Last December, Tesla completed the final 20 stations of its Canadian “Supercharger corridor,” which aims to place the company’s electric charging stations across the length of the TransCanada Highway. Spanning Vancouver to Halifax, it opens up a route clear across the country for Tesla owners. So naturally, someone had to put the network to the test.
Last week, Tesla enthusiasts Ian Pavelko and Trevor Page, both Model 3 owners, made the trip from Tsawwassen, B.C. to Point Pleasant Park in Halifax. They swapped driving and sleeping in Pavelko’s car, stopping only for charging and food to make the roughly 6,131-kilometre trip in 73 hours, 27 minutes and 49 seconds.
Pavelko, from the Montreal area, is the director of technical services for Fastco, which produces alloy wheels – including a line made specifically for electric cars. Page, from Aurora, Ont., started an online forum, Teslaownersonline.com, with an accompanying YouTube page. For both men, the trip they nicknamed the Fast EV Lightning Run wasn’t just about being the first, it was also meant to demonstrate that driving long distances with an EV is not only possible, but also practical.
“Other than setting a pseudo record,” says Page, “we wanted to eliminate those myths that electric cars can’t drive long distances, they can’t drive in the cold, and that they take too long to charge. It’s an education process.”
This trip was made across Canada’s major coast-to-coast route, but there are options for those looking to take different paths across the country in an EV – to an extent. And while the 113 Supercharger stations in Canada cater only to Tesla cars, they aren’t the only set of charging options available for EV owners. According to National Resources Canada, there are 5,009 public stations across the country comprising 11,597 charging outlets, with more going up routinely.
“The state of our infrastructure is pretty good,” says Cara Clairman, the president and CEO of Plug ’N Drive, a non-profit EV education and advocacy centre in Toronto. “Can we do better? Yes. But now we can be strategic in putting them where they’re needed, for people to get to different destinations.
“Now, chargers will be spreading out into the hinterlands, but also doubling up where there might be only one charger, so that you don’t have a situation where it’s busy and you’ve got to wait an hour.”
Pavelko’s Model 3 Performance gets roughly 480 kilometres per full charge, which meant 40 charging stops along the way. But Tesla keeps the stations close together, as well as near amenities such as hotels and restaurants, to make them as convenient as possible. The car itself is tied to the network and can find the nearest station and allow the driver to map a route. It also notifies the driver when their car is finished charging, so they know when to move it.
“They’re so closely spaced that 50 per cent is all you need to get to the next charger,” says Pavelko. “So we barely have enough time to run in and grab a coffee before it’s done. Most of the time we’ve been eating in the car.”
You might scoff at stopping every 200 km or so on a road trip, but Pavelko points out the realities of driving long distances. Even if you have a longer range in a gas-powered vehicle, people will usually stop for lunch or dinner, a bathroom break or even just to stretch their legs.
“It’s important for people to remember that, with a traditional gas car, you have to babysit the car as you fuel up, then you go have food,” he says. “We can plug in the car and walk away and do those things you would normally do after you fill up the car, so the actual [equation] of charging is not as much as people think.”
Clairman also points out another reality: how many long trips do you have planned anyway, and where are you going? “Most people don’t drive across Canada, so it’s not a thing that comes up that often. But driving to Montreal or Ottawa from Toronto is super easy, that’s all doable. It’s when you start going to more remote areas that it takes some planning.
“But we are getting there. Now, we have vehicles with 400, 500 even 600 kilometres of range, so longer trips are possible.”
An additional quirk of Pavelko’s Model 3 Performance is it was the last Tesla to be offered with free charging for life, which means Pavelko and Page didn’t pay a single dollar for electricity along the way. But even if they had to pay normal charging prices, it would have worked out to be far less expensive than a gas-powered car. For example, a Honda Civic, rated at 7.1 L/100 km, would do the distance under ideal conditions for roughly $475 in gas with an average price of $1.10 per litre. Pavelko estimates that the Tesla Model 3 would cost roughly $200, and it would be similar for other EVs.
Pavelko and Page are both adamant that electric cars are not just as good as gas-powered vehicles but better, and they’re here to stay. But they’re also still relatively new and, for a lot of car owners, range anxiety and charging times are still very much a worry, whether those are true concerns or not.
“I think it’s just a genuine lack of information, and we have to do our part to educate,” says Pavelko. “When we wanted to show people you can do long distances, we didn’t want just a road trip, we wanted to blow people’s minds. And we’re hoping that’s what this does.”
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