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Can you live with an EV outside of the Greater Toronto Area?

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Surveys say that more Canadians than ever are considering making the switch to an Electric Vehicle (EV), as more shoppers develop a taste for sustainable decisions, and automakers report record sales driven by vehicles equipped with electrified or fully-electric powertrains.

We’re focusing on the Electric Vehicle (EV) in this story. These are the models with no fuel tank, no tailpipe, and no need to visit a gas-station or lube-shop again.

If you’re like many Canadians who drive EV’s already, you’re considering parking it beside a crossover or pickup truck in the driveway, and using it as often as possible to help reduce your carbon footprint and transportation costs.

If you’re EV curious and checking things out for the first time, you’re probably noticing more of them on the road, and more selection of models available. The number of EV options for sale is about to explode, and by some accounts, the arrival of electric will be one of the fastest technological shifts the auto industry has ever seen.

Below, I’ll share some key impressions, facts and considerations based on years of testing EV’s in Northern Ontario, to help you make a more informed purchase decision. The comments below are based on thousands of kilometers of real-world testing in all weather conditions, while primarily travelling a 400 kilometre route between Toronto and Sudbury Ontario.

Electric Vehicle

EV Range

The range of a car is how far it can drive when it’s fuel tank (or battery) is full.

Electric cars are given a range rating by their manufacturer, which you can treat as a  ballpark figure representing the distance you can drive on a full charge in ideal conditions and at room temperature.

Electric Vehicle

One version of Ford’s electric Mustang Mach E Crossover has a range of  435 kilometers. A Chevrolet Bolt EUV has a range of 397. The most affordable version of the popular Nissan LEAF has a range of 240 kilometers, and the sporty Polestar 2 can drive 375 kilometers on a full charge.

Your actual range will vary based on many factors– including your driving style, locale, and the temperature outside.

This is true in gas powered vehicles too, by the way.

Driving an EV in the Winter

When it comes to snowy and icy winter conditions, an EV drives just like the car or crossover you might be used to, the strong torque output and throttle response may mean that a light foot is required to avoid spinning your wheels in slippery conditions. Electric vehicles come with the same safety and traction systems as every other modern car, and pricier models are commonly available with precise and fast acting All Wheel Drive (AWD).

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The range of an EV can be reduced considerably by extreme cold, like the -25 C days common in my neck of Northern Ontario – where charging stations can be hundreds of kilometers apart.

Electric Vehicle

In my circle, the concept of driving an EV in the cold is one of the most commonly misunderstood. In Sudbury, I see  owners enjoying their Teslas, LEAFs, and Bolts on the daily, even on the coldest days of the year.

When I’m testing an EV across long distances in the winter, I expect the rated range to drop by about 25 per cent. For instance, during 10 days testing Jaguar’s EV, the I-Pace, in mid-February, it was – 22 C, on average. In these temperatures, it’s 383-kilometers of range dropped to about 270, with the heat cranked.

At -15 C, I’d expect a range closer to 300 kilometers.

How Canadians Use EV’s

Do you usually drive less than 60 kilometers a day? If so, you’re a completely average Canadian. If you happen to drive an EV, you’ve still got several days of driving in extreme cold before a recharge is required.

When you own an EV, your home becomes your charging station, and the average Canadian EV driver recharges almost exclusively at home.

In Sudbury, EVs are often parked beside a truck or SUV in the family driveway. It’s common to see a Tesla Model 3 or Chevrolet Bolt parked alongside a Ford F-150 or Toyota Highlander, as more Northerners are choosing to run an EV as much as possible for fuel savings, while reserving use of the family truck or SUV for trips where longer driving range and towing are important.

Electric Vehicle

With current fuel prices, one friend calculated the cost to drive his Ford F-150 for 100 kilometers at $22, and the cost to drive his Tesla Model 3 at under $2. For most of his driving, he uses the Tesla. If he’s towing two snowmobiles to the family camp 500 kilometers north, he takes the Ford.

