Ready to trade in your gas-powered car for one that runs strictly on electricity? Find out what you should know before taking the plunge in this next installment of the three-part series: “New to EVs?”
Purchasing your first electric vehicle can be a huge milestone moment. But with the advent of EVs still being relatively new, you likely have a laundry list of questions and looking for a place to start.
From waitlist times to how to set up a home charger to maintenance and repair costs, Electric Autonomy Canada has collected some of the top answers to the questions you need to know before buying or leasing your own EV.
How do I know what kind of EV is best suited for my needs?
In your journey to find the right EV to fit your driving needs, there are two things you should consider most: your budget and where you are going to charge.
Electric vehicles have higher upfront costs than the average gas car so like with all big purchases, you’ll need to budget wisely. For EVs, the greater upfront expenses are often offset by lower maintenance and no fuel costs.
In addition, there are government incentives that can assist to reduce the costs. The federal government offers $5,000 rebates for the purchase of a new EV, while provinces and territories such as British Columbia, Quebec, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Yukon and Northwest Territories have their own rebate programs too.
Where you’re going to charge is another factor that is important to consider. Most people do it at home, which makes charging up fast and convenient. But if you are someone who parks on the street or lives in a building that does not have EV charging infrastructure, then there is always a growing network of public charging stations that can be utilized.
Anyone without easy access to a home charger should always plan ahead and pay close attention to their vehicle range and the distance they typically travel.
What should I do if the waitlists are too long and when will they go down?
With interest in EVs on the rise, being put on a waitlist is inevitable because of backlog orders from the pandemic and supply chain issues. The time you’ll have to wait can range from three months to up to two years and it’s hard to say when it will go down.
If you are looking for ways to jump the queue and get an EV as soon as possible, you’ll need to be willing to compromise. How long you’ll have to wait also depends on the brand and model, so check with dealers and compare the ETA for different vehicles.
Is an EV really better for the environment than a gas car?
Electric vehicles are better for the environment because they emit zero tailpipe emissions. However, a common argument used to paint EVs as less clean for the environment is the fact that producing the battery creates significant carbon pollution because it requires more energy.
But even so, over the course of its lifetime, an electric car will have less GHG emissions associated with it than an internal-combustion engine car (ICE). Additionally, as battery recycling technology continues to advance, this will help in reducing emissions by decreasing the demand for new materials.
Critics also say that the electricity used to charge up an EV from the grid oftentimes comes from fossil fuels. Canada has one of the cleanest grids in the world, with 83 per cent of electricity coming from renewable sources, even higher in many provinces. The federal government plans to have a clean, net-zero electrical grid by 2035, which will help to realize the full clean benefits of EVs.
How do I install a home charger?
For single-family homeowners, the first step of installing a Level 2 charger with 240-volt power is to check if your home has sufficient electricity flowing to support an EV charger and see if there is enough space on your electrical panel to accommodate a circuit breaker.
Once those steps are confirmed, you will need to get an electrical permit from your province but if you hire an electrician, they will do it for you.
You can then purchase an EV charger that will best fit your needs (Tip: some provinces have rebates on chargers, too) and have a licensed electrician set up the charger.
All the charging equipment used will need to be certified for use in Canada by a nationally recognized certification agency and the installation will need to be inspected by a municipal or provincial safety officer once completed.
Should I still buy an EV even if I can’t install home charging?
Just because you live in a condo or apartment or you’re a renter with no designated area to charge your car, this shouldn’t stop you from owning an EV. While it could be challenging to own an EV without at-home charging, there are plenty of public DC fast charging stations and Level 2 chargers available, with more on the way. Some EV owners also have access to charging at their workplace, which can be just as convenient as having a home charging unit.
Using online tools, such as PlugShare, can help you research where chargers are located near you and help plan your charging around other tasks and activities.
How long does it take to charge on a public charger?
The time it takes to charge an electric car with a public charger will depend on several different factors including the battery capacity, how depleted the battery is, the different levels of charging speeds (Level 1, 2 or DC fast charging), voltage power and the weather.
Normally with a Level 2 charger, it will take at least a few hours to fully charge, which makes it a great option if you are spending a long time at one location or need a quick opportunity top-up.
If you are more pressed for time, DC fast chargers can charge your battery from empty to 80 per cent in 30 to 45 minutes. Tesla owners also have exclusive access to Tesla’s Canada-wide network of Superchargers too.
How much will cold weather affect my range?
During the winter months, colder temperatures can decrease an unplugged EV’s range by around 20 per cent. This is about the same amount of gas-economy loss an ICE vehicle experiences in winter, too.
There are plenty of ways to help to minimize the performance loss of your EV during colder weather. Some include charging your vehicle overnight and pre-heating your EV while it’s still plugged in so as to not lose any energy that could otherwise be used for range. Also, try not to accelerate too much either and avoid making sudden starts and stops since that drains the battery energy quicker.
What sort of maintenance does an EV need?
Compared to cars with internal combustion engines, EVs have fewer moving parts, which means there are fewer components that require regular maintenance and repair.
When you do bring your EV in for routine maintenance, you can expect to have the brakes checked, tires rotated, the wiper blades and cabin air filter replaced, and the wiper fluid topped off. But you’ll no longer have to worry about oil changes, tune-ups, transmission service, or cooling system flushes ever again.
The only part of an EV that will need special care is the battery. If there is some malfunction or the battery degrades over time, it can be repaired or swapped out for a new one.
Fixing the car battery will be the single greatest maintenance cost you’ll likely face with an EV. You’ll need to contact your dealer or the manufacturer to determine the problem and how much it will cost. But if you are still under the automaker’s battery warranty window, the repair will be at no extra cost.
How much will my EV cost to repair?
While it’s easy to maintain an EV, when some part does malfunction, the cost of diagnosing and repairing a problem can be quite expensive. This is because EVs are still new technologies in the market, and it takes longer for mechanics to figure out the problem. Most mechanics also don’t have the additional certifications needed to work on EVs.
But as EVs become more widespread and the skills gap closes, the costs will likely fade away, but for now, EV repairs are still a specialized service that not all technicians know how to solve.
How long is the lifespan of an EV and what do I do with it when I want a new car?
How long an EV should last will largely depend on the battery. Over time an EV battery will naturally degrade and result in reduced energy capacity, range, power and overall efficiency.
Most automakers will give out warranties of up to eight years or 160,000 kilometres (whichever comes first) for a battery, but say that the battery life could last over 10 years. Once the battery is at its end of life it, where its capacity has dropped below 75-80 per cent, it can be recycled or used in second-life applications.
When you feel it’s time to either trade in or trade up for a new EV, you can always sell your old one to a dealership.