Province only reaches one-quarter of target for electric vehicles
Number inches up, but it's nowhere near the 2,500 vehicles officials wanted on the road by 2020
Although New Brunswick has fallen well short of its targets for electric vehicles, it is boasting a 50 per cent increase in the last year.
As of Friday, 646 electric vehicles were registered in the province, compared to 437 last year, said Nick Brown, a spokesperson for the Department of Natural Resources and Energy Development.
But the province had set a target of 2,500 electric vehicles by the end of 2020.
Brown said the year-over-year increase shows "that our investments in electric vehicle charging stations are encouraging New Brunswickers to consider the electric vehicle option."
Tony Diamond is one of those New Brunswickers. He bought a used 2016 Kia Soul last July.
Diamond said he was motivated by a desire to reduce emissions. But he thinks more people might consider going electric if the province offered financial incentives.
Although there is a federal program, New Brunswick does not offer any rebates for purchasing electric vehicles.
The federally run Incentive for Zero-Emission Vehicles, or iZEV program, offers up to $5,000 rebates that are applied at point-of-sale — either at the dealerships or online.
But not every electric vehicle is eligible. Transport Canada lists the eligible makes and models on its website.
Diamond said it was actually very difficult to find a suitable electric vehicle in New Brunswick. He had to drive to Charlottetown.
Fredericton resident Margo Sheppard had the same problem and ended up buying her vehicle, a brand new 2018 Nissan Leaf, in Moncton three years ago.
"I have no complaints," she said. "It is reliable, it is peppy. It's quiet, and it's cheap to operate."
Sheppard said it costs about $1 to go 24 miles in her Leaf.
Travelling to Moncton, for example, would cost $4 — that's based on charging at home at 12 cents a kilowatt hour. Using a charging station is about two and a half times more expensive, she said.
For the first year and a half, the Sheppards simply used a regular electrical outlet for charging. But after installing a specialized plug-in, charging times went from 24 hours for a full charge to about five to seven hours.
Sheppard isn't certain about the exact time because she rarely charges from empty. Driving near empty, she said, makes for a bit of a harrowing experience.
Sheppard and Diamond both said it takes a bit of time to get used to the driving limits of an electrical vehicle. It's not as easy as pulling into a gas station and taking five minutes to fill up. Charging takes hours.
A drive to Ontario, for example, takes twice as long, said Sheppard.
How far one can go on a full charge varies depending on the time of the year and whether air conditioning or heat is used.
It takes a bit of math.
Diamond and his wife, Dorothy, learned that the hard way on the way home from Charlottetown when they purchased their vehicle.
The drive was four times the range of the car, so several charging stops were required.
"We spent much longer charging than driving," he said.
And even without using the air conditioning on a hot day in July, the Diamonds miscalculated the last leg and ran short four kilometres from home. They had to be towed the rest of the way.
"So that was a learning experience," he said.
"I've learned that if you let the range get down into the red on the dial, you're pretty well toast."
Diamond said a full charge gets him easily between his home in Stanley and Fredericton — even in the winter, "provided we don't use the heater too much because the heater also runs off the engine battery."
"And I absolutely love driving it. It's very zippy. It's very quiet. … Because the battery's on the bottom of the car, the centre of gravity, is really low, so it sticks to the road."
The Diamonds have a gas-powered car for longer trips — or if they want to use the heater on a really cold day.
"We've bought gas maybe two or three times since we bought it at the end of July."
When it was released in 2016, New Brunswick's Climate Change Action Plan said the government "will work to have 2,500 electric vehicles on the road by 2020 and 20,000 by 2030."
It also promised to "implement an electric vehicle strategy that specifies the required incentives, regulations, policies, programs and charging infrastructure to achieve the above-mentioned targets for electric vehicles."
With 646 currently on the road, the province is only at one-quarter of its 2020 target.
And New Brunswick doesn't yet have a rebate or incentive program. But the province does boast being "the first fully connected province in Canada," said Brown.
He said New Brunswick has 83 fast-charging stations, and 172 Level-2 charging stations available to the electric-car-driving public.
"Electric vehicle users can drive around the province with the security of knowing that the average distance between public charging stations is 65 kms," Brown said by email on Friday afternoon.
Diamond and Sheppard are both pleased with New Brunswick's charging infrastructure.
Diamond said it's pretty easy to get access to a charging station at the moment, but he wonders what it will be like if the popularity explodes.
"My fear is that if EVs are widely adopted within the next few years — in a lot of the charging places, there's only one charger or maybe two — and you might then start running into having to wait for somebody else to charge. But hopefully the infrastructure can keep up."
Greenhouse gas emissions
According New Brunswick's Climate Change Action plan, transportation contributes about 30 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the province.
Both Diamond and Sheppard were motivated to purchase an electric vehicle by a desire to reduce emissions.
"I wanted to set an example and I wanted to reduce my emissions," explained Diamond.
"And in addition, I've been wanting to have an electric vehicle for 30 years. I've been hoping it was going to be possible for 30 years. Now at 76, it's finally achievable. And I'm looking forward to the next few years when we can go all electric."
But one of the drawbacks to wider use, said Diamond, is the lack of provincial incentives.
Diamond said he knows a lot of people who have gone to Quebec, where they do have a provincial incentive program.
With files from Information Morning Fredericton