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Four myths about the electric car

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Electric vehicles are found in increasing numbers on Quebec roads. And these numbers will rise further still, in light of the government’s announced ban on the sale of gasoline-powered cars as of 2035. And yet, popular misconceptions about e-vehicles persist: too expensive, bad for the environment, not adapted to Quebec winters,... So what’s the real story? Let’s review the four biggest myths about electric cars.

Electrify your commute

Myth 1: Electric vehicles are expensive

Yes, the sticker price for an electric car is a bit higher than for a comparable gas-powered model. But to ease the transition to this type of vehicle, the Quebec and Canadian governments offer rebates of up to $12,000 for a new vehicle and $3,500 for a used one.

And if you factor in the vehicle’s usage cost, the electric car wins hands down, thanks to fuel and maintenance savings. The energy cost of driving 100 km in an electric vehicle is only $2 – 8 times lower than in a gas-powered car with fuel consumption of 9.3 L/100 km. By the time you’ve driven 20,000 km, you’ll have saved $2,850! But that’s not all: the cost to maintain plug-in vehicles is 50% lower on average, since there are no oil changes and the brakes need less maintenance.

In the final analysis, an e-vehicle costs far less to operate than a comparable gas-powered model. In fact, these savings appear as early as the first month on the road.

Another way to save money is to choose a model whose size matches your needs. For example, SUVs and light-duty trucks, in addition to having a much larger environmental footprint, are priced $10,000 higher on average. It should also be noted that e-vehicles’ mechanical configuration frees up a lot of interior space, translating into extra cargo room. They also handle better, thus obviating the need in most cases for all-wheel drive – a rather expensive add-on.

And don’t forget to check out the used market: a number of electric models are available today from used car dealerships. It’s a nice way to save money and reduce your environmental footprint at the same time.

Did you know? 🚗

An electric engine consists of only 50-odd parts, versus 200-250 for a combustion engine.

Myth 2: Electric cars pollute the environment

The environmental question is among the harshest criticisms levelled at electric vehicles. Critics would have you believe that behind their green image, e-vehicles are actually very polluting. Is this true?

The science has spoken: the environmental impacts of e-vehicles are less significant than those generated by gas-powered vehicles – especially in Quebec, which derives 99% of its electricity from renewable sources. Here in Quebec, an electric vehicle emits 80% fewer GHG than a conventional vehicle after 300,000 km on the road (CIRAIG 2016).

  • - 80% Difference of GHG produced by an electric vehicle vs. a conventional vehicle after 300,000 km including manufacturing (in Quebec)

Source: Centre international de référence sur le cycle de vie des produits, procédés et services (CIRAIG)

So where does this myth come from? Well, the impacts of manufacturing an electric vehicle outweigh those of a conventional vehicle, due in large part to the use of metals for the batteries. But these impacts are offset during the vehicle’s useful life, since it doesn’t need to burn gas. The impacts of gasoline far outweigh those generated by the vehicle’s manufacture. This is especially true in Quebec, where the gasoline that powers our cars comes from t oil sands and shale wells – two very polluting sources.

All things considered, the electric vehicle gets much better grades at every level. And these grades will get even better with improvements to the battery manufacturing process and the emergence of a circular economy industry. The Quebec firm Lithion Recycling has introduced a solution for recycling lithium-ion batteries that can recover 95% of battery components that can be used to produce new batteries.

That said, there is no such thing as a non-polluting vehicle. Therefore, we as a society must prioritize alternatives to solo driving (electric or not) to reduce pollution and traffic congestion. Biking, walking, mass transit and car sharing are just some of the transportation cocktail ingredients for greener and more efficient travel!

Clean energy in Quebec 🌊

The energy produced in Quebec is one of the cleanest in the world, with over 99% coming from renewable sources thanks to hydroelectricity.

According to one particularly stubborn misconception, electric cars are not suitable for long distances. And yet their range is comparable to that of gas-powered automobiles. That, plus the proliferation of public charging stations, is enough to debunk this myth.

Quebec boasts a network of over 7,000 charging stations (including 800 fast charging ones) scattered throughout the province. In addition to those located along our highways, many businesses, hotels, camp sites and tourist attractions now offer easy-to-use charging facilities.

Good to know

Apps like Electric Circuit and Charge Hub let you program your itinerary to take into account charging stations.

Many Quebecers bring this up when the question of transitioning to e-vehicles is raised. But harsh winters are by no means a deal breaker for electric cars. Just look at Norway: their winters are comparable to ours, and yet 90% of the cars sold there are electric! The key is to identify your needs and choose the right vehicle.

  • 90% of new cars sold in Norway are electric despite winters similar to ours.

Source: Robbie Andrew, CICERO

It is true that in the worst winter conditions, an electric car’s range can drop by as much as half. So, a few days a year a car with a 400 km range will only be able to get 200 to 240 km on a single charge.

This is a useful barometer for determining ideal battery size. Our advice? Identify your longest regular commute (between two charging points, so, let’s say between your home and your cottage or workplace) to determine a range you can live with, knowing that a smaller battery translates into thousands of dollars of savings. And if you need the occasional battery boost, fast charging highway stations will give you about 50 more km in just 15 minutes.

Are you ready to make the transition?

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