From seniors to young adults and committed combustion car owners to those open to an EV, Electric Autonomy gathered five “average” drivers to test out the EV driving experience in a new Polestar 2. This is what they had to say
It appears to be becoming an annual tradition that every winter I am fortunate enough to get to test how different EVs handle Canadian winters.
Last year — my first winter in an EV — was supposed to be weathered entirely in a 2019 Nissan Leaf.
But thanks to an unexpected battery failure there was a mid-season switch to a Chevy Bolt, which was a real lemons-into-lemonade learning experience.
This year (and, happily, with far less vehicle repair drama) the switch is due to a timely test drive opportunity of a Polestar 2 that we have named, Aurora Batterealis.
Here are the quick specs: Aurora is a 2023, dual motor five-seater in Thunder grey with 434km in range. She comes with two add-on packs — Pilot and Plus — and retails for $74,950.
The Polestar 2 is also rebate eligible in Canada, which gets buyers a minimum of $5,000 off the purchase price.
For a week in March, Aurora was put through her paces by a group of “average” drivers representing current EV drivers to combustion drivers with an interest in EVs to never-sat-in-an-EV-before drivers.
Some of the testers live in condos, some do not. Some have serious reservations about the viability or environmental benefits of EVs. Others are true converts, but nervous about the jungle that is non-Tesla network public charging.
Each of the five drivers brings their questions, confidences and reservations to the EV driving experience with Aurora and on driving an EV in general.
Remi is an early-30s, single professional living in a high-rise condo in the downtown Toronto core. His driving needs are unpredictable, ranging from not leaving an urban centre for weeks to suddenly needing to drive to and from the U.S. Midwest in a weekend.
“Gas prices are insane,” says Remi of his main motivator to consider electric vehicles. “I like the idea of renewable energy and reduced emissions.”
Remi has never driven an EV before Aurora. He doesn’t have a car currently, but he is “passively” looking. The Ford Lightning and Mercedes EQE are of particular interest. Remi’s hesitation points are that he doesn’t know the protocol around getting charging in his newer (XX) building and wants greater transparency from automakers about their cradle-to-grave battery supply chain.
In the driver’s seat of Aurora, Remi is “surprised” by the regenerative braking aspect of driving an EV, but says, “I do like the responsiveness of the EV. I like the way it handles.”
For at least his first time driving an EV, Remi finds the regenerative braking too different to acclimatize to and he ends up turning it off. But the experience made him more sure in his desire to go electric, and, particularly, with a high-end vehicle.
“I’m pretty confident that my next vehicle will be an EV.”
Alexandra is a mid-60s grandmother living in the GTA. When she’s not helping to drive her two young grandchildren to their activities, she is busy doing daily commutes anywhere from five to 100 km from her home.
Alexandra currently drives a 2020 Nissan Leaf SL — her first electric vehicle. She says she loves it, but is concerned at how “techie” newer and more fancy EVs are compared to the Leaf.
However, once on the road in Aurora, Alexandra appreciated the plush perks of a higher-end car. Her Leaf is not uncomfortable, but Aurora’s dual motor feature offers remarkably more power and design features like a moon roof and a heated steering wheel are ride-enhancing bonuses.
Even in a snow storm the performance EV did well, says Alexandra, and the ride, overall, was smoother.
The experience of higher-end EV driving didn’t totally solve Alexandra’s concerns about the more technologically advanced driving features. Aurora’s Autopilot features were untouched, as were all other connective options. However, it was not so advanced for Alexandra that she couldn’t work the vehicle.
“I would never drive a gas car again, if I had a choice,” she says.
Finlay is a single, late-30s professional in the GTA. He is a high-mileage driver, with frequent trips into the city and far out into cottage country.
Finlay currently drives a 2019 Tesla Model 3 that he’s had for just under a year. He enjoys EV driving, but is wary of moving away from Tesla because of the convenience of the Supercharger network.
“For the amount that I drive it’s a big thing to not be able to public charge,” he says.
