Many Albertans are now looking at the real possibility of purchasing an electric vehicle. While there’s certainly excitement around the gas savings and environmental benefits, it’s also natural to feel some anxiety around making the switch.
In Alberta, most people have lived their entire lives in a world with almost exclusively gas-powered vehicles. But that world is changing, as Canada will require all new personal vehicles to be zero-emission by 2035. The good news is, those who’ve made the switch say there’s no reason to feel uneasy.
THE EV EXPERIENCE
When you first get behind the wheel of an EV, the console and general feel of the vehicle are almost identical to what you’re used to—aside from different tech on the dash. But as soon as you start driving, you’ll probably immediately observe that the vehicle accelerates much faster than gas-powered internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.
“The biggest thing that I noticed is just the feeling of driving,” says Jody Miller, an Alberta EV owner who purchased a Hyundai Kona Electric in spring 2021. “From when you press the accelerator to the time it responds, there’s no delay.”
Andrew Batiuk with the Electric Vehicle Association of Alberta (EVAA) says the vehicles are also much quieter to drive, since EVs have fewer moving parts than their ICE counterparts. For drivers, the quiet engine means pedestrians can’t always hear you coming—so be hyper vigilant on the roads.
Batiuk explains that the simplified design of EVs additionally means they “come with the benefit of fewer pieces that can go wrong, so they have reduced maintenance requirements.”
A feature that’s in most EVs you may not know about is regenerative braking technology: essentially, creating power by capturing kinetic energy that would normally be lost.
“When you slow down, instead of just letting waste energy go out as heat, (an EV) puts some of that energy back into the battery pack, allowing you to go further,” Batiuk says.
Why the future is bright for Electric Cars in Alberta
MAKING THE CHANGE
Miller, an AMA employee in Edmonton, had initial concerns about driving his EV in Alberta winters. But they were quickly eased as he experienced his first cold season with his new ride.
“I had no issues with the vehicle starting right away,” Miller says. “And as soon as it starts, you do get warm air from the heaters coming out. It’s very similar to when you plug in a hairdryer: you click the button, turn it on, and you get heat pretty quickly.”
Miller did notice that his battery had a shorter range in the winter as he used power to heat his vehicle—but he also observed that same difference in the summer with air conditioning.
As far as charging goes, Miller says he generally is able to get all the juice he needs from free community stations in his neighbourhood or at stores while running errands—although his family also installed a (rarely used) at-home charger.
The EVAA’s Batiuk says that while there needs to be some thought put into where and when you’re charging your EV, especially in the case of longer trips, the trade-off is that you no longer have the inconvenience of gas.
“You get past the difference of (not) going to the gas station, and instead you’re plugging it in overnight and having it full in the morning,” Batiuk says. “Then, you drive it like a regular car and you don’t think about it, and you also don’t have to think every week, ‘Am I low on gas?’”
GOING ELECTRIC WITH AMA
EVs will eventually be the most common new vehicle on the road. As part of AMA’s ongoing commitment to our members’ mobility—no matter how you choose to travel—we’re installing charging stations at some of our centres. That way, you can keep your EV battery topped up and ready for the road if you’re stopping by for another AMA service, or if you’re simply in the area and need some juice.
The first three charging stations will be installed at our Edmonton South, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat locations.
We’re also making sure that we’re ready to offer support while you’re on the road in an EV. Firstly, AMA Insurance offers a Green Discount for policyholders who drive a hybrid or electric vehicle.
AMA’s Roadside Assistance team already has the capability and training to tow EVs if you ever get stranded—and we’ve added emergency EV-charging services with Spark charge units on select service vehicles (with more to come as demand for this service increases) that can get a driver recharged on the go, by using one of your roadside calls.
We’re also looking to the future and the next generation of drivers, which is why AMA Driver Education is introducing electric vehicles as part of its learning program. We want to make sure that new drivers know there are special considerations when it comes to EVS—there are different braking distances, charging best practices, and some important safety methods when it comes to protecting pedestrians who might not hear an ultra-quiet EV approaching.
And just as we’ve always done, AMA will continue to be the province’s leading traffic safety advocate as the landscape of personal mobility evolves. In the early days of the automobile we recognized the need to advocate for things like roads and infrastructure, driver licensing and licence plates – and today, as electric vehicles and other technologies become more common in our communities, we’re as dedicated as ever to ensure all Albertans can get home safely however they’re choosing to be mobile.
You can find more information about AMA’s work to support EVs at ama.ab.ca/EV.
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