Electric Vehicles 101.

Electric vehicles are going mainstream in BC. Chances are, you already know someone who drives one. EV owners all over the province have discovered that they really make sense in BC. We’ve collected the must know info about going electric here as Electric Vehicles 101, which you will probably want to follow up with Charging 101. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, send us an email at info@pluginbc.ca.

A new and better driving experience

Electric cars are fun to drive! All electric vehicles have “instant torque” and smooth acceleration because they don’t need to “rev up” or shift gears, make for a refreshing and exhilarating ride. Electric motors are very powerful, despite their compact size. For example, even non-performance EVs have impressive power:

  • The common Tesla Model 3 RWD can accelerate from 0-100km/h in just 6.1 seconds;
  • The ordinary Hyundai Kona EV has 150 kW (201 HP) of power, and generates 394 Nm (291 lb-ft) of torque;
  • Toyota’s RAV4 Prime, a plug-in, is the fastest RAV4 ever, and the second fastest vehicle Toyota makes.

Electric vehicles have great handling too. Their batteries are evenly distributed along the bottom of their chassis, giving them a low centre-of-gravity control in tight corners.

They also use regenerative braking. When you ease up on the accelerator, the electric motor provides resistance which slows the car down and generates power at the same time. “Regen” braking helps to slow the vehicle very quickly, but very smoothly too.

Since an electric vehicle gets rid of complicated engine and drivetrain systems, there is much less vibration. Plus, it won’t be burning oil or leaving a trail of exhaust fumes when the going gets tough.

It can be strange at first: driving a vehicle without sound, shifting or vibrations. But you’ll soon come to think of that as the way driving should be. The really strange thing is having to get out of an electric vehicle and go back to gas.

Spend less on driving

An electric vehicle can help you save on both fuel and maintenance costs. When charging at home (where most charging happens), you can expect an electricity cost of $2-4 for every 100km you drive. That’s way less expensive than gas! If you have a long daily commute, you should seriously be looking at an electric vehicle. The more you need to drive, the bigger an impact these savings will make.

Electric vehicles eliminate complicated engines and transmissions, so you don’t need to worry about spark plugs, oil changes, belts and hoses. Your brake pads and rotors will even last longer because the motor provides resistance (and makes electricity) through “regenerative braking.”

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Better for our environment

Electric vehicles are super efficient, plus they don’t idle and they use regenerative braking to actually make electricity when they slow down or descend a hill.

Switching to an electric vehicle comes with big benefits to the environment, especially in BC, where most our electricity comes from hydro. Here, the electricity to power an electric vehicle will produce 99% fewer emissions than the exhaust of a gas vehicle.

Manufacturing big battery packs for modern electric cars requires energy, so there is an upfront emissions cost. But those emissions are declining as more electrical grids around the world become cleaner and manufacturers become more efficient.

Even accounting for manufacturing, including batteries, an EV in BC will only produce about 25% of the emissions that a gas vehicle would over its lifetime.

Not every province has hydro electricity, but studies have repeatedly shown that electric vehicles produce fewer emissions than gas cars regardless of how the electricity is produced. EVs are just that efficient. Even in a coal-powered electrical grid, accounting for the energy to make batteries, an EV is still better than a gas vehicle. As those grids switch to renewable energy, all the electric vehicles there provide the benefit of even cleaner transportation.

Vehicle batteries are lasting longer than originally projected, and when they are no longer suitable for powering an electric car, they can be repurposed in other energy storage applications before being recycled. The battery industry has made huge advancements in battery durability and recycling since the first electric vehicles hit the streets.

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Getting where you’re going

Electric cars can go the distance. BC drivers are using them to commute and take road trips all over the province. Most electric cars have a range of 300-600km per charge (For reference: most of us drive an average of 20km a day).

Most charging occurs at home, but BC also has a rapidly growing network of public charging stations with over 2,000 stations, including well over 100 fast charging stations. If you are shopping for an electric vehicle, or have just bought one, brush up on the basics of public charging:

Bring on winter

BC drivers have been using electric vehicles in winter conditions all over the province. Electric vehicles have some clear advantages when it comes to winter driving.

