By Lisa Hilton –
As our eight-year-old zips around the yard on his little electric dirt bike, courtesy of Canadian Tire, I can’t help but ponder the future of electric travel. It seems that the electric travel industry took a hundred-year hiatus, but since the turn of the millennia, it’s come sizzling back with a vengeance.
Consider a company like Tesla Motors, incorporated in 2003 and thus fulfilling the dream of a fully electric sports car. Now, a mere 16 years later, they produce affordable family vehicles that can beat many gas-tanked vehicles for range, and as for fuel efficiency, they are a dream on a whole other level. They have developed fully electric semi-trucks, and just this year revealed the Roadster 2, which reaches 60 mph in 1.9 seconds, making it the fastest production car ever.
About 10 years ago we were in need of a new vehicle and we chose to buy a Mazda 5. At that time, it was the most fuel efficient, affordable vehicle available in Canada that could fit our growing family. Then about five years ago we began looking at electric options again and realized that many second-hand Nissan Leafs were not only cheaper; they also provided us with everything else we were looking for in a vehicle.
In the summertime our Leaf’s fuel costs us about a tenth of what our gasoline powered vehicles would cost, and that’s with a really fuel-efficient gas vehicle. I can only imagine how much we’re saving compared to a gas-guzzling truck. In the winter we lose some range, so we estimate that we’re paying about a fifth mid-winter, rather than a tenth, but even at -30 degrees C we can still make the 50km round-trip to home, so we’re still smiling.
We no longer have oil changes. The only maintenance seems to be changing the tires over for winter and, in future, the brakes when needed. From a maintenance perspective this car has been a dream, which is a huge draw for me.
On a larger global scale, it’s been impressive to watch countries like Japan, Germany, and France developing their electric bullet trains for public transit. The Shinkansen trunkline is a network of high-speed electric railway lines that traverse a 387.5 km section of the Tōhoku line in Japan. As of 2014, after 50 years of operating and transporting 10 billion passengers, there has never been a passenger fatality caused by a derailment or collision. Their maximum operating speed is 320 km/h, or 200 mph. That’s a tad faster than the skytrain in Vancouver, not to mention a lot more extensive. But hey, at least we have 79.6 km of public electric transport in a province that produces close to 95 percent of its energy from renewables. Perhaps we are a province that needs more development and infrastructure in this area.
Thankfully, on a nation-wide level, Petro-Canada is stepping up to the plate. The gas station company is planning to install a network of 50 level 3 (or 3+) charging stations at key Petro-Can locations from Nova Scotia to British Columbia. Most electric vehicles can achieve at least an 80 percent charge within half an hour from a level 3 charger, so Tesla owners will soon be able to traverse the country at record speeds.It’s hopeful to see a 44-year-old gas company that’s as adept at stepping into the future of energy as any avid environmentalist. It is my hope that, as a society, we can join what appears to be a positive movement in the right direction.
We can’t really argue the fact that, when time and circumstance permits, travelling by pedal-bike or by foot is the vastly superior mode of travel for both our bodies and the planet. But when a steel-horse is required, the electric variety, whether it be a train, car, or semi-truck, might just come in at a very close second.
(The song “Electric Car,” by They Might Be Giants is a fun little gem to share with the youngsters in your life. The title of this article is a line from the song.)
Lisa Hilton was born and raised in Williams Lake. Passionate about her family, her community, and the environment, she actively looks for sustainable solutions in her