#GEDONA Weekend: “I Drive Electric” Week

By: Yvonne Ho

Sept 9-11th 2016 was the 5th annual Green Energy Doors Open (GEDO), a campaign organized and spearheaded by Ontario Sustainable Energy Association to spread positive messages about successful green energy initiatives all over Ontario, Alberta, and BC. The projects being showcased ranged from Passive Houses, to solar PV-powered homes, to off-grid homes, as well as various other large commercial-scale projects. As a long time electric vehicle (EV) enthusiast, I chose to attend an EV event organized by Plug n Drive, called “I Drive Electric Cruise” which was also part of National Drive Electric Week (September 10-18th).

The morning of Saturday Sept 10th was chilly and rainy, but that did not stop a host of EV owners and green energy enthusiasts from showing up at the event with smiles on their faces, ready to celebrate the progress that our province has made in the realm of EV adoption. For those who were looking into the possibility of switching to EV or plug-in hybrid vehicles, Plug n Drive has made that possible by offering test drives from several of the top EV providers in Canada: Nissan, Ford, Mitsubishi, BMW, and Chevrolet.


Figure 1 Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in hybrid available for test drive at the event

The event’s goal was to bring together local EV drivers and enthusiasts, as well as celebrate the progress made in the EV market. Canada currently has up to 19 makes and models of EVs available in the market, with many more to come as the prices become more competitive, and as more people discover the benefits of driving electric. Aside from the positive environmental impacts, EV drivers would also benefit from cost savings in avoided fuel costs (up to $1500-2000 per year). Seems like a win-win situation for both people and the environment!

On top of the lure of EVs, this event also brought together families and kids with free food, great music, and a raffle for a free in-home EV charger. The highlight of the event was of course the attendance of Ontario’s very own Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the Honourable Glen Murray. Minister Murray was welcomed and introduced by Cara Clairman, CEO at Plug n Drive. As a long-time advocate for the environment and a key player in the province’s greenhouse gas reduction plans, it’s no surprise that Minister Murray is also a strong supporter of EV.


Figure 2 A home EV charger was the prize of the raffle


Figure 3 Minister Murray speaking about climate change and the value of electrifying our transportation system

Minister Murray spoke about the devastating effects climate change is having on our environment, emphasizing the severity of the issue globally and the urgency needed in taking climate action. Needless to say, EVs is touted as one of the solutions in fighting climate change, and is included in the province’s Climate Change Action Plan. With the transportation sector accounting for up to 30% of Ontario’s greenhouse gas emissions, removing the barriers and accelerating the adoption of EVs in Ontario is a simple yet important step to help the province meet its carbon reduction goals of 80% by 2050.

When it finally came time for the EV test drives, I could barely contain my excitement. I opted to test out the BMW i3 and the Ford Focus. The Ford Focus, costing approximately $32,000, was the more affordable out of the two. The BMW i3, costing approximately $45,000*, has a slightly higher range of 130km, compared to the Ford Focus (122km). Although it took me a while to get used to driving an electric car, what surprised me was how smooth the drive is and how silent the cars are. While driving the i3, I was impressed by additional features it came with, such as an independent braking system and the quick acceleration speed (0-100km/h in 7.2s).


Figure 4 The BMW i3, an EV that was available for test drive

I had the opportunity to chat with several EV owners and experts to learn about their experience thus far driving an EV. Every owner I spoke with had a unanimous pitch about the EV—the fuel cost savings accrued over the years. The enthusiasm of each EV owners as they bragged about their positive experiences after switching from gas to electric further heightened my desire to purchase my very own EV one day.

Thanks to bold entrepreneurs like Elon Musk, EVs have quickly evolved from being a rarity and novelty in the auto industry to a vehicle that is now perceived as the “cooler and greener” sibling of conventional gas combustion vehicles. Within Canada alone—in the first quarter of 2016, EV sales increased by 75% over the same time period last year. So far this year, over 6,170 electric vehicles have been sold across the country. If this upward sales trend continues, we could be looking at more than 26,000 EVs on the road by the end of the year.


Figure 5 Several Teslas were spotted around the parking lot

Early next year, Chevrolet is releasing its new all-electric car—the Chevy Bolt. The Bolt boasts an estimated range of 238 miles per full charge, at a surprisingly affordable rate of $37,000. Even our European counterparts are beginning to pick up on this trend—German auto manufacturer Mercedes plans to unveil an entire fleet of EV, in a bet that alternative fuel vehicles do have the potential to become profitable. The future of EV is looking bright indeed!

*For budget-conscious drivers who are concerned about the higher price tag for EVs, the Ontario government has an incentive program that provides up to $14,000 in rebate to EV buyers, and $1,000 off the purchase and installation of a home charging station.

As the threat of climate change increases, it is increasingly crucial that the public learn about the actions that they can take to make a difference. Events like Drive Electric Week and GEDO are instrumental in raising public awareness and advocating for change in policy development. To learn more about the benefits of driving electric, check out this interview with Cara Clairman, President and CEO of Plug n Drive. Cara’s tireless work in promoting the uptake and adoption of EVs in Ontario has earned her a spot in the 2017 Clean50 awards.

Yvonne is an environmental professional with an educational background in environmental science and sustainability. She has several years of work experience in the environmental non-profit sector— carrying out research on key environmental issues, writing reports and educational articles, executing membership development and outreach initiatives, as well as implementing marketing and communications plans for campaigns. She has a keen interest in renewable energy, impact investing, sustainable development, and environmental laws and policies. Prominent environmental organizations she has volunteered at and worked for include Sierra Club, Environmental Defence, Ontario Sustainable Energy Association, Toronto Environmental Alliance, and Pollution Probe. Yvonne is motivated to work together with like-minded people and organizations towards greater environmental justice and climate action.