  • An electric motor doesn’t need to push cold engine oil, so it won’t struggle to “turn over” in freezing temperatures.
  • You can preheat your electric vehicle (or keep it warm during a short stop) without wasteful idling.
  • You can also keep your EV turned on in areas that you wouldn’t keep a gas vehicle running, like being on a ferry or in a no-idling zone.
  • Electric vehicles handle very well due to their low centre of gravity, and their weight provides extra traction. Some even have multiple motors to provide advanced AWD.

It’s no revelation that winter conditions require a vehicle to expend more energy. Electric vehicles can see range reductions of 30-50% at -20 C. Furthermore cold weather can impact battery performance. Auto makers have been quick to respond with better battery management systems, specific “winter modes,” and larger batteries. Recent EV advancements prevent range loss in winter and improve charging speeds to make the remaining range loss less impactful. For daily driving, winter range loss won’t make a difference: the range on a single charge will still be greater than your driving distance.

If you are taking long trips or have an especially long winter commute, here are some tips for choosing and driving an EV:

Charging: go for big charging speeds and equipment that minimizes charge times.

  • Choose a model with a large battery and fast charging speed (measured in kW). These two features go hand-in-hand. Most new EVs have a range over 400 km and can charge faster than 100 kW. Your maximum range will be reduced by cold weather and snowy, icy roads. So, you’re looking for a higher charging speed to make up for more frequent charging stops on long trips.
  • Choose a model with battery pre-conditioning for fast charging (and make sure the feature is turned on). It is a common feature on new vehicles. (but not to be confused with cabin pre-conditioning). This feature warms the battery to its optimal charging temperature while you are en-route to a fast-charging station. It improves charging year-round, but is especially helpful in colder temperatures.
  • Prioritize high-powered fast-charging stations. The initial network of fast-charging stations were 25 kW and 50 kW units, but now you can find 150 kW and faster units on major routes (most Tesla Superchargers are 250 kW). Look for the highest powered station that matches your vehicle’s maximum charging speed. See our Charging101 section to learn about finding charging stations.

Heating and conservation: Heating the cabin impacts your vehicle’s range, but is less impactful in newer vehicles; batteries get bigger, but the energy to warm you stays the same. Still, you can take steps to conserve energy and get the most out of your battery.

  • Enable winter mode. Most new EVs have a winter or cold-weather setting. They vary by manufacturer but generally use some battery power to keep the battery warm. On some models, this mode will also activate battery pre-conditioning for fast charging.
  • Use the on-board navigation. This varies by vehicle model and the age of the vehicle, but you can generally help your vehicle perform better by telling it where you are going. Many modern EVs will plan charging stops on your route and update them based on energy consumption. Navigating to a fast-charging station will also trigger battery pre-conditioning on equipped vehicles.
  • Warm your cabin while you are plugged in. You can likely do this with an automated scheduling feature or from an app. The vehicle will use power from the grid instead of the battery to warm up. Depending on the vehicle brand, this may be called cabin pre-heating or cabin pre-conditioning.
  • Choose a model with a heat pump. It’s more efficient than a conventional electric heater.
  • Use the heated seats and heated steering wheel features if you have them. These are more efficient at keeping you warm than heating the cabin air. You’ll still want to use the cabin heat in cold weather, but less of it.
  • Inflate your tires. Colder temperatures cause your tire pressure to drop, and that leads to increased rolling resistance. You can avoid substantial range-loss by maintaining your tire pressure every month.

Winter emergencies: you may see memes about the inevitable doom of EV drivers in winter emergencies; however, EV drivers from all over the province have comfortably survived long delays due to highway closures.

