Why I Bought an Electric Vehicle

I originally published this post in March 2017, while I was still living in Canada. My car recently turned one year old, and I am as happy with it now as the day that I bought it. Lately, a lot of people have asked me about my experience owning a Volt, so, I decided to re-publish this post. I’ve inserted updates along the way in orange. I hope it helps! 

I bought my first car! It’s a 2017 Chevrolet Volt LT and I am very happy with it. I will admit that the Volt was not my first choice – that honour goes to the Tesla Model S 100D – but it was definitely the best choice. Here’s why:


At the time of purchase, my commute was 63 km of highway driving each way. At that time, the Chevrolet Bolt and the Tesla Model 3, had not yet been released for the Canadian market, leaving the Model S as the only true electric vehicle with enough range to meet my need. Being financially prudent, I decided that a pure EV was not an option.

That opened the door for the Volt. The Volt is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, which means that it has an extended electric range in addition to over 500 km of conventional range. In the summer months, April – October, I easily get 70 km of electric range cruising at 120 km/h on the highway. In the city, that range is well over 100 km due to regenerative breaking. In the winter months, November – March, I see about a 20 percent reduction in range compared to the summer months. This completely normal decrease in range has many causes. Not only do powertrains loose efficiency at lower temperatures, but increased use of climate controls and increased rolling friction due to snow and winter tires also play significant roles. What is important to remember is that conventional vehicles also loose efficiency in the winter months, sometimes on the order of 20 to 30 percent as well. Now that I am living in California, I don’t see any drop in range during the winter months.

Charging and Fuel Costs

A full charge on my Volt costs me $1.60 – no I didn’t miss any zeroes! When I was commuting 126 km per day, I spent approximately $100 per month on gas and $40 per month on electricity. In other words, I saved approximately $60 per month on fuel! Now that I no longer have that commute, I haven’t put gas in my car for seven weeks. Now that I am back to work at Tesla, I have my car charged for free! I haven’t paid for fuel, gas or electric, since I went on a road trip to Oregon in August. 

In order to effectively charge my Volt at home I had to hire an electrician to purchase and install a charger. I bought this one. After government incentives, the total purchase and installation cost of the charger was approximately $900. Using this 240V charger I get a full charge in approximately 4 hours. Without it, a full charge takes approximately 13 hours through a typical 120V circuit.


Although maintenance costs didn’t make or break my decision to buy a Volt, it’s interesting to note that I have owned the car for almost seven months, have driven over 17,000 km, and I still haven’t needed any maintenance – not even an oil change. The car has an onboard system that indicates when an oil change is needed and I still have 46% of my oil life! 16 months and over 25,000 km in and I still haven’t needed maintenance. Oh, and I still have 24% of my original oil life.


After taxes, fees and incentives, my Volt cost me just under $34,000. There are a lot of good cars on the market in that price range but the Volt was the best option for me. Its aesthetic isn’t winning any awards but it’s a fairly good-looking car inside and out. It’s comfortable, silent and has a tonne of room in the hatch for storage. As a bonus, it has some cool toys like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and the ability to monitor and control the car through the myChevrolet app.

The truth is, most drivers are now able to purchase an electric vehicle with few, if any, changes in behaviour. For those still unable to purchase an EV or unsure whether they want to, the Volt offers the perfect opportunity to get your feet wet. If you do, I’m sure you will very quickly find that you’re ready to take the dive.

We Still Need Electric Vehicle Incentives

In December 2016, Canadian governments announced the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. Under the framework, Canada will have nationwide carbon pricing in 2018 – British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec already have a carbon pricing policy in place. (By the way, I don’t like “carbon” pricing. We should have a more general “pollution” pricing but that is a topic best left for a future post).

In preparation for the roll-out of nationwide carbon pricing, Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission recently published a paper titled Supporting Carbon Pricing: How to identify policies that genuinely complement an economy-wide carbon price. In the paper, among other things, the commission recommends that “with the implementation of an economy-wide carbon price, governments should phase out and avoid redundant, high-cost, or ineffective policies” like electric vehicle incentives. I disagree.

