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Choosing the right electric vehicle

We tried hybrids and plug-in hybrids. Now it was time to research electric vehicles in our search for a new car.

We started our research into pure electric vehicles with the same concerns that I think most people have with EVs.

1. There aren’t enough options.
2. They cost too much.
3. Their range isn’t long enough.
4. They take too long to charge.

Our first concern was immediately alleviated when we started looking at the options – there were plenty. Many manufacturers offer at least one electric option – some offer multiple models. GM offers the Chevrolet Bolt, while Ford has the Focus Electric and the Fusion Energi. Smart has the Smart ForTwo Electric. Hyundai offers the Hyundai Ioniq Electric, and Kia has the Soul EV. Nissan has the Leaf and VW offers the e-Golf. BMW has the i3, while Tesla has the Model S, Model X, and Model 3.

The list, however, is reduced when you consider the second concern: cost. Yes, electric vehicles cost more than ICE vehicles. But they don’t have to. With the Ontario government’s Electric Vehicle Incentive Program, some of these models become comparable to their ICE cousins. (The provincial governments of BC and Quebec also offer incentives). For most of the models above, the Ontario government will reimburse you up to $14,000 of the purchase price! Depending on your financial situation, that might put some or all of the above vehicles in your price range.

My next concern was driving range. Alleviating this concern took a combination of research (what is the available range of a modern electric vehicle?) and some reflection on our personal driving habits. When and where did we drive the car: Stephen drove to work each day (about 7km each way), we drove around town for errands and outings (grocery store, movie theatre, mall, etc.), and we drove to visit family near Toronto three or four times per year. The vast majority of our daily driving was under 30km-50km, and three or times per year we drove several hundred kilometres to visit family. Thinking about it that way was a big eye-opener for us. It didn’t make sense to make such a big decision on a road trip we took a handful of times per year.

Still, what are the ranges available? It varies greatly, from 416km with the Tesla S, to 93km for the Smart ForTwo. Of course, with more range comes a higher cost. The Tesla Model S starts at $96,650, while the Smart ForTwo starts at $29,050. All models, at either end of the range spectrum, offer enough range for our daily driving. But what if we have to run a bunch of errands one day, or drive a little further? What if we need to charge in the middle of the day? Doesn’t it take forever?

No, charging an EV today doesn’t take as long as you’d think. Sure, plugging your EV directly into a standard wall outlet (referred to as Level 1 charging) will take 24-hours or longer to fully charge, but hardly anyone charges their car this way. Virtually all EVs come with the ability to use a Level 2 charger. This uses a 240-volt charger, similar to a clothes dryer or stove. Using a level two charger drastically cuts your charging time, typically to about 4-6 hours depending on the car. This is what most EV owners use to charge their car at home. But when about when you’re out-and-about and need to top up? That’s where Level 3 chargers come in. Level 3 chargers are not available for home use, but can often be found at major shopping centres and highway rest stops. They’re capable of charging your car from 0%-80% in 30 minutes. Not all cars are able to use Level 3 chargers, but the majority are.

The high price of all of the Tesla models took them out of our reach, while the lack of cargo space took out a lot of the smaller EVs. We were upgrading from a Honda Civic, and we wanted something with a substantially greater amount of cargo space. That left the Kia Soul EV and the Chevrolet Bolt. We briefly considered the new Nissan Leaf and the Volkswagen e-Golf (on appearance alone we really liked the e-Golf), but despite offering more cargo space than our Civic, we wanted more. The Soul EV started at $35,895 and offered 150km in range, while the Bolt started at $43,195 and offered a staggering 383km of range. Both models were eligible for a $14,000 rebate from the Province of Ontario.

Although we could get the Soul for $21,895 after the rebate, over $7000 less than the Bolt, and although the Soul provided slightly more cargo capacity than the Bolt, we were leaning slightly towards the Bolt because of its impressive range. That changed when we contacted nearby dealerships. Not only did no one have a Bolt in stock, but no dealership had one we could test drive either. The best offer they could do for a Bolt would be to put a deposit down to join a 6-9 month waitlist, and then hope that we liked it when it finally arrived at the dealership.

When we called a local Kia dealership we were told not only could we test drive it that same day, but they also had some in stock if we were interested in purchasing. We test drove it later that week, fell in love with it, and four days later picked up our brand new Kia Soul EV.

We had our concerns with purchasing an Electric Vehicle – how could we afford it, how would we drive anywhere with a short range, where would we charge it? – but a little research, and a lot of help from Ontario Electric Vehicle Incentive Program eased our concerns. Five months later and we love our Soul EV. We’ve never run out of range – we averaged about 100km of range in the coldest months of the winter, and now that it’s warming up we’re averaging about 168km of range. We’ve never had a problem charging it – we bought a Level 2 charger with the help of Ontario’s Electric Vehicle Charging Incentive Program (up to $1000 of the purchase price and installation costs of a charging station) and can fully charge our Soul in four hours.

All of our concerns have been alleviated, and best of all, we haven’t been to a gas station in five months.

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