Driving Aurora, for Finlay, was enjoyable from a performance and aesthetic perspective. The non-Tesla charging experience left much to be desired.
Finlay started looking for a charger around 41 per cent. The closest charger on his route was an old, free universal J-1772 charger in a hotel parking garage with a $5.00 entry fee.
Finlay spent 15 minutes plugged in. On a Tesla V3 Supercharger, in the same period of time, Finlay estimates he would get a 15-20 per cent charge. In Aurora, he was only able to recoup two per cent on the battery.
The next day (during a snow storm) Finlay tried a local curbside charger, operated by ChargePoint. It was broken with the display screen smashed. Across the street, there was another ChargePoint station. But the unit wouldn’t turn on because it hadn’t been hooked up.
Finlay then drove eight minutes to a Canadian Tire with FLO fast chargers. These units were operational and offering CHAdeMO charging, which gives a more Tesla-level charge. However, they wouldn’t accept tap credit card. Ultimately, Finlay had to download an app and load money into it before he was able to begin charging. In a 12-minute charge, Aurora went from 29 per cent battery to a satisfactory 40 per cent.
“This was not an easy process,” says Finlay. “For people to adopt EVs the charging experience has to change. The cars are great — beautiful interiors — but the charging is a problem.”
Elizabeth is a late-60s, loft-dwelling Calgarian, who grew up in Quebec and Ontario before moving to Alberta. Living in the downtown core and an avid walker, she “rarely” uses a car.
Elizabeth currently owns a combustion vehicle, bought two years ago. She has never driven in an EV before and said prior to her test drive that its “not very likely” that she will buy one in the next five years.
Once behind the wheel though Elizabeth quickly embraced the EV driving experience. She particularly enjoys regenerative braking and the quiet cabin along with the smoothness of the ride.
“I’m converted,” she says. “My only electric experience prior to this was a golf cart. This is not like that at all. One hundred per cent I would go out and buy an EV. No questions asked.”
For Elizabeth, the biggest stumbling blocks with buying an EV are the cost of the vehicle and the cost of getting at-home charging infrastructure, which she says, in her building, would be a $15,000 undertaking.
Until EV and related costs come down Elizabeth says she won’t be able to make the transition, as well she wants the public charging networks to mature incase, as a condo dweller, she is never able to secure at-home charging.
So, if the industry wants her as a customer, Elizabeth has a non-negotiable condition: “Something has to be done across the country when it comes to charging. Every legislator in this country needs to put in legislation for chargers in condos. We need to re-educate developers.”
Mark is a 30-year-old new graduate who recently moved into a west-end apartment in Toronto. Though he’s now busy exploring his new neighbourhood on the weekends, when Mark gets in the car he likes to head way north of the city for escapes.
Mark currently drives a combustion vehicle (a stick shift, no less) and doesn’t have any intention of buying an EV. To be more precise, Mark has concerns that EVs may be worse for the environment than combustion vehicles.
“Look at the mining,” he says. “What happens to the battery after. I’ve heard that it’s actually worse, environmentally, than gas.”
Mark says he found this claim “on a podcast,” but hasn’t done any research into the topic himself. (A 2022 study from MIT found battery vehicles are more carbon intense than combustion vehicles to make, but more than make up for it over their lifetime, making them more environmentally friendly overall than gas cars.)
He was interested to hear that Polestar offers supply chain transparency in annual disclosures about where the company sources their battery minerals. Tesla, as well, provides similar supply chain accountability.
Once driving Aurora, Mark agreed the experience was “good” and appreciated the smoothness of the vehicle on the road. He, like Remi, found the regenerative braking “weird,” but the acceleration was “awesome.”
But, in order for Mark to become an EV driver, he says, he would need total transparency from the OEM on how minerals are sourced, how the battery is made and what happens to it at the end of life.
That accountability is “really important” as a buyer, he says.
Mark’s concerns about the battery-making process remain and he says he is still unlikely to buy an EV even though he enjoyed the experience of driving one.