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New book accelerates the conversation about electric cars

The Tesla Model S is among the growing number of electric cars in the marketplace.

Ng Han Guan/The Associated Press

Retired race car driver Jacques Duval has put pedal to the metal in electric cars and is not turning back.

"Electric cars are entirely reliable and require almost no maintenance," says the Quebecker, a Canadian Motorsport Hall of Famer and auto journalist. "They represent the future of the auto industry."

Duval, 81, has just co-authored a book on the topic and he challenges the myths that appear to be preventing electric cars from really taking off.

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The Guide to Electric, Hybrid & Fuel-Efficient Cars came out at the end of June, four weeks after the release of the French-language version in Duval's home province.

"There is an increased and growing number of electric cars in the marketplace and in people's homes, and there are new networks of charging stations," says Duval, explaining the appeal. "Battery-operated cars are here to stay."

Those resistant to the new breed of cars say they are too expensive, too slow and too dangerous to drive. Duval personally drives an electric car and counters that such fears are unfounded.

"I am currently driving my second Tesla and my wife drives a Volt. Daniel Breton, my co-author, is also driving an electric car," Duval says. "We wanted the readers to benefit from our own experience, answer any questions they may have and share with them how to prepare for any sort of trip, including those long trips."

A recipient of more than a 100 trophies and the past winner of such North American races as the 24 Hours of Daytona, the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières and the Championnat du Québec, Duval has also steered a hefty number of column inches in his capacity as a highly regarded car writer.

He actually started his career as an automotive journalist, penning his first car column for Maclean's in 1960. Writing about race cars persuaded Duval to get behind the wheel and compete himself.

For four consecutive years, from 1963 through 1966, Duval won the prestigious Stirling Moss Trophy as the most outstanding sports car driver of Quebec.

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In 1967, while still maintaining his racing career, Duval returned to writing, producing the first in a series of Auto Guides, immediately establishing a reputation as a car and motor sports authority across Canada. This led him to becoming a car columnist for La Presse in Montreal in 1969, a position he held until 1984. The Guide to Electric, Hybrid & Fuel-Efficient Cars is his latest book.

"I wanted to eliminate all misconceptions about electric cars," Duval explains, "and to let people know how it truly is to have an electric car."

He became interested in electric cars about 15 years ago, when they first appeared in the marketplace as a novelty item. Today, electric cars are becoming increasingly central to the automobile industry, Duval says.

"In 20 years, maybe less, they should represent 25 per cent of car sales in Canada," Duval predicts.

But they have been slow to catch on. Canadians are suspicious of electric cars, Duval observes. They believe they are hard to regenerate and costly to run. These are among the themes Duval addresses in his book, challenging them head-on.

"The fear of being stuck in the middle of nowhere with no more juice in the batteries is one of the biggest misconceptions about electric cars out there," he says.

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"There is also a concern about prices and the lack of charging stations, this despite Hydro-Québec having recently announced new charging devices all over the province of Quebec, and Ontario recently saying it will build 500 electric car charging stations that will enable drivers to go from Windsor to Ottawa or Toronto to North Bay without a problem.

"So it's a perception issue right now, one which I hope this book can clarify."

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