Everyday EV notes part 3
We went on our first Alberta road trip with the Bolt in late March. It was a rather epic adventure, planning and pacing the distance between charging stations. We needed DC fast charging stations, not the more abundant level 2 slow charging. The drive that would take 3 hours between Calgary and Edmonton in a gas-powered car took us over 5 hours. To fully charge the 60 kwh battery, we have to stop and charge for at least one hour and depending on the temperature it could be longer. We stopped to top up the charge before leaving Calgary and again en-route. We only found one fast charging station on the entire route and conveniently it was situated halfway between point A and point B in the small city of Red Deer Alberta. Not so conveniently, the location of the DC fast charging station was on the edge of the lot of a small Canadian Tire gas station, far from the highway in an obscure corner of an industrial area with no amenities, no sidewalk, nowhere to sit except in the car, no where to get warm in winter, no where to buy food except the tiny gas station store. I tried to use the washroom in the gas station during the hour and a half charging process and was told the toilet was out of commission. On the return trip, charging again for over an hour, I entered the gas station store and overheard the clerk talking with a customer about how they hate EVs and should just pave the road with them, since they don’t contribute to road maintenance with fuel tax.
Rural/central Alberta’s economy/employment is heavily reliant on the oil and gas industry which for decades has given workers the ability to make good money and live large on wages not seen in other provinces. Since the most recent big recession and loss of many of those high wage trades jobs, giant banners hung on semi trailers parked in fields lining the highway proclaim “I heart Oil & Gas” and “I love pipelines.” With the cultural biases and the endless prairie stretching beneath clear skies it’s hard to imagine anyone giving up their gas guzzling trucks and their freedom to drive anywhere on long country roads, beyond electrical grids and past the range of battery charging stations.
Edmonton was a different story. We had no trouble finding a fast-charging station that even had two fast charge ports. The station was located next to the freeway into town and in a big shopping complex with multiple options for food, washrooms and staying warm.
Leaving on the return trip with a full battery and a confidence that comes with experience, we had a sense of accomplishment and possibility. Traveling with an EV is a learning curve and presents challenges a non EV driver wouldn’t face. However, the EV experience also presents opportunities. Once I got a feel for how long it would take, I started bringing marking to work on in the car while parked at the fast charging station. I got some paperwork done while charging before leaving Edmonton. Instead of visiting fast food restaurants or big box malls while charging at the remote, industrial Red Deer station, we left the car locked and went for a walk. We found our way to the river and a paved pathway leading along the river bank and under two bridges. Watching the early spring ice floating in the main current offered a chance to wake up to the present moment, the natural cycles, to connect with the land. We went back to the car parked at the charging station and made sandwiches with the cooler of supplies we had packed. Eating our picnic lunch, talking and daydreaming about summer road trip plans, it was easy to imagine a near future where people take a slower pace, stopping a few times enroute to explore and relax, stretch their legs and enjoy.
I know that driving an EV is not the solution to the world’s problems. I would rather, walk, ride a bike, take transit any day. I don’t want the weight of toxic mining practices on my shoulders and don’t want to hog the supply of lithium in my personal vehicle while there are 8 billion+ people’s transportation and energy storage needs to consider. But as the mainstream news is forecasting, EVs are coming and with them an opportunity to shift the current mind frame of faster and more. Questions arise about how to restructure the tax system to support public roads when the taxes on fossil fuels are no longer generating adequate revenue. Changing economies will require creative solutions and could create opportunities for rethinking critical public infrastructure and how to support access for everyone.