Sask. enthusiasts say electric vehicles are the future — and the future is now

There are currently 54 electric vehicles registered in Saskatchewan. Advocates say electric cars are the future, even for Saskatchewan, and that the future is now.

54 electric vehicles were registered in Sask. by the end of October 2017

Jerilyn Nixon said it’s exciting to show Saskatchewan people ‘that electric cars can be driven here.’ (Mike Zartler/CBC)

Provincial proponents of electric vehicles are positive it's both possible and practical to have them in Saskatchewan. 

"It isn't for everyone, but neither is a big truck or an SUV," said Ronald Jones, principal owner and manager at Evergreen Nissan in Prince Albert.

The dealership is also the only certified Nissan Leaf dealer in the province.

"I would say that it's probably more of an everyday vehicle than most people give it credit for," Jones added.

Currently there are 54 electric cars registered in Saskatchewan. There were just 17 registered in 2013, when Jones first brought electric vehicles to his dealership.

"I just saw it as the future," he said.
Jerilyn Nixon said she charges her electric car every night. Pictured is the plug in on the 2014 Nissan Leaf. (Mike Zartler/CBC)

Extreme temperatures

Jones said frigid weather won't stop electric cars from running. In cases of extreme cold, he estimates the Leaf's battery would lose about 25 per cent of its battery life.

He added there is a "Canadian Cold" package for Nissan Leafs, which includes a battery blanket to keep it warm when temperatures drop down to –30 C.

"It's like an iPhone or anything like that. Your battery doesn't last as long in the cold," Jones said.

However, Jones said the batteries perform worse at 30 C temperatures, rather than –30 C, because they can overheat. 

Jerilyn Nixon purchased a used 2014 Nissan Leaf in September and said the cold weather does affect the battery. Her car doesn't have the extra battery coverage available to some of the Leafs.

She said she'll have around 80 kilometres of range with a full charge on a extremely cold day, compared to about 130 kilometres of range on an average day.

"But it's mostly for city driving, so it makes sense. You don't use that full 80 kilometres in a day."  

Going the distance

The vast space between Saskatchewan's cities and towns creates long commutes. 

"That's probably the major hurdle is range — but as technology gets better, batteries get better, the charging systems get better," Jones said. He added that in 2013, the average highway range with a full charge was 100 kilometres.

The newest model of the Leaf can travel up to 241 highway kilometres on a full charge, according to Jones, and the next iterations of the vehicles and batteries could see distances of up to 400 kilometres.

"The fuelling of it gets people wrapped up: 'Oh, I can't drive to Calgary or I can't do this.' But, in most cases, I would ask the question to a lot of people: 'When did you last do that?' "

Sask. doesn't offer incentives

Jones thinks electric cars will continue to grow in Saskatchewan.

"We have only just touched the iceberg."

There were 29 electric vehicles registered in the province in 2014, 40 in 2015 and 50 in 2016. The first electric car was registered in October 2011.

"It's tough in Saskatchewan, probably, to break into the electric car market. There's not a lot of government incentive to do so, where there is in other provinces," Jones said.
Ronald Jones said electric cars are a 'no brainer' as the province gears up for a carbon tax. Provincial incentives 'could be an opportunity for our government to offset things,' he said. (Mike Zartler/CBC)

British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec offer incentives to buyers of electric vehicles. The Saskatchewan government does not. 

"We are aware of incentive programs in other provinces and will consider the results and requirements of each, in the event that similar policies are discussed or developed in the future," a government spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

Jones is confident the electric car community will grow with or without government support.
Ronald Jones said 20,000 kilometres on a car would likely cost $3,000 to $4,000 per year in fuel costs, but an electric vehicle of the same size would cost $350 to $450 in electricity. Pictured is the automatic gear shift in a 2014 Nissan Leaf electric car. (Mike Zartler/CBC)

Nixon said it can be a "frustrating process" to get an electric car in the city.

A local dealership in Regina told her they weren't buying into them because the cars were "slow moving in Saskatchewan."

"I explained to him, 'Well maybe the reason why it's slow moving is the fact that people who are interested have nowhere to test drive it in the city,' " Nixon said.


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