To justify their recommendation, the commission carried out a case study on electric vehicle incentives in Quebec. Under Quebec’s Drive Electric program, drivers who purchase or lease fully electric, plug-in-hybrid or hybrid vehicles are eligible for up to $8000 in rebates from the government. The program began in 2012 and will run until 2020, or until the $93 million in total rebates are exhausted. Through the case study, the commission concluded that by 2030, Quebec’s Drive Electric program will by responsible for a reduction of 3 Mt CO2e at a cost of $395/tonne. These estimates were reached by comparing model scenarios between the years of 2017 and 2030 in which the subsidy exists within one but not within the other. The province’s carbon pricing policy was included in both scenarios.

Now, it’s possible that I could be misunderstanding the details of the commission’s calculations but I have two issues with their method as I understand it. First, assuming that the $93 million in funds was not exhausted in the model before 2020, the Drive Electric program would only be in effect for the first 3 years of the scenario. They did not run a scenario where the Drive Electric program was extended to the year 2030. This design decision seriously underestimates the emission reduction potential of the program. Second, I don’t believe that advancements in electric vehicle technology and their supporting infrastructure were factored in to the models. As technology and infrastructure improve, the percentage of fully electric vehicles purchased under the program will rise. Moreover, those vehicles will be able to drive further per unit of energy. Both of these facts would lead to a improvement in the cost effectiveness of the program below the estimated $395/tonne CO2e. Unless you believe that by 2020 electric vehicles, nudged along by carbon pricing, will reach critical mass in the market, it doesn’t make sense to exclude my two points from the simulation. Still, I will concede that even accounting for the two potential downfalls I pointed out, electric vehicle incentives are still much more expensive to the government than the universally agreed upon, though somewhat arbitrary, $20-$30/tonne CO2e cost of carbon pricing. However, just because electric vehicle incentives are more costly than carbon pricing doesn’t mean they aren’t worth continuing.

In addition to the high cost, the commission recommends that electric vehicle incentives be phased out because they reduce competition in the “alternative fuels” marketplace. Essentially, they argue that electric vehicles should not overtake the passenger vehicle market as a result of government policy but by natural costs and preferences. I agree with this thought in theory but not in this case, the risks of not acting quickly are too high to let the market run its course. We need to agree that electric vehicles are a far better solution to our transportation needs than what we have now and that they are a good enough solution to move forward with. I have many reasons to support those claims but here are three…

Below is the electricity generation capacity mix of each province and territory in Canada in 2014 and projected to 2040 from the National Energy Board. (I don’t really agree with the projections so try to pay more attention to the 2014 numbers).

Screen Shot 2017-06-09 at 10.13.36 AM

The only place it doesn’t make sense to drive an electric vehicle, from a purely environmental perspective, is Nunavut because they generate 100% of their electricity from oil anyways. Even in Alberta, with less than 20% of its electricity generation from renewable sources it still makes environmental sense to drive an electric vehicle. You can do the math for yourself using the carbon emissions numbers for coal, oil and natural gas from the U.S. Energy Information Administration if you don’t believe me.

Second, electricity prices will likely fall due to the proliferation of electric vehicles. More electric vehicles on the roads will put a higher demand on electricity. As a result, governments will be forced to increase generation capability. The cheapest way to due that right now is through renewable sources, typically solar and wind. Since the “fuel” for solar and wind is free, the operating costs of those generation sites are drastically reduced and those savings will be passed on the consumers.

Finally, you never know what we will discover by investing in electric vehicle technology and infrastructure. If you need proof, look no further than the breakthroughs we can thank the space race for. When we invest in electric vehicle incentives we aren’t just paying for carbon reductions. We’re paying for health benefits, cheaper electricity, technological advancements and things we probably can’t even imagine at this point in time. Let’s keep going.