Recharging Your EV

Many EV drivers charge using the standard 120-volt outlet in their driveway, garage, or parking space at work. This is called Level 1 charging, and it adds about four to five kilometers of range to the vehicle for every hour of charging.

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Though results will vary by model, owners using Level 1 charging can expect a recharge of 60 to 100 kilometers overnight in their driveway, and 40 to 60 more if they plug in during an 8 hour work day.

Remember: you needn’t fill the battery when charging it before you can drive again.

Level 2 charging is about ten times faster, adding 40 to 50 kilometers of range per hour, and possibly a full charge overnight. You can install a Level 2 charger at home, and you’ll also find them for use at malls, attractions, and parking lots.

If you can’t charge at home, visiting a public Level 2 public charger once or twice a week at the mall, grocery store, gym or coffee shop may be all you need.

Level 3 charging, or Fast Charging, is the fastest way to charge your EV. You’ll find Fast Chargers along popular travel routes, at gas stations, shopping centres and the like.

Electric Vehicle

These chargers take minutes, not hours. The high charging rate can bring most EV batteries from “almost empty” to “almost full” in 45 minutes or less.

With the ability to charge at lightning speed, the Level 3 charger is a prime attraction for EV road trippers.

Road Tripping

If you make a lengthy road trip in your EV, you’ll need to plan out charging stops along the way.

Many hotels offer charging for their EV-driving customers, and as EV charging infrastructure improves, more and more options will become available. I’ve learned that Ikea is a great place to stop and charge your EV on a road trip. In addition to affordable food (and furniture) many locations offer free Level 3 charging for customers.

Most EV drivers plan road trip stops around Level 3 charging, allowing their car to take great big gulps of electricity while they stop to eat, rest, or use the facilities.

Remote Locales

EV owners use various apps and websites to track down the chargers available on their route, and plan accordingly. I frequently use ChargePoint and Plugshare, both of which make it easy to find and use an appropriate nearby charger.

Generally, you’ll set up an account and payment information in the app, which you will use to locate and activate chargers as you travel. Most EV’s have similar functionality built into their central infotainment systems.

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It’s important to have a backup plan in case you encounter a charger that’s broken, occupied, or buried in a snowbank, and to understand that charging station coverage tends to be strong around big cities, but sparse in more remote locales.

In parts of Toronto, there are dozens of chargers on a single block. Heading south from Sudbury, the first Level 3 public charger you’ll encounter is some 160 kilometers away. In areas further north, charging stations can be hundreds and hundreds of kilometers apart.

Electric Vehicle

I’ve encountered non-functional chargers on multiple occasions, which can complicate travel plans. I regularly rely on a Petro Canada fast charging station near Parry Sound, though I’ve found it out of order on two occasions this past year, which complicates travel plans considerably.

With my go-to charger out of order, it took about 20 minutes to track down an alternative station, download that station’s app, provide payment info, and get charging. The alternative charger was slower, and required about 90 minutes of charging to get me home, instead of just 15.

Roadside assistance plans included with your EV or CAA membership generally include towing to the nearest charger or dealership. Roadside charging is also possible if the service provider has proper equipment.With infrastructure expanding, long-distance travel to more remote locales by EV will become easier.

By the way, the most remote public Level 3 charging station in Ontario, according to, is in Hearst, some 942 kilometers from Toronto. The most remote public Level 2 charging station is located in Gull Bay, over 1,500 kilometers away.

Tesla– Reduced Stress For Remote Road Tripping

Of all the trips I’ve made by EV, the most enjoyable have been in a Tesla, thanks to the brand’s charging infrastructure. Tesla models are able to use dedicated fast-charge stations called Superchargers.

In my part of Ontario, these Tesla-only Supercharger stations are plentiful, easy to find, and easy to use. At a Supercharger station, you’ll find multiple fast-charging plugs designed to recharge Tesla batteries as quickly as possible, often at a rate of 160 kilometers every 10 minutes.For where and how I drive, the Tesla Supercharger network and high-speed charging capabilities reduce my stress levels as I head further north, since they give me plenty of alternatives and make it easier to keep my battery topped up along the drive.

Happy motoring, and happy shopping!

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