Manitoba

Duo hope to be 1st to finish coast-to-coast electric vehicle trip using new fast-charging network

Two B.C. friends are accelerating toward the East Coast and 2020 to raise awareness about a warming planet, and they hope an impromptu cross-country trip in an electric vehicle that stopped in Winnipeg Monday will spur change.

'Now is the time,' says man who hopes to highlight benefits of EVs amid concerns over climate change

Kevin Belanger's Tesla 3 fully charges in about 20 minutes at fast-charging stations like this one at Polo Park in Winnipeg. (Kevin Nepitabo/CBC)

Two B.C. friends are accelerating toward the East Coast and 2020 to raise awareness about a warming planet, and they hope an impromptu cross-country trip in an electric vehicle that stopped in Winnipeg Monday will spur change.

Kevin Belanger and Don Goodeve set off Saturday on the trip from Victoria, B.C., to Halifax, N.S., in a Tesla 3. They arrived in Winnipeg Monday morning.

During their pit stop, Goodeve said he is scared for his children's future and he wants to do all he can to raise awareness about climate change.

"Now is the time that we really need to look at how the world has to change to meet the challenges that are coming," he said.

"An electric vehicle is cool, it's a useful technology, but it's also kind of a symbol of what's becoming possible now."

Kevin Belanger and Don Goodeve hold up snacks and warm drinks during their stop in Winnipeg. The pair is heading across Canada in an electric vehicle. They hope to complete the trip Tuesday in Halifax. (Erin Brohman/CBC)

They hope to get to Halifax to ring in the New Year and become the first people to complete such a trip in Canada, Goodeve said.

The duo decided on a whim on Boxing Day to get in a Tesla and head east, largely because of the new fast-charging stations popping up across Canada that make such a trip possible in an electric vehicle.

'Not an official Tesla stunt'

Belanger works for Tesla Tours, a business that gives tourists a chance to drive around Vancouver Island in an electric vehicle. The tourism company isn't officially linked to Tesla, Belanger said.

"This is not an official Tesla stunt. This is just an owner and his friend."

In ideal conditions — so not Winnipeg winter temperatures — Belanger's Tesla 3 can go 500 kilometres on a single charge. Cold weather can seriously sap power due to the energy used to keep the cabin heated.

Still, that 500 km range makes Teslas stand out in the crowd of electric vehicles that traditionally have had much lower ranges, which has meant many owners have felt stuck because of a lack of fast-charging stations across Canada.

In the past, Prairie provinces have had a patchwork of charging stations that have made long-distance travel difficult, if not logistically and technologically infeasible.

But that's begun to change.

Tesla has installed a series of stations across Canada in recent weeks.

In Winnipeg, Goodeve and Belanger fuelled up at new fast-charging Tesla stations at Polo Park mall. 

Petro-Canada has also pledged to create a coast-to-coast network of charging stations, which began rolling out at gas stations located near the Trans-Canada Highway across Canada this summer.

They're currently at Petro-Canada stations in Brandon and just east of Winnipeg at Deacon's Corner, with another planned for Portage la Prairie.

Christmas gift from Elon Musk

But it's the Tesla stations that spurred Belanger and Goodeve's trip.

"Elon Musk and the Tesla team kind of gave us a Christmas present," said Belanger, referring to Tesla CEO Elon Musk. 

Belanger said the budding network of fast-charging stations, which can fully charge his Tesla 3 in 15 to 20 minutes, has closed what was a gap between Calgary and Sudbury, Ont.

They could have done the trip before the network began to take shape, but it would have been a much slower slog. A trickle charge that allows EVs to plug into any household outlet takes hours to reach a full charge, and the Prairies weren't flush with mid-level charging stations, known as Level 2 stations, either.

The fast-charging stations, or Level 3s, make quick work of that dilemma, Goodeve said.

"We pull up at a charger, we plug it in; by the time we've gone to the bathroom and got a coffee, it's time to go again," he said.

Belanger says it takes about 20 minutes to charge his Tesla 3 at a fast-charging station. (Kevin Nepitabo/CBC)

The trip also will be significantly cheaper than a cross-country trip in a gasoline-powered vehicle. One time when the battery was on empty and required a full charge, it cost about $20, Goodeve said. Belanger estimates it will cost a total of about $180 to go from Vancouver to Halifax.

Dispelling EV myths

Though the Tesla models S and X will cost you a pretty penny, the base model Tesla 3 runs for about $45,000, Belanger said.

"The way you need to look at the calculation is how much you're saving on fuel," he said. "This isn't much more expensive than a Leaf or even a decked-out Honda Accord or Camry."

Winter storms in the forecast could prevent the pair from making it to Halifax by Tuesday night; they might have to wait out the inclement weather in Ontario or Quebec.

Not making it to Halifax on time wouldn't diminish the message they're trying to send about climate change while dispelling myths about EVs, Belanger said.

"There's a lot of misinformation," he said. 

"If we're going to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles across Canada, we need to show that this does work for people in metropolitan centres across the [Trans-Canada] Highway for now."

About the Author

Bryce Hoye

Reporter

Bryce Hoye is an award-winning journalist and science writer with a background in wildlife biology and interests in courts, social justice, health and more. He is the Prairie rep for OutCBC. Story idea? Email bryce.hoye@cbc.ca.

With files from Erin Brohman

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