I’m a big fan of online reviews, especially when I’m shopping for a new piece of technology. For everything from my oscillating fan to my cookware to my TV, I’ve researched and combed my way through a myriad of posts on various sites. Folks who leave reviews are often quite specific and generous with their information, which I appreciate very much.
But, sometimes, you just need to talk it out with someone who’s been through the research and purchasing process before – especially when it’s a purchase that’s as central to your life as a vehicle. And if you’re considering switching from a gas-powered vehicle to an electric one, it’s even more helpful to talk to someone who’s done it.
Recently I spoke with Paul Raszewski and David Bennett. Paul is a realtor and the co-founder of TEVA – the Toronto Electric Vehicle Association, an organization dedicated to electric transportation advocacy, education and adoption. David is a Suncor employee in Fort McMurray and an EV enthusiast. I asked them both about their history with EVs, surprises along the way and advice for folks considering the switch.
PT: Tell me a bit about your history with EVs.
Paul: I’m passionate about new technologies and was curious about electric cars – this was back in 2011. You had the choice of 3 options in Canada then: the Chevrolet Volt, the Nissan Leaf and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV. I chose the i-MiEV because it was the cheapest at the time. Since then, we’ve had 6 different EVs; there are currently 3 in the family. We’ve had pure electric models, plug in hybrid models and hybrids with range extenders. When I first got the i-MiEV, I would only drive it around town, not take it on long trips. But the technology has come really far! My current car, the Audi e-tron can go over 400KM on a charge.
David: We were on a family vacation and my son said he wanted to go for a ride in a Tesla. Side note – you can’t do a same-day test drive in a Tesla; you have to book a co-pilot. But we got the co-pilot booked and finally did the drive. Driving it really threw off my preconceptions about EVs. There’s so much technology on board. And the acceleration is serious! When you hit the accelerator, it’s like you’re already there. After we took the test drive, we were hooked. We got a Tesla in 2018 and I’ve been using it as my daily driver for 3 ½ years. We also have a gas-powered vehicle, but we mainly use the Tesla.
PT: Anything that surprised you? Either when purchasing the vehicle or the day-to-day driving?
Paul: I’ve been surprised by the lack of knowledge with dealers who are selling EVs. Back when I first bought one, you certainly had to do your own homework. These days, it’s a little better, but still not perfect. For example, sales folks often aren’t aware of how to find a charging station. They will say to just use the car’s GPS. But apps are much better – not only showing you where chargers are located, but how to pay for them. This is one of the reasons we created TEVA – to help educate dealers and drivers about all things EV.
David: A couple of things. First, the process for buying the Tesla. I used to work at a major car dealership and there was a clearly defined process for purchasing a car. With the Tesla it was much different. I just went online, chose my options and clicked “buy”. After the bank called to confirm financing, they delivered the Tesla to our door in Fort Mac. It was pretty cool; the “frunk” (that’s what they call the front trunk) had balloons, short bread cookies and a personal note from Elon Musk.
The other thing that surprised me was how I changed my overall driving and travel style. I don’t do any more passing on the highway – just set my cruise and drive at a constant speed. It’s much more relaxed. Same with travel style. There’s more planning for longer trips, making sure I know where the charging stations are. And when we travel as a family, it’s a very different feeling. When we stop to charge, we get out and locate new spots in the town where we’re charging. We go for lunch together and walk around. It takes longer, but it’s more fun.
PT: Have you tried Petro-Canada’s fast chargers? Any comments?
Paul: Yes, I use them quite extensively, both in Toronto as well as on a road trip cross-country. I also use the Petro-Canada EV App. On the road trip, some of the chargers were broken, so it would be good to remind station owners to report when their charger is offline or unavailable. But when we were able to use them, we did get a 150kW charge. Reporting a problem with a charger is also fairly complicated. Something that the Electrify App has is a one button “Report a Problem” feature. Would like to see this added to the PC app.
David: Actually, not yet. These days we’re not travelling as much so our home charger has been enough – the closest PC fast charger is down in Calgary, 8 hours away! We’re looking forward to driving out to Halifax – the PC network will make that possible. I would really like to see more fast chargers from Fort Mac to Edmonton. There’s only the one slow charger in Athabasca. Would be great to be able to take the electric highway to the oil sands. Put more chargers up here. The Tesla Owners Club of Alberta holds large rallies wherever there are chargers; it would be great to see 100 owners driving up Highway 63 to Fort Mac, coming north for picture opportunities!
PT: Finally, any tips for drivers who are considering making the switch to an EV?
Paul: First, don’t be scared off by the cost. Even though the up-front cost is more expensive, the long-term cost is much better. Gasoline vs. electricity – you’ll save. No oil change, not as frequent brake service – the long term servicing costs are better. And second, look for an EV community who can give you support – they’re out there.
David: Unless you’ve got your financing in order and are ready to buy, don’t test drive! It’s such a great experience; you won’t be able to get it out of your head. And it will ruin you for other vehicles. When I went back to my gas-powered car after the test drive, it felt so simplistic, like going back 20 years. It really hooks you.
Paul and David – thank you so much for taking the time to share your EV experiences with our readers! And I’ve passed along your comments about the Petro-Canada fast charge network and app to the EV team. Readers, are any of you thinking of making a switch to an EV in the near future? Let us know about your process and questions in the comments!
~ Kate T.