More electric cars trickle to market

2012 is shaping up to be an interesting year for the electric vehicle (EV) in Canada. Two all-electric vehicles, Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MiEV, and an extended range EV, the Chevrolet Volt, lead the charge (excuse the pun), but more are coming.

Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia have also announced subsidies towards the purchase of an electric vehicle. In B.C., it’s up to $5,000 on the vehicle and $500 on the purchase of an EVSE (Electric Vehicle Charging Equipment) system. In Ontario, it’s more than $8,000.

An EV will recharge when plugged into a standard 110/120-volt household outlet, but it can take up to half a day or more. You can dramatically cut the recharge time (up to five times faster) by using a dedicated Level 2 recharge station, which needs a 220/240 volt supply, just like your electric clothes dryer or hot tub.

If you’re thinking about buying an EV, investigating the cost and placement of charging equipment is a priority and most dealers will offer assistance. Access to a charge station while at the workplace is another consideration, as it can effectively double the daily driving range of your EV.

In addition to the three EVs already mentioned, the Smart EV, Toyota Prius PHV and the Ford Transit Connect BEV were also at an EV drive demo connected to this year’s Canadian Car of the Year evaluation event in Ontario. A taste of what’s to come next year, if you will.

The Volt and Prius PHV are hybrid extended range electric vehicles that essentially avoid the “range-anxiety” issue of an EV by, in the case of Volt, packing a small backup gas-powered generator on-board.

This also means, of course, that these vehicles do have a tailpipe and are not completely emission-free.

The Mitsubishi i-MiEV (Mitsubishi Innovative Electric Vehicle) is the lowest priced EV currently sold in Canada, and comes in two trim levels. The base price of $32,998 and there’s a topline version with a Premium Package for $35,998.

The i-MiEV is a five-door, four-seat hatchback and has a driving range of up to 155 kilometres, and a top speed of 130 km/h. Compact and very easy to park, it makes an excellent commuter or second family vehicle for anyone living in an urban area.

There were some interesting futuristic concept variations of the i-MiEV on display at the recent Los Angeles Auto Show. The Sport Air had an eye-catching sporty design based on the same platform and comes with a semitransparent solar panel embedded in the hood and clear cutaway roof panel.

The Honda Fit EV was also unveiled in L.A. and will first be available in selected U.S. markets on a lease-only basis next year. It uses a lithiumion battery and is powered by a 92-kilowatt coaxial-electric motor and offers an averageuse estimated driving range of just under 200 kilometres on a single charge.

In addition to Tesla, there are other independent EV companies that may expand to Canada some day, like Coda, which is a company based in L.A. Coda is a plainlooking four-door compact sedan that has a claimed driving range of 250 km.

Tesla will be adding a luxury class four-door sedan to replace its highly successful Roadster next year and has just opened a new dealership in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue.

On the commercial vehicle side, Ford already has an allelectric version of its Transit Connect available through Ford dealers, and an all-electric version of the Ford Focus is also due to be released next summer. A local Burnaby-based company, Azure Dynamics, did the electric conversion work for Ford on the Connect BEV.

The small but tall Transit Connect BEV has a driving range of about 130 km and a rated payload capacity of 454 kg (1,000 lbs.).

It could be a great shortrange urban delivery vehicle for a high traffic route with frequent stops.

Its still early days for EVs, but they certainly seem to be off to a good start.

Photo Tesla Model S electric sedan, provided by Tesla, handout.

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