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Electric vehicle owners putting on a show this Saturday

Participants in open-house event at The Exploration Place ready to share their experiences, offer test drives for people curious about EV technology

Mark Vejvoda does not consider himself an environmentalist.

He’s not a tree-hugger and he supports the forestry and mining industries. He likes energy pipelines and he’s certainly no fan of tofu.

But like most motorists, Vejvoda hates the idea of paying $1.50 for a litre of gasoline at the pump and as the owner of an electric car he’s found an internal combustion alternative that he says more people should consider when they go looking for their next vehicle.

Vejvoda, a member of the Prince George Electric Vehicle Association, is inviting people curious about what it’s like to own and drive an electric vehicle to come and speak to him and other EV owners this Saturday from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at to The Exploration Place parking lot at Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park.

He’s encouraging everybody to come down to display their electric vehicles, whether it’s a car, truck, scooter, e-bike, snowmobile or ATV – and for people to visit the displays to learn more about how EVs work and even go for a test drive.

“For anyone who’s interested in maybe going electric, there will be a ton of people there who actually live in the area, so you won’t get Vancouver answers,” said Vejvoda. “I’ve had a Tesla Model 3 for two year and I’ve lived through a couple winters here, so anyone who is thinking about it, you’ll get the straight goods.

“I know there are certainly people in the association who are strong environmentalists but for me, it was the new technology and let’s see what this new way of transportation is, and I’m completely blown away.”

Vejvoda has a YouTube channel, Tesla Prince, which documents trips he’s made to Tumbler Ridge, Vancouver, Calgary and Prince Rupert and he is continually amazed at the practicality of his electric vehicle. The range of his Tesla on a full charge is about 518 kilometres and he says access to charging stations has improved significantly over the past two years

Tesla Super Charger stations are now being installed in the region which are capable of charging a car battery drained to 10 per cent and recharge it to 85 per cent in 15-20 minutes. They’re about five times faster than the BC Hydro stations. He pays 21 cents per minute to recharge at BC Hydro station, while Ministry of Transport stations are free. A slow charger requires about two hours for the same amount of charge. Vejvoda and his wife still drive a Ford F-150 pickup truck and a Honda Accord and he says he’s spent more on oil changes over the past year for the Honda than he did driving 30,000 km in his Tesla.

In Prince George, the Tesla Super Charger station is located at the Canadian Brewhouse parking lot along Highway 16, and there are super chargers coming online in Quesnel, Williams Lake, Cache Creek, Hope and Jasper. BC Hydro is installing chargers in larger communities west of Prince George that will connect to Prince Rupert. All the Tesla stations in the province also have two or three high-speed generic chargers for other types of electric vehicles.

“I can get to Vancouver almost in the same amount of time as a gas vehicle now because of those super chargers,” Vejvoda said. “I would say driving north of the city is the most challenging.”

Because the batteries are mounted to the chassis in EVs, the low weight distribution provides better traction and cornering ability, especially in slippery conditions. There’s less vibration and quieter rides and the occupants are not getting jostled in their seats as much on corners. Because of that, Vejvoda says his wife no longer gets motion sickness on long highway trips.

There only about 15 Tesla owners in Prince George and Vejvoda says his was the first brand-new vehicle he’s ever purchased. He keeps his Tesla in an unheated garage and there’s no denying that cold temperatures decrease how far he can drive on a single charge.

“I was anti-EV in 2019, but when I started doing research I realized a lot of the statements people made about cold weather, and this and that, were actually false,” Vejvoda said.

“In the winter when it gets minus 20 C or colder you’ll lose 35 to 50 per cent of the range but that really only affects you on a long-distance trip. I’ve gone to Kamloops last winter when it was minus 20 and it was doable, you just have to charge more frequently.

“The cool thing about electric vehicles is you plug in every day and you have a full charge and you’re never visiting a gas station. I can let my car heat up in the garage in the winter with the garage door closed because there’s no carbon monoxide, so I always have a warm car when I’m heading out in -30.”  

It’s estimated there are about 150 EV owners in Prince George and Vejvoda expects that number to grow exponentially as battery technology advances, new vehicle prices drop, more used vehicles become available, and more manufacturers expand choices available to consumers.

Tesla guarantees its car batteries for 160,000 km and provides assurances that they will maintain at least 70 per cent of their charging capacity for eight years. Vejvoda says statistics back that they only rarely retain less than 90 per cent capacity over that lifetime.

He says Tesla has announced a new model coming on stream that will sell for $25,000 US and is developing a truck with a 1,000 km range. The company already has semi-trailer trucks that use generators to charge themselves on downhill grades. He’s also encouraged by advances in e-bike battery technology which he says will open up backcountry trail exploration for nature-lovers like himself.

Vejvoda, a 48-year-old father of seven, works from his home as a software architect for a Boston-based company. Originally from Ontario, he spent 12 years in Kelowna before moving to Prince George 13 years ago. He said he could live anywhere but chose Prince George because of his love for the outdoors and the outward friendliness of people who live in the city.

The open house event is sponsored by Emotive, part of the provincial government-sponsored CleanBC Go Electric Program. The Prince George Electric Vehicle Association (PGEVA) formed in 2009 and it exists to share information and advice to EV owners in north central B.C.