Saskatoon

Long charging times to be 'a thing of the past' for Sask. electric car drivers thanks to improved technology

Electric car enthusiasts across the province say 2019 will see a "significant shift" in the level of infrastructure available to electric car owners.

Province set to see major improvements around charging infrastructure this year

Open gull-wing doors can be seen on a Tesla vehicle during a summer meet up of the Tesla Owners Club of Saskatchewan. Its president, Tyler Krause, said membership has been climbing since the club officially formed in May 2019. (Submitted by Tyler Krause)

This long weekend may be one of the last that drivers of electric vehicles in Saskatchewan have to endure long waits to charge their cars, as 2019 is bringing some major improvements around infrastructure for the battery-powered automobiles.

Electric and hybrid vehicles are already on the roads in Saskatchewan by the hundreds. Numbers up to April 30, 2019, from Saskatchewan Government Insurance indicate there are 2,322 either electric or hybrid cars currently registered. 

Matthew Pointer is the founder of the Saskatchewan Electric Vehicle Association. A Tesla owner, he says the number of electric automobiles on the province's roads will jump even further, as numerous high-speed charging stations are planned for the province.

The high-speed stations can bring the time drivers spend charging their vehicles from roughly four to five hours down to less than an hour, a shift he said is "completely changing the landscape."

Matthew Pointer, the founder of the Saskatchewan Electric Vehicle Association, poses for a photo with his Tesla in this supplied photo. He says 2019 will represent a significant shift for electric car drivers in Saskatchewan as infrastructure for electric vehicles is expected to improve drastically. (Submitted by Matthew Pointer)

"It's a significant shift with this new, faster electric vehicle technology coming on board," he said. "As a result, longer distance trips are significantly more feasible and much more convenient now in an electric vehicle than ever before."

According to Tesla's official website, the automobile maker is planning to install seven high-speed super-charging stations in the province. Canadian Tire is also preparing to become a common stop for electric vehicle owners, as the company is set to open 10 high-speed charging stations in Saskatchewan in 2020.

"These long weekends with long charging times are going to be something that's a thing of the past," Pointer said.

That will increase the number of electric drivers in Saskatchewan, he said, as one of the largest misconceptions about the cars — alongside beliefs they don't work well in winter and are actually less green than a gas-powered automobile — is that there isn't enough charging infrastructure in place.

Alix Cruickshank, left, Emma Cruickshank and Jason Cruickshank, the lead organizer with SaskEV, sit in front of the family's Chevrolet Bolt during a meeting of the SaskEV group, which is an owner and advocacy group for people with electric vehicles. (Submitted by Jason Cruikshank)

Jason Cruickshank is lead organizer with SaskEV, an electric-car advocacy and owner group largely based in Saskatoon. Driving a Chevrolet Bolt, he said he's seen a shift in who is purchasing electric vehicles, as it's no longer just technology buffs and environmental advocates. 

He said trends around electric vehicles have moved from the "early adoption phase" into what some would call the "fast follow phase."

"We're really starting to see more people who would just be general car buyers looking at the technology, getting interested and excited by it, and choosing to make their next vehicle electric."

The number of electric cars being sold in the province is relatively small, but climbing, according to figures from Electric Mobility Canada. The research indicates there's been a 109 per cent increase in electric car sales, from 22 to 46, when comparing the second quarter of 2018 to the same timeframe this year.

The trend is being reflected on the front line of electric car ownership, as the official Tesla Owners Club of Saskatchewan has no problem recruiting new members, according to president Tyler Krause. 

A photo of Tyler Krause's Tesla he captured in Saskatoon. The president of the Tesla Owners Club of Saskatchewan says the group has been averaging five new members a month since it formed officially in May of 2019. (Submitted by Tyler Krause)

When the club was recognized by Tesla in May of 2019, it had 25 members. That number has now jumped to 40.

Krause said the group of car owners is an "extremely passionate" one, as they share both a love of the vehicle and a desire to educate people about the car. 

"We also want to show people that these cars work in Saskatchewan," he said. "It's not a myth that they work in the winter. It's real and there's a lot of people that need to see that."

Without a service or sales centre in Saskatchewan, those interested in purchasing a Tesla have to buy online or leave the province, but he said club members are eager to answer any questions from potential buyers here.

"Part of what of these club members are doing is we're going out, we're giving people test rides and giving them an experience they wouldn't be able to get outside of Saskatchewan, and I think that's really important."

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