Everyday EV notes part 2
It’s 2022. A lot has happened since I posted the first Everyday EV notes.
Since getting an EV, I am more attuned to noticing other EVs on the road. It’s not unusual to see a Tesla pass me on the freeway, but other EV brand sightings are more rare. I keep a look out for Nissan Leafs, Kia Souls, Chevy Bolts… the more affordable brands for the rest of us. I never used to notice car brands at all. Not interested in cars, would rather do without if I could, and don’t care what kind of car anyone else drives. Except now I get excited when I spot another Bolt, which usually only happens at a fast charging station and even that has only happened a few times.
It seems like every other day I hear a story about electric vehicles on CBC radio on the drive to work. If it’s not a story about EVs, it’s a story about the price of oil, the destructive mining of lithium for lithium-ion batteries, reports on climate change, natural disasters caused by climate change, the war in the Ukraine affecting oil and energy supplies etc. It’s all connected.
On my commute I am vigilantly watching the battery level on the dashboard display and listening to the radio for the traffic report to avoid accidents or stalls. All winter I’ve been driving to work before sunrise and home from work after sunset (the reality of life at a northern latitude is that we have only 8 hours of sunlight per day and all of those hours are spent at work).
With the colder temperatures hitting in December and January, I noticed an extreme reduction in the speed of charging and reduction in the kilometer range available with a full charge. Instead of fully charging in 12 hours, at below minus 20 it can take over 24 hours. Instead of having 300 km range with a full charge, I could have less than 200 km range, and the car uses more battery to run at those low temperatures, meaning the charge is depleted faster. Do the math… it’s not favourable.
Oddly, I haven’t seen much discussion on the impact of cold temperatures on EVs… and it leads me to believe that most EV drivers live in warmer climates and/or have a heated garage or a heated underground parkade to park in and charge their battery at above zero temperature. But what are outdoor parking/street parking EV drivers supposed to do? Give up on the EV?
We live in a condo townhouse and do not have a garage or an indoor place to park the car. We don’t have the ability to install a level 2 charging station and instead rely on the regular electrical outlet that all the outdoor parking lots in the cold prairie provinces traditionally have. These outdoor outlets are for plugging in the block heater to prevent a normal non-electric-car battery from freezing. The standard Canadian prairie solution to older gas cars that won’t start in winter has become the infrastructure we need for overnight EV charging.
I learned the hard way that the slower rate of cold weather charging at the standard electrical outlet also applies to the fast-charging stations. Topping up the battery from half charge to full charge, which would take 20 to 30 minutes at warmer temperatures in October, takes 40 minutes to an hour at -25 in January. Not to mention, several times the fast-charging station would not read my payment card in the below — 20 temperatures and I froze trying in vain to warm up the screen with my bare hands and holding the card against the glass for longer. Since fast charging is far more expensive than level 1 or 2 charging, and you pay by the minute at a rate of $20/hour, the slower rate of charging at low temperatures means the cost of topping up the battery doubles in winter. The limits on outdoor overnight charging in our condo parking lot, the high cost in money and time for using a fast-charging station, and the reduced range at full charge put a strain on my daily commute.
And then in the middle of February, our charging cable was stolen while charging overnight in our parking lot stall. It was not a surprise, just classic bad timing. The high probability of cable theft was on my radar when deciding to buy an EV. This the one factor that almost dissuaded me from it altogether. In the end my solution was to only charge during the day at the outdoor block heater outlet at work, where there is a camera on the parking lot and more people around to deter opportunistic theft. However, with the charge deficit increasing in the cold weather, I didn’t have much choice but to charge at home overnight in our outdoor parking lot. After the cable theft, my only option was to use a fast charging station on my way home from work, wasting precious time and trying to save energy by keeping the heater off, sitting in the car bundled up in my winter jacket, scarf, toque, mitts and winter boots. Replacing the cable costs $250 to $500 and with no guarantee that it wouldn’t be immediately stolen again, it was hard to justify. I got a more generic cable, not the brand model that came with the car, and started locking the cable to the front wheel with a bicycle lock.
Although I almost threw in the towel this winter, after two separate weeks-long stretches of -30 weather, the range anxiety and the cable-theft, we’re sticking with the EV after all. The method of locking the cable to the wheel seems to be working, thankfully. So far and the ability to charge overnight at home as well as at work during the day has boosted my confidence and increased battery range so I never worry that I won’t make it to work in the morning. As the price of gas goes up and reaches rates never seen before in Alberta, upwards of $1.70/Litre, the EV savings grow. Now, I’m just waiting for the battery recall notification, to replace the original battery which is at risk of spontaneously combusting.