minutes What do we need to know about sort of
maximizing our mileage, our range? We’re at 80 per cent right now. So I think I’m gonna wrap this call up with you because we’re going to disconnect and hit the road. [ ♪ ] Back on the road and the heats turned way down to extend our range. Uh-oh. And after another hundred kilometres — [Car notification] Please visit a nearby charging station. [David] Ah, time for another stop. Pretty soon we’ll be red lining it. Oh, there you go. OK, I just pulling off the highway here. Not quite running on fumes. But we got 16 kilometres of range left. So we really pushed the limit on this one. [GPS voice] In 300 metres turn right on Wellington road. There we go. So I think for this stop we’re gonna want to go above 80 per cent. The next stop is 116 kilometers away and there’s nothing between here and there. OK. Get the app out. $20 an hour to use this. We’ll probably use it for about half an hour. After lunch and back on the road for half an hour and that’s when things start to go wrong. How far off of our plan are we relative to where our next charging station is? This says there’s two stations available. What are we close to here? We could go backwards — [Jill] I don’t think we should go
backwards [David] But we have to find something in front of us. So a new route it is. [ ♪ ] Okay, time for a recharge. And not a moment too soon. We were only about 10 kilometres of range left. All right it’s charging. 9 per cent already. Might as well get something warm inside. [Jill] OK, let me think. [David] None of this was part of the plan. We’re now late. Supposed to be in Detroit in less than
an hour with no chance of making it. And now another issue. The charger we’re plugged into is not charging at the rate we’ve become accustomed to. It’s going slower. Time to phone a friend. Simon’s our EV life line. We ended up taking a different route than we planned and so we didn’t go to the charger that
we planned. We found another charger. We’re at that charger but it’s taking much longer than we thought it would even though it’s still a level three. Why is that? It’s about a hundred kilometers from here to there and our car is not charged up sufficiently for that right now. – [David] What have we got?
– [Jill] Oh, no 107 107? OK, so I’m gonna go out and see if we got that much. [ ♪ ] 52 per cent. That’s not gonna be enough. So our range right now is 78 kilometers. It’s not enough to get us to Detroit. So — I think we’re probably gonna have to wait it out. The alternative is driving to a faster charger than this one but it’s a bit of a gamble. We have just enough range remaining to make it but not enough time. We need to speed up and doing so reduces the range faster. To compensate we’re turning all the heat off and it gets very cold, very fast. But we do make it to the Auto Show just before it closes — OK, we made it. — to meet Paul Paul Raszewski of the Toronto Electric Vehicle Association. Thanks so much for waiting for us. OK my hands are frozen. My feet are frozen. We had to turn everything off in order
to get here — Here’s my thing, People are going to look at what we’ve done and they’re gonna say, “Uh-oh, I don’t know about an EV.” The good news is that you drove a previous generation electric car. So over there, the same car you were driving is being introduced with more than double the size of the battery. In other words, we could have
made it without recharging. Or maybe recharging once. A very different kind of story and gives you a sense of where EVs are headed. [ ♪ ] It makes you realize how in just two years a single car model has really extended its range. There are some lessons though. EVs certainly can be affordable and seem great for city commutes but not all models are suitable for longer road trips. Still progress is happening and happening quickly. Longer ranges, shorter recharges and more charging stations. David Common, CBC News
Detroit. Here in Canada we spoke with said the number of charging stations has been doubling year-over-year but access really depends
where you start driving and where you’re trying to get to so these are all the
public fast charging stations in Canada the ones that take about a half hour to
top-up most electric vehicles there are a bunch in Southern BC and in parts of
Ontario Quebec in the Maritimes but there are still areas especially across
the prairies where they are few and far between