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Reconsidering electric cars in light of gasoline prices


Faced with a choice between a $100 fill-up or a $10 battery charge, for some, the math seems simple. And though it’s not that simple, it may be a little more compelling now than in years prior for Cochrane motorists to consider an electric vehicle.

With the price of everything going up, commuters may be considering – or re-considering – a purchasing decision with the potential for major savings.

It may be time to go back to the future and re-do the math on electric cars.

Ryan Baum, General Manager at Cochrane Toyota, said it’s no surprise interest has gone up in electric vehicles (EVs).

“The current awareness of fully electric cars and hybrids and hydrogen cars I think has allowed people to look more in that direction, with gas prices high like they are now,” he said.

A few years back, those who took the leap of faith to all-electric vehicles had to consider the long-term implications of much higher retail prices, sparse options for recharging stations, limited range between charges, and the cost of replacing expensive batteries.

But as manufacturers rush to expand product offerings with lower initial prices, ranges between charges increasing significantly, and the price of gas where it is currently, proponents of EVs have some advice – do the math again.

With 65 per cent of Cochranites driving into Calgary everyday (according to Town of Cochrane data) a number of people may be sharpening their pencils as they watch the daily news. There seems to be no end in sight for the war in Ukraine, which is blamed by analysts as one of the major causes of the recent spike in fuel prices.

For Stephanie Bennett, who teaches science at Cochrane High School, it was not gas prices that sparked her into taking the leap of faith. She jumped into the future last October, going to an online group specializing in finding reliable used EVs.

“I had no idea gas prices would go where they would go. I had no idea there would be a war going on,” she said.

For her, it was as much an environmental decision as an economic one. She bought her 2015 Tesla Model S with 100,000 kilometres on it for $58,000 CAD. Thecarconnection.com lists its suggested retail price back in 2015 at $75,000 USD, or nearly $100,000 CAD.

It didn’t take Bennett long to get used to switching from buying gas to plugging in, even on a ski trip. Lake Louise and Sunshine have charging stations in their parking lots. The faster chargers charge a fee, but the slower ones are free.

“So it’s charging up as I’m enjoying my day,” she said.

Bennett sets her home charger to come on in the middle of the night, which saves on rates during lower demand times.

The cost of her fast charger was about $700 plus $2,000 to install in her garage. Most automakers offer a fast charger as an option.

In Cochrane, EVs are still not readily available. Cochrane Nissan doesn’t carry the Leaf, North Star Ford has no Mustang Mach Es or F150 Lightnings (orders only, with delivery later this year), Cochrane GM has no Bolts (and none coming), and Dodge/Jeep doesn’t make an EV.

Demand is outstripping supply locally, so for those interested in test-driving an EV, another trip to Calgary might be in the cards.

Albertans having trouble weaning themselves off fossil fuels will have to face the electric option at some point, as the automakers have already recognized the trend.

Volvo is going fully electric by 2030. Even Ford’s mighty F150 – a consistent leader in total vehicle sales in North America – now offers the all-electric Lightning, which is featured in their promotional videos towing rail cars.

And if that’s not enough to make old-school gas-powered cowboys shudder, there’s now an electric Hummer available as well. That’s part of GM’s recent pledge to invest $35 billion on EVs by 2025, with a stated goal to catch Tesla as the market share leader.

Tesla has committed to offering an EV for around $35,000 USD, but production has not been as timely as promised.

“The automotive industry must’ve known this was coming,” Bennett said.

Faced with a choice between a $100 fill-up and a $10 battery charge, for some, the math seems simple. And though it’s not that simple, it may be a little more compelling now.

The research into energy consumption comparisons between electric and gas-powered vehicles is rife with disclaimers. There is no one-size-fits-all calculation.

Charging costs vary depending on where you live and whether you charge up at home or at a commercial public charger.

Comparing possible savings depends on which electric model is chosen, as the manufacturers’ stated kilowatt-hours (kWh) per 100 kilometre rates vary.

According to Natural Resources Canada, a litre of gasoline has the same energy potential as 8.9 kWh of electricity.

Currently, a litre of regular gasoline was hovering around $1.73 in Cochrane, and Alberta electricity rates are currently around 8.29 cents/kWh (according to EPCOR’s five-year rate). That means 74 cents worth of electricity buys the same amount of energy as $1.73 worth of gas.

A specific example based on some stated assumptions would look like this: Based on driving 100 kilometres per day, a commuter driving from Cochrane to Calgary whose vehicle burns 11 litres/100 km would pay $19.03 on gas for that trip.

The 2022 Chevrolet Bolt’s estimated electricity consumption rate is 18.1 kWh/100 km. Using the average electricity rate of 8.29 cents/kWh, the electricity cost for that same trip in a Bolt would be $1.50 if charged overnight at home.

Combine this with the fact that purchase prices on EVs in general are coming down, and the comparisons look better than they did even a couple of years ago. 

Plus, EVs with an electric range of 50 km or more are eligible for a $5,000 incentive from Transport Canada.

Steve Repic lives 21 kilometres northwest of Cochrane and bought his 2017 Chevrolet Bolt four years ago. He charges up at home by plugging in to his solar panels. Whenever someone mentions the price of gas, he feigns ignorance.

“What is it? I haven’t looked,” he says with a laugh.

“When we bought it, we thought OK, this car will last 10 years and we’ll break even on the cost. But now with the price of fuel, we look like geniuses,” he said.

Repic’s average consumption on May 27 was 12 kWh/100 km.

Other advantages of EVs include reduced maintenance costs due to brakes that last much longer, no oil changes, and no tune-ups required.

Disadvantages of EVs include higher insurance costs and pricey replacement costs for battery replacement down the road.

But as EVs become more commonplace and the availability of parts and qualified repair shops grows, the cost to fix them should go down, as should insurance rates for electric cars. (Progressive.com).

In Alberta, an EV will reduce annual fuel costs by approximately 83 per cent, according to the Municipal Climate Change Action Centre.

A study done in 2018 by The 2 Degrees Institute found EVs save Canadian households on average about 71 per cent in fuel and maintenance costs. Their study used the Canadian average of price of $1.31 per litre for regular gas and an average electricity cost of 12.5 cents per kWh, so the savings would be even greater today.

In the 1985 movie Back to the Future, Christopher Lloyd’s character Doc had to wait for a bolt of lightning hitting the clock tower to power his Delorean time machine, sending Marty McFly back to the future.

The future of electric vehicles is somewhat less dangerous, a bit less scientific, and a lot less fictional.





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