After driving an electric car for almost 2 years (it will be 2 years in march 2015) I decided to give an enthusiastic, but realistic view of the life of an electric car owner these days in Canada, Québec. Let’s proceed with an executive summary in a few bullet points:
- There are no disadvantages to using an electric car for short to medium driving distances. It is just great and I am 110% satisfied, it is pure joy.
- Depending on your battery chemistry and battery size, you might lose up to 50 km of driving range in the first 2 years.
- All car companies support a globally agreed standard for slow charging vehicles and you can have an adaptor for any 110 or 220 volt outlet type.
- There are 3 “standards” for DC fast charging electric cars and that is less than ideal.
- In Quebec, we do not have enough (slow and fast) charging stations for the amount of electric cars in circulation and that is unfortunate.
- With a warmed up vehicle & battery pack, you lose about 30% of range when it is -25℃ while driving for a long distance at regular highway speed (Tesla Model S has an ingenious system that uses the heat of the motor to keep the battery pack warm while driving).
- You can’t charge on 110 volt when the car is outside at -25℃.
- The maintenance cost so far is pretty low.
Driving to work with your electric car is the best part: no noise, no vibration. You never leave with an empty “tank”. You can heat or cool down your car before you leave to work with your favorite internet connected device. I can definitely say that I am 110% satisfied. I would be very sad to go back to a gas car. I was not able to find any disadvantages of owning an electric car for city or suburb driving.
Let’s talk about long distance driving. After 2.5 years of delivering the first Model S, Tesla is still the only car company in the world that offers over 400 km of range. I would have expected the other companies to follow but it takes time to build and finetune any new product.
For me, driving 435 km in an electric car was absolutely priceless but it did not last long. The first year, my battery pack “stabilised” and by the end of the year, I had lost about 30 km of range. Recently, I lost a another 17km. I learned the hard way by discussing with other Tesla customers and reading forums: Battery pack degradation varies a lot from one battery pack to another. Even if, you really take care of the battery pack and follow Tesla recommendations to the letter the result will be the same.
Plus or minus 50 km of range may not be a big deal for some but it made a huge difference for me. I can’t drive to Sherbrooke from Gatineau on a single charge anymore. This was actually one of the main reasons I bought this car in the first place. The problem with batteries is that you might be lucky and get very good battery chemistry or be less lucky and have a less good batch. On 85kwh battery packs, Tesla gives an 8 year unlimited mileage warranty but range loss is not covered.
Before you buy a long range electric-only vehicle, ensure your long drive will still be covered by a 10% to 20% range loss or else you might be very disappointed like me. Check the available fast charging stations and make sure you have at least one on your regular long trip drives. For me alas, no super chargers on my travel path and none planned in the near future. One super charger
is coming downtown is now opened in Montréal soon but that will not help me because I want to avoid Montréal traffic.
That brings me to talk about the current charging station network in my province. For slow charging, we have an agreed standard, the SAE J1772. This is ideal when stopping at a Hotel for the night to get a full charge.
- SAE J1772:
- 6 to 20 kilowatts: 28 to 80 km / hour of charge
- Supported by: All car companies
The charger that gives you 80km per hour of charge is a good way to extend a drive during lunch or dinner. This allows me to get from Gatineau/Ottawa to Quebec city with a small stop in Montréal to recharge our car and fill our stomach. Only SunCountry, a privately own company offers that power and they cover the whole country, good job! The Circuit électric network in Quebec is limited to 28 to 32 km/ hour of charge, which is only good for overnight charging but strange enough, they do not offer it in hotels. They are available at restaurants and malls.
Now, what about longer drives? Here comes fast chargers to the rescue but sadly, many “standards” exist. Remember the following?
For rapid electric vehicle charging we actually have 3 standards:
- 50 kilowatts: up to 136 km /30 minutes
- Used by Nissan, Mitsubishi, Kia, supported by Tesla with additional adaptor
- SAE Combo
- 50 to 90 kilowatts: Up to 200 km / 30 minutes
- Used by GM, Ford Motor, VW & BMW
- Super Charger
- 90 to 120 kilowatts: Up to 270 km /30 minutes
- Used by Tesla
On the Quebec side, the Circuit électric network decided to support CHAdeMO & SAE Combo but not the SuperCharger. Tesla owners in Quebec will have to rely on Tesla Motors and on the upcoming CHAdeMO adaptor for fast charging. In 2014, Tesla opened all its patents, but it might be too late for its technology to become the standard. It has a nicer design, it is faster, but beta lost the battle even if it was better than VHS. The difference is that Sony did not open its technology at the time.
When you are an early adopter, you accept these small issues and know that things will only get better with time. Not having enough charging stations for the number of electric cars is a temporary problem. On PlugShare, there are new charging stations registered daily! Look at the map if you are not convinced. That is not even showing them all. http://www.plugshare.com/ (Slow charging in green and fast charger in orange.)
More and more people are buying electric cars and the revolution will not stop. Range will increase (There is a an upcoming upgrade package for the Tesla Roaster with an almost 400 mile range) and many rapid chargers are being installed on a regular basis.
Would I spend so much money on an electric car with the experience I have now? Putting aside my worst then average battery range loss, Yes I would. One thing for sure, the conditions are not ready for the mass at the moment for long distance drives. In a few more years, I am positive that we will have reasonably priced electric cars and a decent charging network.