Electric cars working great in Sask.'s extreme cold conditions

Electric cars are performing well in Saskatchewan's cold conditions, their owners say.

Vehicles lose some range, but they will start reliably, say owners

Tyler Krause had no problem starting his Tesla Model 3 in –36 C conditions Thursday morning in Saskatoon. (Courtney Markewich/CBC)

As Matthew Pointer headed to work in Regina Thursday morning, he noticed a lot of people having car trouble in the extreme cold.

Pointer thought of the misconception that electric vehicles are no good in the winter as he left them behind.

"I passed several dozen people that couldn't even get their car started in front of their house this morning, as I kind of ripped by them in my electric vehicle that apparently doesn't work in those sort of temperatures," joked Pointer.

Pointer, founder and president of the Saskatchewan Electric Vehicle Association, said the extreme cold does reduce the range of his Tesla by 40 to 50 per cent. But it's working better in winter than his previous gas-powered vehicles, he said.

"I wake up with a 'full tank' every morning because I plug in at night and I wake up and my car's fully charged in the morning," he said. "I've got more than enough range to do all the regular stuff that I need to do on a daily basis." (Tesla's website advertises ranges from 483 km and up, depending on the model.)

According to SGI, there are more than 2,300 electric or hybrid vehicles registered in Saskatchewan, including 127 Teslas.

Matthew Pointer of the Saskatchewan Electric Vehicle Association says misconceptions about electric vehicles having problems with cold weather are not true. (Radio-Canada)

"The great thing about an electric vehicle is that it has significantly less moving parts and you're essentially driving one massive battery that's very good at maintaining its heat and keeping itself going," Pointer said.

"There's no moving parts that need to go through this magical movement and means of combustion and getting things preheated all at a minus-45-degree temperature.

"Essentially for us to start our cars, we just touch a button, the screen pops up and we just drive to work from there."

Tyler Krause drives a Tesla Model 3.and said he lets the car sit outside all day at work without being plugged in.

"Yesterday it was minus 37 Celsius and it wasn't a problem," said Krause, who is president of the Tesla Owners of Saskatchewan. "I went to heat it up. It took like 10 minutes and I was off.

"I drove by probably three or four people that were getting boosted on the side of the road and I had no issues."

Krause talked to a number of members and none had any problems.

"It doesn't work like your cell phone or your laptop" — which have batteries that suffer in sub-zero temperatures — "because it actually keeps itself at a pretty happy temperature in winter."

Jason Cruickshank, lead organizer of SaskEV, has been driving a Chevrolet Bolt for the past three winters.

"It starts every time reliably," said Cruickshank, adding the interior heats up quickly.

The Cruickshank family — Emma, Jason and Alix, left to right — pose in front of their Chevrolet Bolt. (Submitted by Jason Cruickshank)

"Driving an electric vehicle is kind of like driving a vehicle with a built-in block heater," he said. "It can just sit there and use the energy from the battery to keep the battery warm so that no matter how cold it is outside, as soon as you go to start it, It's ready to go.

"We still have a gas powered van. I drove it on Tuesday and it took forever for that sucker to warm up," he said. 

Pointer said besides starting reliably in this weather his Tesla also handles the winter driving conditions very well.

"As a city car and these winter temperatures they're ideal," he said. "They're much more user-friendly, and now with the fast-charging stations and everything coming on line throughout Saskatchewan it's getting a lot easier to do the long-distance travel as well."

Pointer said about 10 fast chargers have been installed across the province in the last six months.

Places such as Preston Crossing in Saskatoon already have chargers and Midtown Plaza is currently in the process of installing chargers in its underground parking lot.

"The [Trans-Canada] Highway just got completed with superchargers and those things can charge my car to 80 per cent in like 20 minutes," said Krause.

"Petro-Canada has also put in chargers across the No. 1 highway for all types of electric vehicles and Canadian Tire has announced that they're also gonna be doing the same in other areas in Canada," he added.

Pointer said as electric vehicles become more accessible they will become more popular.

"It's just going to take some people seeing them and driving them in order to kind of get the more shy people on our side of the fence."

With files from Saskatoon Morning


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