The prospect of swapping an internal combustion engine (ICE) and gasoline for an electric motor and battery can feel a little ambitious here in Alberta. The bulk of Canadian electric vehicle (EV) sales to date have been in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia, and in North America as a whole, it’s California that’s often the source of EV news. But with automakers pouring billions into development and more Albertans choosing to make the switch, electrification is coming to a vehicle near you. If you haven’t noticed them already, within a couple of years, new EVs from the likes of Nissan, RAM, Hyundai, Kia, Toyota and Volkswagen will all be common sights on Alberta’s highways, joining those from Tesla, Ford, GM and others that are already here.
With EV and PHEV (plug-in hybrid electrical vehicle) adoption on the rise, AMA was keen to assess the experience of Albertan drivers who have already gone electric. The result is a comprehensive survey—The Voice of the Canadian Electric Vehicle Driver—released in March 2023. “All the signs point to more families making the choice to switch to an EV,” says Jane Flower, vice president of corporate purpose for AMA. “It won’t happen overnight, but the transition is underway. The experience of early adopters here in Alberta will help us learn where things are going well and where there’s still work needing to be done.”
The Results Are In
Thanks to 1,010 survey respondents from Alberta—and more than 16,000 drivers who took the survey nationwide— we now have a clear picture of what it’s like to own an electric vehicle in Alberta. The survey results show that, for almost all of those 1,000 plus Albertans, owning an EV or PHEV has been a tremendously positive experience. An overwhelming 97 percent were happy with their vehicle and 96 percent said they were likely to repurchase an EV. Even allowing for a margin of error and the natural enthusiasm of the early adopter, those are remarkably high figures consistent with responses from across Canada.
Drivers were also asked to rate the level of their pre-purchase concerns in 14 areas, from range and battery degradation to the impact on their home electricity bill. Having garnered first-hand ownership experience, they were then asked to rate those concerns again. In all cases, the survey found concerns dropped as confidence increased among Albertan EV drivers. For example, confidence in battery range after owning an EV went up by 37 percent, while confidence in cold weather performance after owning increased by 30 percent. What’s more, recent developments in battery chemistry and related technologies should improve cold-weather performance in the future as new models find their way to a highway near you.
There’s no doubt as to the biggest issue identified by survey participants. “Not enough public charging” was a concern for 66 percent of EV owners before they bought their vehicle, and two-thirds of that group—44 percent overall—said their experience after purchase indicated that it was still a problem. Given the relatively slow rollout of high-speed public charging in Alberta so far, that’s no surprise. “We know that public charging infrastructure is an area where there’s still room for improvement,” says Flower. “We’ve heard it in anecdotes from members, and it’s helpful to have this validated by folks across Alberta with first-hand experience.” AMA is playing its part to improve the situation. In partnership with the Southrow Electric Vehicle Charging Program—administered by the Municipal Climate Change Action Centre, a collaboration between the provincial government and Alberta municipalities—AMA has added charging stations in Edmonton, Medicine Hat and Lethbridge, with additional chargers set to launch in Calgary, Camrose, Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, and Sherwood Park. “The public charging infrastructure landscape today is not what it’s going to look like in six months or two years,” notes Flower. “For Albertans who are still a couple years away from making the switch, the experience will be significantly improved when they do so.”
Support for All
The survey illustrates that work remains along the road to electrification in Alberta—apartment owners and renters, for example, are less likely to own an EV due to difficulties with home charging. But the data also shows that anyone who thinks an EV will suit their situation can make the switch with confidence, knowing that more than nine out of ten EV owners here in the province have had a positive experience. An equally overwhelming majority of PHEV drivers have indicated that this hybrid solution—enough electricity for short journeys with the peace of mind of an ICE for longer runs—is another great option for Albertans. AMA has added EVs to its Driving School and corporate fleets. Two Ford F-150 Lightning trucks are offering battery service in Calgary and Edmonton, as are mobile SparkCharge units, which enable out-of-charge EV drivers to get moving again with a boost of power similar to a fuel delivery for members who run out of gas. Flower states, “AMA will continue to support our members, however they choose to be mobile.”
READY TO GO ELECTRIC?
Curious about which EV or PHEV may be right for you? Go to ama.ab.ca/EV to check out the EV Buyer’s Guide.