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The day of the electric car has finally arrived

October 11, 2012

EDMONTON, AB, Oct. 11, 2012/ Troy Media/ – If there’s anyone happier driving their Chevy Volt than Phil Dayson, I’d like to meet him.

The 76-year-old lives in Vancouver, B.C. and has paid his dues when it comes to the electric vehicle space. He’s constructed bodies for proto-EVs, owned a company that manufactured that same EV and even drove an electric rebuild of a Geo Metro for eight years before finally getting his hands on what he considers the first proper, mainstream electric vehicle of its time, the Chevy Volt.

As Dayson gets into the bright red version of his Chevy Volt in the parkade under his office he points at the control panel.

‘This sums it up right here. On this current tank of gas I have gone 2,503 km and I have used 17 litres of fuel.’

‘I’ve gone 6,698 km since (the) beginning of December and I’ve now used a tank and half of a gas and maybe $30 worth of electricity.’

After working in the trenches for so long supporting the development of electric vehicles, Dayson says ‘The people in the EV business in their wildest dreams never thought it would take off the way it has.’

Phil Dayson is an accidental electric vehicle pioneer who lives in Vancouver. He wound up owning an electric car company almost a decade ago and when the Chevy Volt came out he snapped one up. Photo Kevin Sauve, Troy Media

The Chevy Volt costs roughly $41,000 but the operating costs are low and the rebates are generous. If you are in B.C. you get a $5,000 rebate on the Volt, while you can get $7,769 in Quebec and $8,231 in Ontario.

According to the U.S. government it costs $650 a year in fuel costs to run a Chevy Volt  (at 12 cents a kilowatt hour). A Honda Civic would run you $1,800 a year in fuel costs. When you start talking about anything larger than a Civic the savings really start to add up. Driving an EV can also reduce your emissions by 80 per cent if you live in B.C. where 93 per cent of electricity comes from low-emission hydroelectric dams.

As for the cost, keep in mind the Toyota Prius Hybrid took 10 years to reach sales of 400,000 units and a price of $26,000. After a slow 2011 the numbers are coming around, the Volt has better sales number than roughly half of all US cars and set a sales record in August of 2012.

At this stage you buy an electric car not to save money, but to help the environment, make a political statement or because you think they are cool and fun to drive, says Dayson.

The Chevy Volt’s dash display describes how much electricity the car has used and how much fuel the generator has used to create electricity when needed. Photo David Dodge, Troy Media

As he steps on the gas to make his point, the car takes off but with no revving of the engine; it’s almost anticlimactic. It’s deceptive, however: the Volt will go 0-60 in 8.3 seconds. If it’s performance you want then perhaps the Model S Tesla is the car for you. The $85,000 model can do 0-60 km/h in 4.4 seconds, a number that would give a Corvette a run for its money. This is a massive step-up from the car that Dayson helped manufacture, the Dynasty IT. It topped out at 55 km/h and was essentially banned from the streets.

As Dayson pulls up to restaurant in downtown Vancouver and parks at a free charging station reserved for electric cars in front of a restaurant, he explains: ‘The last time I was here for a few hours I used 2 kWh of electricity.’ That’s about $0.10 worth of electricity.

The Chevy Volt deals with ‘range anxiety’ by adding a gas-powered generator under the hood that can extend the range of the car to 600 km versus the 65 km range of a similar electric-only car.

An electric-only car in B.C. saves about 80 per cent on pollution emissions over a conventional car. But surprisingly ‘The studies show that even if you are powering your car with electricity that comes from a pure coal-generated  plant – there’s less pollution than from gasoline,’ says Dayson.

Are B.C. people greener than most? British Columbians are twice as likely to purchase hybrid vehicles compared to the Canadian average. Not only does B.C. have a generous rebate but they are also set to install 450 electric charging stations across the province.

Is the electric car finally for real? Dayson scoffs at those who call electric cars a gimmick.

‘When the first cell phones came out people definitely thought they were gimmicks. Who is going to carry around a brick to be able to talk while walking down the street? Very quickly in our world gimmicks turn out to be an absolutely essential part of one’s life.’

Troy Media columnist David Dodge is the host and producer of Green Energy Futures, a multi-media series presented at www.greenenergyfutures.ca. The series is supported by TD, Suncor Energy and the Pembina Institute.

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