Tips on buying an electric vehicle

As part of a series of stories to help you take charge of climate action, these electric vehicle (EV) buying tips and their companion stories Insuring your EV or Hybrid and Electric vehicles environmental impact aim to help empower your own EV awareness and decisions. 

Taking charge of your electric vehicle purchase

Buying a car can be a daunting experience nowadays. Step into any new model, and it’s hard to tell if it’s meant to travel the highways or cruise the galaxy. There’s a lot of space-aged technology to get to know. It can be even more complicated if you’re considering your first-time electric vehicle purchase. Not to worry. You got this.

Is now the time to buy?

With Canada’s ambition to reach a net-zero emissions goal by 2050 and its objective to reach 100% zero emissions vehicle sales by 2035, it’s not a matter of if you’ll buy an EV, but when. Given that current gas price fluctuations can be more heart-racing than the whiplash loops of a highspeed roller coaster, now just might be a good time to kick some electric tires. 

The different types of EVs

Currently, there are three main categories of EVs: Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV), Plugin Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV), and Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV). A BEV is solely powered by a battery pack. A PHEV contains both an electric motor and combustion engine (which kicks in when your battery pack loses its juice). In a Hybrid Electric Vehicle, the electric motor gets its charge from braking and/or a combustion engine. So it’s more energy-efficient than the typical gas-powered car, however it is not considered a zero-emission vehicle. 

An EV for everyone

With more and more automakers adding EVs to their lineup, you can soon shop from a range of EVs with the same choices of form and function that you would expect from traditional vehicles. You just have to factor in the battery pack capacity (which determines driving range on a full charge) when you’re choosing between a funky head turning two-seater or a soccer game scooting SUV. 

Charging primer

Before beginning your EV buying journey, it’s important to understand the different classification of charging levels. 

Level 1: Involves charging the EV with the same 120 Volt outlet you’d use to plug in your laptop. It’s the slowest and will provide around 8 km of driving range per hour of charging. 

Level 2: Requires a 240 Volt/30 Amp service and the charger will have to be installed at your home by a qualified electrician. It’ll give you approximately 35 km of driving range per hour of charging.

Level 3: The fastest method, these stations can deliver up to 250 km of driving per hour of charging. 

What to consider before choosing an EV

When deciding on a zero-emission vehicle, range on a full charge is an important factor for most drivers. How much driving you do in a day will help you decide on whether you should choose on an EV with a battery pack designed for a lower range or a higher range of driving, or if a plug-in hybrid is more ideal. For example, an urban driver might only need an EV with a range of 180km on a full charge. Someone in the suburbs might prefer an EV with a 450km range for the commute to work and the nighttime hockey game three municipalities over. Lastly, a rural driver might feel more comfortable with a plug-in hybrid to travel the sparse distances between communities. Your driving needs are obviously unique, so it’s a matter of understanding your lifestyle to appropriately decide upon the right vehicle.

Other considerations include:

Your budget: Though priced higher than their conventional counterparts, there are currently government incentives like the $5,000 rebate from the federal government. You should also check out if there are rebates available within your province.

Where you live: Do you live in a house, condo, or apartment complex? Is Level 1 charging possible? Can you have a Level 2 charging station installed, will it impact your home insurance premium, and how do you report its addition to your insurer? Knowing that you can have your EV charged at home may impact your choice in vehicle.

Charging stations: Do a search on “EV charging stations near me”, and you’ll have a good idea of how easy or hard it would be to get a charge in your vicinity. Do a similar search for stations near your favourite grocery store, work, or any other place you frequently visit. Knowing that you have many accessible charging locations could determine if you need a low or high range EV. The good news is, charging infrastructure is expanding every day, with the Federal government pledging $880 million beginning in 2022 to build 65000 new charging stations over the next 4 years. However, more is needed to sustain Canada’s zero-emission vehicle ambitions.

How cold it is: Extreme cold negatively impacts a battery charge. It’s not terribly worrisome if you live in Victoria, BC, but it’s something to be aware of if you live in Thompson, MB. So, if you face excessively cold temperatures, you need to prepare for some loss in EV driving range. 

Plug in and take charge

Buying your first electric car is a completely new experience. However, it’s just like buying and owning any new car, except for battery range considerations…and replacing “filling up” with “charging up”. But if you can charge your cell phone overnight, you can charge your vehicle. As well, an EV with a 450 km range is similar to a car with a full tank of gas … and when was the last time you filled up your tank more than once in a single day? You can totally own the experience of owning an electric vehicle. 

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