Electric vehicles are still a long way from outnumbering traditional gas-powered automobiles, but a key step toward that possible future was taken this week in southern Alberta.
Thanks to a collaboration between civic administrations across the south and the Alberta government, plans are being put in motion for a 20-station, $2-million “Peaks to Prairies” network of automobile charging stations. The planned network will stretch from Medicine Hat to Crowsnest Pass, with stations in Taber, Fort Macleod and Pincher Creek along the way. Fast-charging stations are also slated for Warner, Cardston and Waterton Lakes National Park, as well as communities along Highways 2, 22 and 23.
Officials at Monday’s news conference at Lethbridge College announced that the first charging station will open this spring in Lethbridge, to be located, interestingly, near the Canadian Pacific Railway station on 1 Avenue South.
Such infrastructure is, of course, crucial for electric vehicles to become a solidly viable option for motorists on the Prairies where battery range between charges is a concern. Range issues are less worrisome for urban commuters.
Progress is being made on the range front. Green Car Reports indicates that within the next couple of years, at least six new electric car models are expected, all of them promising ranges of 200 miles (about 320 kilometres) or more. As part of the “Peaks to Prairies” announcement, five electric cars were on display — from automakers Tesla, Nissan, Hyundai and General Motors — and all had been driven to Lethbridge from Calgary or Edmonton for the event.
Of course, range isn’t the only hurdle for prospective buyers of electric vehicles. Electrics are pricier than their gas-powered cousins, though a Global News story reports that a Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecast predicts electric vehicles will be as affordable as the gas variety by 2025. Tesla’s upcoming Model 3 is expected to start at around $35,000 US.
Some question the viability of the electric autos in Canada’s often harsh winter conditions, but a recent CBC News story out of Winnipeg indicated that, while the recent frigid weather is a drain on electric vehicles’ battery power, the vehicles still perform admirably overall — including warming up faster than their conventional gas-powered relatives.
Proponents of electric vehicles point out they can actually be more convenient when it’s considered that owners can install charging stations in their garage or just outside the home, and newly built condo buildings are providing charging areas in their parking lots.
The electric vehicle market may still be in its infancy, but it’s growing. The City of Lethbridge is looking into purchasing electric transit buses, and at Monday’s news conference, it was noted that there are about 100,000 electric-powered vehicles operating in Canada, with the number growing by 50 per cent each year.
As those numbers grow, there will be a need to also grow the necessary infrastructure by providing more charging stations for the vehicles. The announcement of the “Peaks to Prairies” network is a step in the right direction.