Sudbury

Northern winter a challenge for cross-country trip along new charging network

Kevin Belanger and Don Goodeve began their cross-country road trip in Victoria, B.C., on Saturday. They're currently driving an electric vehicle through northern Ontario, using the new Supercharger Network which just finished two weeks ago.

Two BC men testing out Tesla's recently completed Supercharger Network driving electric car cross Canada

Kevin Belanger of British Columbia stops at a charging station in Dryden, ON. He and his friend Don Goodeve decided to take a cross-Canada road trip in an electrical vehicle during the winter, to test out Tesla's new Supercharger Network. (Supplied by Don Goodeve)

Traveling across northern Ontario can be challenging at the best of times, but two men from British Columbia are braving the winter conditions and travelling in an electric vehicle.

That's something that hasn't been possible up until now, because of a lack of charging stations in the north.

However, Tesla completed its Supercharger Network across Canada just a few weeks ago.

About a dozen of those charging stations are in northern Ontario, including Thunder Bay, Wawa, Blind River and Sault Ste Marie.

Initially, there had been a large gap, making it difficult to drive an electric vehicle from Calgary, Alta., to Sudbury, Ont.

The cross-Canada trip was Kevin Belanger's idea. He convinced his friend Don Goodeve to join him. The two left Victoria, B.C., on Saturday. 

"The trigger really was just the availability, all at once." Belanger said, calling it a Christmas present from Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla.

The duo had wanted to make it to Halifax, N.S., by New Year's Day, but both say winter weather in northern Ontario is slowing them down. Because of this their road trip may be cut short due to commitments back in B.C.

They are expected to be in Sudbury Tuesday night — New Years eve.

Kevin Belanger and Don Goodeve at their stop in Winnipeg along their road trip along the new Supercharger Network. The pair are traveling in an electric vehicle. (Erin Brohman/CBC)

"Part of our reason for doing this was to prove that it could be done," Goodeve said. Adding that the road trip was to prove that electric cars are suitable for Canadian winters as well as long distance travel.

Their biggest challenge so far has been locating the chargers.

"We had a little bit of fun this morning in Nipigon just digging our way into the Supercharger so that we could actually get the car back in and charging," Goodeve said.

"Unfortunately the local clearing hadn't got quite that far so we ended up having to do that bit by hand."

The other problem is navigational, in that not all of the new station locations are on Google yet.

"We're relying on the navigational system in the car — which does have the updates in it to give us all the information, but it doesn't mean we have a street view," Goodeve said.

Kevin Belanger's Tesla 3 fully charges in about 15 minutes at fast-charging stations like this one in Winnipeg. (Kevin Nepitabo/CBC)

Charging time similar to time it takes to pump gas

The EV chargers that have just come online are the new Version 3 (V3), which charges vehicles faster than any others.

"Literally we can pull into a charger and in 10 minutes we can be ready to go again. It charges the vehicle a phenomenal rate," Goodeve said. 

"[Version 3 superchargers are] so fast that it allows us to do this like we're stopping for gas," Belanger said.

They're driving a 2018 Tesla Model 3, and Belanger explains why they decided to use a Tesla vehicle for the road trip.

"We're not trying to show off, it's not a status symbol. It's because [Tesla] technology is so far ahead of the other vehicles that it makes this easy," he added.

Decade to change

But the trek has environmental undertones, with climate change a big topic of interest for both men.

"We both believe that we need to put some action behind our advocacy for taking action on climate change," Belanger said.

He hopes more people will switch over to electric vehicles, paving the way for electric snow machines or other recreational vehicles in the future.

"We're coming into the 2020s in the next few hours, and this is the decade when we have to make the [emissions] change" Goodeve said.

"Canada is an amazing country; the people here do so much to live in this environment, there is a ruggedness to it and the can do attitude," he added.

"I know that Canadians can take this on and show the world the way."

About the Author

Angela Gemmill

Journalist

Angela Gemmill is a CBC journalist who has covered news in Sudbury, Ont., for 14 years. Connect with her on Twitter @AngelaGemmill. Send story ideas to angela.gemmill@cbc.ca

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