I drove a rental EV from Vancouver Island to Dawson Creek and everything went fine
In July of 2022, I drove a Turo rental Tesla Model Y Long Range from my home in Courtenay to the Summer Cruise car show in Dawson Creek. Charging stops were short and everything worked. It was one of the best road trips I have taken, electric or otherwise, because the Model Y is such a smooth, powerful, comfortable vehicle to drive.
This trip was done in ideal, warm weather conditions. It demonstrated the benefits of electric vehicles with battery pre-conditioning and high-powered fast charging: the Model Y and Tesla Superchargers can hit a peak charging rate of ~250 kW and did so consistently during the trip.
I spent most of my life in Prince George before moving to Vancouver Island, and I have driven HWY 97 between PG and Vancouver in a few different EVs: Volkswagen E-Golf, Chevrolet Bolt, Mustang Mach-E. But I had never done a Tesla road trip and had never driven an EV between Prince George and Dawson Creek, though I had visited the area before my EV days.
I knew that Tesla had opened a series of Superchargers on HWY 97: the northernmost being in Prince George. So, I eagerly booked a Model Y and looked forward to a premium EV experience using Tesla’s notoriously fast Superchargers. No surprises here; the 250 kW Superchargers made for a few brief stops without any hassle. TLDR: three Supercharger stops of 12-15 mins each to reach Prince George, then an overnight charge and a straight shot to Dawson Creek the next day.
Leaving Vancouver Island
I left Courtenay with approximately 100% charge and drove to Nanaimo, took a ferry to Horseshoe Bay, and continued to Hope where I charged at the Klassen Road Supercharger (Silver Creek Travel Centre). This was a ~12 min charging session: enough time to use the washroom and buy snacks at the travel centre before heading north.
I want to emphasize the benefit of having an EV on the ferry. Since electric vehicles do not idle, you can leave them turned on, run climate control, listen to music or use auxiliary power while waiting to board and while on the ferry. Modern EVs have big batteries and these systems use a miniscule amount of power; I used 1% of the battery while crossing from Vancouver Island to the mainland.
Hope to Cache Creek
Heading north on HWY 97, my next stop was in Cache Creek. This is another large Supercharger installation and made for another ~12 min session: another bathroom break and a chance to eat a sandwich that I packed with me. The Superchargers are located at the Cache Creek Visitor Information Centre; the site has picnic tables, a grassy area and travellers passing through in the summer. I ended up adding some time to my trip because people began asking about the car and charging. This site has BC Hydro fast-chargers and is a natural place for travellers to take a break, so it often feels like dropping into an impromptu EV meetup and EV101 presentation.
Cache Creek to Prince George
Williams Lake was the next stop after Cache Creek. I stayed for about 20 minutes, again talking with other drivers: a couple with another Model Y on a road trip from Ontario. It was a few minutes more than I needed but I got caught up in conversation. The Superchargers are at Prosperity Ridge mall on the west side of Williams Lake, making for a 5 min detour off the normal route of north/south traffic.
I spent the night in Prince George, where I was able to charge at a friend’s house. Courtenay to PG is a long travel-day regardless of what you are driving, and I felt that the Supercharger sessions were quick enough that the trip time was not noticeably different from using a gas vehicle. If I was to continue on to Dawson Creek in the same day, I would have used the Supercharger in Prince George and then would need to rely on slower charging stations north of PG depending on road conditions.
Onward to Dawson Creek
Before I left Prince George the next day, I borrowed a Tesla CHAdeMO adapter from another driver that I knew through the PGEVA (this trip was shortly before the official Tesla CCS adapter was available). At the time, there was a pair of non-Tesla 25 kW charging stations between Chetwynd and Dawson Creek. Since then, BC Hydro has opened 25 kW stations in McLeod Lake as well. It turns out that I didn’t need to charge on the way to Dawson Creek, but I stopped at the East Pine Rest Area chargers and connected the adapter anyway: I had never used one before and wanted to make sure it worked.
Dawson creek has several places to charge with level 2 stations. I had no issues charging overnight or while working. I didn’t have a chance to fully charge in Dawson Creek on the day I left, so I needed to make a stop at the East Pine Rest Area. The chargers there worked fine with my borrowed CHAdeMO adapter, but they are only 25 kW: one tenth the power of a Supercharger. So, this was my longest charging stop, about 30 minutes getting only what I needed to arrive in Prince George.
Again, I spent the night in Prince George. The return trip south was largely the same as having driven north. The only difference was a stop at the Nanaimo Superchargers, not because I need to charge to arrive home, but because I didn’t have a home charging station at the time and knew it would be more convenient to top up at a Supercharger than to arrive home with a low battery and trickle charge from there.
I am fortunate that I get to drive a variety of EVs as part of my work; but they aren’t always the best EVs. Doing a familiar trip in a Model Y was clearly a top-tier experience. With the ability to reach peak charging speeds of 250 kW, long road trips are completely palatable, virtually no different than driving gas, except for EVs being more comfortable and costing less to drive. Superchargers are a premium service and I spent around $80 charging. But I would have spent around $280 in a moderate gas SUV hauling event equipment across the province. The trip emphasized the importance of high-powered fast charging stations (150 kW and above), and vehicles made to accept those higher power levels, as we move from range-anxiety to charging-convenience.