The biggest difference between EVs and conventional vehicles is the use of an electric motor as opposed to a combustion engine powered by fossil fuels. This motor makes electric vehicles more efficient than carbon vehicles, allowing them to travel about five times farther per unit of energy, while also eliminating tailpipe emissions. Driving an EV in British Columbia is even more environmentally friendly than other provinces because BC’s electricity supply is over 95% renewable, which means that the electricity you use to drive is mostly produced by clean, carbon-free sources.
While the production and use of electric vehicles does emit some greenhouse gas, over the life cycle of the vehicle the emissions are just one-fifth (20%) of those emitted by the average gasoline-powered vehicle. EVs also help to improve our local environment, air quality, and health; as they do not emit harmful air pollutants like carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, and particulate matter. Electric vehicles also help to reduce noise pollution in our city, as they are quieter than most combustion-engine vehicles.
Costs and Benefits of EVs
In addition to reducing emissions and fighting climate change, driving an electric vehicle in BC provides other benefits for the driver. These benefits include convenient parking at charging stations, lower fuel and maintenance costs, and access to HOV lanes with a single vehicle occupant. Currently, there is a perception of EVs, portraying them as unaffordable luxury vehicles when compared to their carbon-fueled counterparts. In reality, this disparity in the affordability of gasoline and electric engines is becoming less substantial every year. While the initial price tag of an electric vehicle is high, yearly expenses over its lifetime are comparably low. With cheaper maintenance costs, increases in electric vehicle production, and the dependence of combustion engines on increasingly expensive carbon fuels, EVs are expected to cost less over their lifespan than comparable carbon vehicles by the year 2025.
Most (80%) EV charging is done at home, using the owner’s residential electricity supply. This may raise concerns that owning an electric vehicle will drive up your electricity bills. Though the cost of fueling your vehicle will be reflected in your monthly bill, the increase is only about one quarter of the cost of fueling a comparable vehicle using gasoline. The fuel savings from converting to electric can be calculated using CAA’s Electric Vehicle Cost Calculator, which takes distance, location, and vehicle model into account.
Is an EV a Good Fit
The most important question to ask when deciding to buy an EV or choosing between different types and models is whether or not it fits into your daily lifestyle. This ‘fit’ is largely dependent upon the size and range of the vehicle you choose, as well as the availability of charging stations along your travel routes. The ‘range’ of an electric vehicle refers to the distance that it can travel with a fully-charged battery. Generally, a battery-electric vehicle (BEV) is a good fit if the vehicle’s range is larger than your typical trip, and if it is convenient to charge the vehicle between trips. These parameters might limit the usefulness of BEVs for people living in rural communities, but it makes them excellent for urban transport.
For those with commutes longer than the limited range of BEVs, or those unable to easily charge between trips, a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) may be a better option. PHEVs supplement their electric battery’s energy supply with a gasoline fuel tank that substantially increases the vehicle’s range. This allows the vehicle to use clean electricity as fuel for short trips, and then plug into the electrical grid to recharge between trips. The gas tank serves as a fuel reserve for those long road trips or if you’re stranded away from a charging station.
There are currently over 200 public charging stations in Metro Vancouver, five of which are located in Maple Ridge. The availability of these stations makes electric vehicles much more flexible to refuel than conventional combustion vehicles. Unlike gas stations, EV charging infrastructure is quite small, allowing the stations to be restricted to areas as small as one or two parking spots. Furthermore, many businesses in Metro Vancouver have equipped their parking areas with EV chargers as a means of promoting their business to environmentally friendly customers. A City of Vancouver bylaw requires all new commercial parking areas to provide EV charging to 10% or their parking stalls.
EV Incentive Programs
In an effort to promote low-carbon transportation, many organizations offer incentive programs for people looking to purchase a new electric vehicle. Two of the larger programs in British Columbia are the BC SCRAP-IT program, and the CEVforBC program. These programs serve to make electric vehicles more affordable at the point of purchase, and to help retire older, less efficient vehicles from use. Over the past 20 years, SCRAP-IT has removed over 42 000 carbon fueled vehicles from British Columbian highways.
Though cars are the most common types of EV, there are other forms of electric transport. An electric bike, or motor-assisted cycle (MAC), is a cycle with two or three wheels that has a seat, pedals, and an electric motor that is 500 watts or less. Driving a MAC does not require a license or registration; however the operator must be over the age of 16 and wearing a helmet.