Three-quarters of Canadians surveyed say they are ready for a road trip and more than half would feel better about doing it in an electrified vehicle, according to a recent Ipsos poll. Definitely count me in with that majority.
So I borrowed a 2022 Jaguar I-Pace, the fully electric SUV that was named World Car of the Year for 2019, and plugged it in overnight to leave in the morning with a full charge.
This would not be an ambitious road trip – baby steps after two years of COVID-19 restrictions – but a day trip for my wife and me to the vineyards and orchards of Prince Edward County, about three hours east of Toronto.
It’s about 450 kilometres round-trip from the CN Tower to Picton, Ont., the largest town in the county with a population of almost 5,000. It’s a challenge to drive that distance without recharging for all but the most gently-driven long-range EVs. I had an advantage, though: I live east of Toronto, about halfway between Toronto and the county.
If I were driving from Toronto, I would plan to refuel in Cobourg, where there are several Level 2 chargers and a pair of Level 3 fast chargers at the Petro-Canada station. If I drove a Tesla, I would recharge at the Superchargers in Port Hope, next to a Harvey’s and a Tim Hortons. In either case, I’d try to avoid a holiday weekend, when it’s becoming increasingly likely that there’ll be other vehicles already waiting for a charge.
Many road trippers from Toronto will probably stay on the fast Highway 401 for 90 minutes as far as Trenton, then cut down to Consecon and across to Picton. That’s the quickest route as recommended by a GPS, and that misses just about everything. A true road trip, takes the road less travelled, and if there’s no rush, that means leaving the 401 at Newcastle to follow Lakeshore Road along the north shore of Lake Ontario.
This is a country road that ducks beneath trees and peeks across fields to the blue expanse of water, and it’s popular with cyclists and drivers of little open-top sports cars. Follow it all the way to the small towns of Port Hope or Cobourg before stopping for a coffee, or a meal, or a battery charge.
Past Cobourg, you can keep to the shoreline roads of the Waterfront Trail, but there’s not much to see except for fields and trees and the odd glimpse of water. You’re best to follow the route we took in the Jaguar along Highway 2, through rolling green countryside and the inviting towns of Colborne and Brighton. At Brighton, turn south to hook onto Highway 64 toward Carrying Place; along the way, you’ll drive on Kente Portage, the oldest road in continuous use in Ontario.
The scenic route to Picton follows Highway 33 down to the water, and we turned off the road near Hillier to double-check directions. We parked at the Traynor Family Vineyard to study our phones and noticed there was a Tesla charging station marked as nearby. In fact, it was in the parking lot. And sure enough, there was a Tesla home charger, with a Tesla Model 3 plugged into it.
“We have a focus on sustainability and permaculture,” said assistant wine maker Richard Narayan. “Having chargers just goes in line with our mentality of how we farm our grapes and how we make our wine.”
The Tesla’s owner, Jason Yin of Toronto, said he’d chosen to stop for lunch at the vineyard to enjoy the extra benefit of the free top-up charge.
The Traynor vineyard has one Tesla home charger and one 20-amp public charger, installed by owner Mike Traynor eight years ago. I could have plugged in the Jaguar but it would have been a slow charge and it didn’t need it anyway – I’d set off with an estimated range of 369 kilometres, helped by the warmth of the day and the more leisurely speeds of the county roads.
“On a Saturday in the summer, we’ll consistently have a car charging here from noon to close,” Narayan said. “Last year was the first year we saw we need[ed] more than two [chargers]. It may be something we’ll have to look at in the future, expanding this program here.
“This just seems like a logical step for a place that’s trying to be more sustainable, to promote to people who are like-minded.”
We hummed on down to the water and then past the busy restaurants of Wellington, which is a popular stopping point for visitors to Sandbanks Provincial Park. Twenty minutes later, in Picton, I found the sole public charger in a parking lot near the main street. It was operated by the ChargePoint network and offered a 50-kilowatt DC fast charge for both kinds of EV sockets; I needed a ChargePoint account but it was free to use.
I still didn’t need a charge but plugged in anyway, just to see if everything worked, and it did. There was no point topping up; my battery was 79-per-cent charged, and any additional power would have been applied slowly, to prevent damage. (All electric cars slow their charging speeds drastically when the battery is at 80 per cent. Think of filling a glass of water and slowing the flow as you reach the top, to not spill or splash. It’s the same principle with a battery.)
If I had been in a hurry, or if the charger had been out of service, it would have been a quick drive from Picton up to the 401, where there are more chargers and a fast route back to Toronto. Even better is to continue east to Kingston, taking the small Glenora car ferry over the inlet of the bay that leads up to Napanee. Every good road trip should include a ferry.
Instead, we headed home, cosseted in the $105,000 Jaguar and without a care for our range. We were happy that the money we’d have spent on gas went instead to a meal at a good restaurant in Picton, and when we got home, I’d plug in the I-Pace, ready to do it all again.