Quebec-based program Jumelage aims to help future EV owners get comfortable behind the wheel of their zero-emission ride through local events, webinars and a buddy network
Electric vehicle education remains a barrier for EV adoption in Canada. Many potential buyers looking to learn more about the ins and outs of an EV are on their own when it comes to the learning curve.
But in Quebec, for drivers that are curious about trying an electric car, the Quebec Electric Vehicle Association (AVEQ) hosts a program called Jumelage. It’s a buddy system or peer-to-peer approach that pairs an experienced EV driver with an interested consumer.
“We decided to do a program where we allow people, through our website, to find a car of their liking or that they want to try and they can get in touch with the owner,” says Simon-Pierre Rioux, president of AVEQ in an interview with Electric Autonomy Canada.
“It’s really a very original program that we’ve set up that does answer a need from consumers to be able to talk to somebody other than a sales[person] and get the down and dirty information on the cars and what the owners like and don’t like about them.”
First launched in Quebec in 2015, the Jumelage program stemmed from a growing frustration from potential EV buyers who didn’t get a chance to test drive an EV during public events and meet-ups hosted by AVEQ due to long waiting lines.
Quebec is one of the leading jurisdictions for EV adoption in Canada and the province is at a point where the drivers that are buying electric cars are not “early adopters” anymore, says Rioux.
“We’re over 140,000 EVs in the province and we’re at that point where it’s just somebody that just thought ‘okay – I’m tired of buying gas so I’m going get an electric car,’ and they don’t bother to read the manual even though the cars are completely different,” says Rioux.
“Now we’re faced with people that are not techies and that are not aware of what they’re buying, and they need our help. So that’s where our program has been able to address these new requirements in the market.”
Forging new partnerships
AVEQ ensures that Julemage’s nearly 1,000 volunteer EV owners are prepared to answer questions consumers may have about range, winter driving, environmental impact, incentives and more.
The consumer education component is the essence of Jumelage and ensuring the peer-to-peer partnerships are robust across the province is the top priority. But electric vehicles do not exist in a silo. Many industries that never previously had to communicate are now needing channels to ensure that not only the industry stakeholders know what’s happening in another sector, but that consumers have the necessary information too.
In Quebec, one of the new channels of communication is occurring between education programs like Jumelage, potential new EV owners and utilities because they are often the ones operating public charging infrastructure.
For its part, Jumelage partners with Hydro-Québec’s charging network, Electric Circuit, which provides volunteers with material about public charging, to pass to the consumers. Electric Circuit gives $5 in charging station credits to volunteers who are part of the program.
“We were really happy to see Hydro-Québec helping us. They do appreciate that the more people are educated, the fewer problems they will have later on in the public charging spaces and the fewer people will call up the helpline trying to understand what’s going on,” says Rioux.
Expanding the Jumelage program
To expand the Jumelage initiative, Rioux says AVEQ will begin providing new EV drivers with a one-year paid mentorship service.
New drivers will be matched directly with a volunteer who owns the same electric car model. The new owners can lean on their mentor for assistance with questions, problems or concerns about their new electric car. This is targeted to start later in 2022 or 2023.
“[The current program] is pretty much a one-off thing unless consumers want to try a couple of cars. It’s a short period of time and then there’s no incentive for them to come back,” says Rioux.
“That’s why we’re trying to offer the platinum Jumelage where if people still feel that they need [mentorship] or help during their first year of ownership, then they can do that here.”
EV advocacy elsewhere in Canada
The non-profit advocacy group Electric Vehicle Society has multiple association chapters across Canada, including AVEQ, that focus on educating people about EVs. Each of the chapter associations hosts monthly meetings and webinars, organizes local EV events and meetups and engages with the local municipal government and advocates for electric mobility.
“In general, understanding about EVs is still very weak. There’s a lot of misunderstanding about them, and just the plain old lack of knowledge,” says Tim Burrows, producer of the Canada Talks Electric Cars webinar for EV Society, in an interview with Electric Autonomy. “If people don’t look into it, they only know what they’ve maybe heard here and there and it’s not accurate at all.”
During the monthly meeting there are a range of different people who attend, says Burrows.
“We get people who are, of course, EV advocates and owners, but we also see people coming into the monthly meeting just to kind of kick the tires. Maybe they’re thinking about getting an electric car, but they want to learn more about it first. Or, they’re brand new owners and they have a car and they want to talk to somebody else who has that kind of car and compare experiences and ask questions.”
As the interest and popularity of EVs grow, Burrow notes the importance of harnessing the experience long-time EV owners have.
“It turns out to be pretty darn helpful to have experienced EV owners involved in this process,” says Burrows. “There are some issues that make EVs require a bit of learning and effort the things that don’t exist for ICE cars. So, for a lot of reasons, having owners directly involved in the communication is extremely valuable.”