Nfld. & Labrador

Newest electric car retailer hopes supply boosts lacklustre demand

Electric cars aren't exactly taking Newfoundland and Labrador by storm, but one retailer isn't giving up just yet.

N.L. far behind national average when it comes to electric vehicle uptake

John Gordon is hoping — for the second time — that the electric car will see a boost in Newfoundland and Labrador. (Zach Goudie/CBC)

The cars approach at a whisper — about the same volume of enthusiasm John Gordon hears from the electric vehicle market in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Gordon's first electric car company, Green Rock EVS, sputtered to an end due to a lack of sales. But despite persistent radio silence from prospective buyers across the province, Gordon is taking a risk with his new retailer: the Electric Vehicle Network NL.

"We're seeing the uptake of electric vehicles globally and across Canada. The numbers have skyrocketed," he said. "In Newfoundland, they've stayed very flat."

One out of 11 new car sales in the rest of Canada has a plug in it, he pointed out.

In N.L., it's about one in 3,000.

The dashboard of this 2011 Chevrolet Volt, an electric-gas hybrid, shows how much life is left in its battery, which usually lasts 50 to 60 kilometres on a full charge. (Zach Goudie/CBC)

Even though his first venture didn't make much noise, Gordon thinks it's only a matter of time before the cars catch on here, too.

He sees the low uptake — plus the lack of infrastructure to fuel and fix electric cars — as a boon rather than a burden, a kind of clean slate to build from, with the ability to avoid mistakes made elsewhere.

"I always say the biggest advantage we have is that we're so far behind," Gordon said. "We now know all the lessons learned."

Risky venture?

Gordon isn't the only one hoping for a rapid rise in popularity.

A Public Utilities Board recommendation for rate mitigation following Muskrat Falls also saw widespread uptake of electric vehicles as a way to shift revenue from petroleum to hydro power, hypothetically creating more demand for Muskrat Falls energy and keeping rates low across the board.

John Gordon hopes that by bringing in used electric cars from the mainland, he can start convincing people to ditch the gas. (Zach Goudie/CBC)

Without either interest in the cars or the fuelling stations to entice buyers, that outlook could amount to little more than a pipe dream. Non-profit group Drive Electric NL says Newfoundland and Labrador is the only province in Canada without a network of high-speed chargers.

At the moment, "we're operating at about two per cent of what Newfoundland should be on a national average," Gordon said, suggesting misinformation about the cars has also left the province isolated from the global trend.

"There's definitely a lot of resistance. We've lost out on federal funding on several rounds just because we don't have that much interest here."

Drive Electric NL is leading the charge to get a network of high-speed chargers built across the province. (Gavin Simms/CBC)

But there's still enough fuel for his optimism. Gordon says that of the 100 or so electric cars in the province, about half were sold through his dealership, and he believes word of mouth will slowly but surely lead to wider electrification in a place with optimal conditions to support the technology.

"Newfoundland is an ideal climate for it. It's not too hot, it's not too cold. We have clean electricity," he said.

"All these things bode well for people to drive electric vehicles.… There's definitely room to grow."

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from On the Go

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