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Happy Valley-Goose Bay driver goes electric

Chevrolet Spark

Paul Snelgrove shipped his 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV from Mount Pearl to Happy Valley-Goose Bay. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

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It's been percolating in the back of Paul Snelgrove's mind for the past couple of years: the thought of buying an electric car.

"In our lifetime, it'll probably be all electric cars so it's cool to have the first one in Labrador," Snelgrove said.

Last week, Shelgrove's 2014 Chevy Spark EV rolled off the truck that brought it from Mount Pearl to Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

"As far as I know, it's the first electric car in Labrador. I'm sure we'll find out if it's not."

Snelgrove said he likes cars, and he likes saving money on gas. He already has what he calls a Japanese mini-truck that only costs him around $35 to fill up — but free sounds even better to him.

"I just feel good about driving past gas stations," he said.

Snelgrove figures at today's power rates in Labrador, he's paying about 50 cents a charge for his electric vehicle, so it's not exactly cost-free.

Paul Snelgroves

Paul Snelgrove says he's going to use his electric car for runs around town. With a range of about 130 kilometres, the car wouldn't get him from Happy Valley-Goose Bay to Churchill Falls. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

But he sees ways for businesses to promote themselves if more people were to jump aboard the electric car train.

'I think as a second vehicle, if you're not doing that long run, this is perfect.' - Paul Snelgrove

"I've talked to a couple of local businesses about putting in a quick charger. You go in, you get your coffee. While you're getting your coffee, you're getting a little bit of a free charge type thing."

With about a 130-kilometre range, Snelgrove couldn't even get as far as Churchill Falls.

But he said it's meant for puttering around town, not long trips.

"I think as a second vehicle, if you're not doing that long run, this is perfect," he said.

The vehicle cost him around $24,000. For a compact car that's not cheap, but Snelgrove said it's about trying something new and keeping ahead of the curve.

"You'd have to burn a lot of gas to make up that difference in cost," Snelgrove said.

"I'm kind of interested to see how my kids are going to react to it, too. I think they're going to be fighting to drive it because I'm trying to get them to pay for their own gas."

Sales pitch

John Gordon, Greenrock

John Gordon is the president of Green Rock EVS in Newfoundland and Labrador. He believes that Paul Snelgrove has the first passenger electric car in Labrador. (CBC)

Snelgrove's electric vehicle was purchased and shipped from Greenrock EVS in Mount Pearl.

John Gordon, president of Greenrock, said for people in places such Happy Valley-Goose Bay or Labrador City, an electric vehicle makes good sense, compared to the cost of filling up on gas.

"It's about 95 per cent less expensive in Labrador," Gordon said.

"Labrador has one of the cheapest electricity rates in Canada and also has one of the highest gas prices. Here in St. John's it's about six times less expensive [to use an electric car], in Labrador in some places it's about 25 times."

Gordon said the average range on an electric vehicle is about 135 kilometres. The average person drives about 50 kilometres in a daily commute, so going from gas to electric is a manageable change, said Gordon. 

"A large portion of those vehicles never leave those cities and if you do, it's probably a good idea to have a truck anyways," Gordon said.

Snelgrove said one of the biggest questions people have is about how the electric car will react to the cold Labrador weather conditions.

Gordon said he hears that question from prospective clients all the time.

"The interesting thing about electric vehicles is, they will always start. They can start in minus 30, minus 40," Gordon said.

"The thing you're going to notice, you'd notice it with a gas vehicle as well, you'll get less range during the colder days … could be up to 40 per cent [less]."

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