  • Don’t run your battery dangerously low. Keep extra power in case of an emergency, even if it means a few additional minutes of fast-charging.
  • Avoid opening the doors and windows. Once the cabin is heated, it only takes 1-2 kW per hour (kWh) to maintain the temperature. For reference, most new EVs have 50 – 75 kWh batteries, and newer / larger models have even bigger batteries.
  • Pack a winter kit. Regardless of whether you drive an EV or a gas car, keep a kit of emergency supplies, extra clothes and warm blankets. Luxurious new models, EV and otherwise, feature glass roofs. The insulation of those glass roofs will vary by manufacturer and model. Invest in reflective covers to prevent heat from escaping through those big glass surfaces.
  • Carry a battery booster. Just like a gas car, an EV uses a 12v battery to power accessories, run its computer, and even turn on. It is charged by your larger EV battery, but if anything goes awry, you will need to get a boost. It’s easier if you have your own booster kit. Your EV manual most likely cautions against using jumper cables to boost another car. So, your battery booster can be used to help other drivers even if you never need to use it for yourself.

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Types and variety of electric vehicles

Electric vehicles are going mainstream in BC. Auto makers are developing more variety of electric vehicles, from commuter cars to trucks and vans.

Electric vehicle types

BEV – Battery Electric Vehicle – These cars have big batteries that store power to make you go. The only fuel is electricity! “Refueling” is done by plugging them into an outlet at home or to a charging station while you run errands. BEVs can help you save on maintenance and fuel!

PHEV – Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicle – Looking for more flexibility? Plug in Hybrids have both an electric motor powered by a battery and a gas engine fueled by a conventional gas tank. You’ll find two different fueling ports on these vehicles, one to plug in to a charger and one to fill up at a gas station.

FCEV – Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle – These electric vehicles are propelled with the power of Hydrogen! Instead of a battery, fuel cell vehicles take supercooled hydrogen fuel and transform it into electricity onboard the vehicle. Hydrogen fuel can be found at specialized re-fueling stations and takes just minutes to fill the tank.

Electric Vehicles Available in BC

Emotive produces a booklet of electric vehicles that you can buy in BC. Take a look at the growing variety of EVs available.

Want to order print versions of this booklet to share in your community? Email info@pluginbc.ca

Shopping for an electric vehicle

BC’s Zero Emissions-Vehicle Act requires more new vehicles to be zero-emission, which means that the number of certified electric vehicle dealerships is growing and manufacturers are designing models for all different types of lifestyles, including trucks and SUVs. The future is very electric.

Shopping for an EV is much like searching for a regular car. Make sure you’re doing your homework and finding the vehicle that is right for you. There are both government and private industry incentives for buying vehicles and installing home charging stations. See what’s currently available on our incentives page.

Things to consider when shopping for an electric vehicle

Are you able to charge at home? All EVs come with a “trickle charge” cable that can use a regular wall outlet. Many drivers opt to install a 240v home charging station. If you live in a multi-unit residential building, double check that a charging station is either available or possible to install.

How far do you normally drive? You may not need the highest range EV on the market.

Are you planning to buy a Tesla? You will have access to the Tesla Supercharger network, but you will only be able to use other fast-charging stations if you buy a CHAdeMO adapter.

You can plan your electric life with a couple helpful websites/apps:

  • Find public charging stations with PlugShare. You can filter the plug types and view details about specific charging stations, including helpful notes left by other drivers. Even better, you can create an account and assign yourself a specific vehicle to automatically filter out anything you can’t use. Keep in mind that charging stations are being added constantly. PlugShare even lets you see locations of stations that are coming soon.
  • A Better Route Planner is a trip planning tool that calculates the best places for you to charge based on your vehicle type and your destination. It shows you how long it will take you to get where you’re going and how much it will cost. You can really nerd out by changing options for weather, road conditions, and more.

Used electric vehicles are readily available now. Used EV dealerships are popping up in BC, and online classifieds like CarGurus, AutoTrader and Kijiji have a “Fuel Type” filter so you can browse EVs.

We’re here for you. Send your EV questions to info@pluginbc.ca

Frequently Asked Questions