Demystifying Electric Vehicles (AskNRCan)

There are so many myths surrounding electric vehicles: how they work, how far they can go and how much they cost. On this episode of AskNRCan, we’re myth busting EVs! Car lover and NRCan program officer Yves Madore talks about common misconceptions about electric vehicles, from charging stations to battery life to charge time.


 Joel: Hi everyone, welcome to ask NRCan. In today’s episode, we’ll be talking about electric vehicles. We’ll explore some of the common myths surrounding electric vehicles. If this is your first time listening to this podcast, what we do on this show is we discuss a topic related to the work that we do at Natural Resources Canada, or NRCan for short. We introduce the topic, we discuss it with one of our experts, and then we look to you to continue the conversation on social media. At the end of the episode, if you have any questions on this topic, we want you to go on Twitter and tweet us using #askNRCan. Our expert will do his or her best to answer all relevant questions. Sound good? Ok, let’s get into it. 

Joel: Joining us today is Yves Menard. Yves, how are you?

Yves: I’m doing well, and you, Joel?

Joel: Very good, thank you. Now, you’re with the Transportation and Alternative Fuels Division, right?

Yves: Correct.

Joel: Ok, So what do you do when it comes to electric vehicles?

Yves: Most of our work is around awareness. On our website we have videos and factsheets. We also produce the annual fuel consumption guide. It’s a guide for consumers to use when they’re shopping for a vehicle, to compare the ratings of those vehicles so that they can choose the most fuel-efficient vehicle that meets their everyday needs.

Joel: That’s all accessible on the NRCan website?

Yves: Yep, 

Joel: Oh, perfect.

Yves: The top link is the fuel consumption guide.

Joel: We’re starting off with the plugs, that’s good.


Joel: I have some questions for you about common beliefs surrounding electric vehicles, specifically battery-powered electric vehicles. What I was hoping to do was just go through these questions and see if you can separate fact from fiction. Are you up to it?

Yves: I love talking about cars, so this is perfect.

Joel: Let’s do it. Ok, I’m going to start with my biggest concern. What most people seem to be worried about when it comes to electric vehicles is being stranded in the middle of nowhere without power. So do we have the infrastructure in place in Canada to get from point A to point B, regardless of how far those two points are?

Yves: Yeah, absolutely. So in Canada, there are approximately 4,400 public charging stations, level 2 charging stations, all over Canada. They’re easy to find, there’s a variety of applications out there that have maps of where they’re located: EvchargeHub, CAA, Chargepoint. Some of those apps have trip planners. So, say you’re going from point A to point B. You can put those two points in, and it tells you where to stop, where to get a charge and all the information you may need. We’re also working on our own map that will cover all of the alternative fuels, not just electrics, but also fuel cell, natural gas or any other of the alternative fuels for vehicles out there and that will run in Canada and the U.S. So, we’re working extensively to try and provide those tools to consumers so that they don’t have to worry about getting stuck and stranded without power. Then there’s also the Green Infrastructure Program run by our division and its goal, phase 1 just finished, and 102 level 3 chargers were installed. So, these are the DC fast chargers that you hear about. Eighty percent charge in 30 minutes in your car. The goal of that program is to have refuelling stations from coast to coast. So you will be covered across Canada with your EV.

Joel: So, most people with electric vehicles, do they use those stations as their main point of charging their vehicles?

Yves: Great question. Ninety percent of charging for EVs is done at home and at work. You’re done your day, you’re at home, you plug your car in and while you sleep, it recharges. That’s where the majority of charging is done. Although there’s that network you’re covered on trips should you need it. Most charging is done at home.

Joel: Oh, that’s interesting. I never actually considered that. What is the time frame for a full charge?

Yves: Another great question. It depends on three things: how much of the battery is depleted; its like filling up your gas tank, the size of the battery and the level of the charger. So, we talked about level 2 and level 3. Level 2 basically is like a clothes dryer plug, and level 3 has much more current. One of the most popular EVs out there is the Nissan Leaf. When we’re talking about EVs, generally speaking we mean plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and battery electric vehicles, just for a bit of context. The Nissan Leaf is a battery electric vehicle; six hours for a fully depleted battery using a level 2 charger. But it’s not like you have to do this every day. Chances are, for example, with our EV we travel 20 kilometres roundtrip from work to home. You charge it at night; a couple of hours, it’s done, it’s fully charged. And you can do it at night while your car is sitting in your parking lot or garage anyway. So you’re saving a ton of time because you’re not going to the gas station.  

Joel: That’s pretty good, and that brings me to my next question. When we talk about batteries, are these batteries reliable? What’s their range? Can you go 500 kilometres?

Yves: Yeah, again this completely depends on the size of the battery. Generally speaking, on the most common EVs, like the Nissan Leaf, it’s about 170 kilometres for the 2017 model. The batteries keep getting better and more efficient. So now you have the Chevy Volt that will do 380 kilometres on one charge; you have Teslas that go even further. And they’re reliable. There isn’t a ton of data out there on battery degradation, but there’s actually a really cool public source gathering of information on battery degradation. So, there’s this organization that put together a Google doc for Tesla owners to input their battery degradations. They measure it on two accounts: they measure on distance travelled with the battery and how old the battery is. So, right now we’re seeing vehicles with about 100,000 kilometres on them a degradation of about 10 percent. So you still have 90 percent of the range available after 100,000 kilometres. And there doesn’t seem to be a major dropoff even after 200,000 kilometres. For years, about a five to 10 percent degradation over three to five years. Batteries, if we look at the Leaf and Tesla, the most popular EVs out there — or battery electric vehicles, I should say — the manufacturer’s warranty is for eight years. So, you don’t have to worry about replacing the batteries every year.

Joel: But they’re replaceable, right?

Yves: Yeah, it’s just something you don’t hear a lot about because it’s not really done.

Joel: So, let’s talk money. When I hear electric vehicle, I think “more expensive.” Is that really the case? What’s is the cost up front? What’s the long-term cost? Do you save anything? Is it on par?

Yves: Yeah, we talk about the cost parity all the time. People talk about battery electric vehicles, and the first thing that comes to mind is a $100,000 Tesla. It’s not really the case, and you’re right, they’re a lot cheaper to operate. In 2016, the average price of a new car sold was just short of $29,800. Let’s compare that to a Nissan Leaf, with a suggested manufacturer’s price was just under $36,000. If you’re buying that vehicle in Ontario, you’re getting $14,000 back from the provincial government, so now that car is $20,000. So, now we’re thinking: Okay, that’s the price of — I’ve got a quiz question for you. What’s the most-sold car in Canada?

Joel: I’m going to say the Honda Civic.

Yves: Exactly. You’re right, you’re a car guy.

Joel: A little bit.

Yves: So I think that that’s about the rough price of a Honda Civic. I looked these numbers up before coming in. It will cost you, based on our NRGuide estimates, about $1,300 to operate a Honda Civic with gasoline using the NRGuide ratings. It will cost you about $480 with the Nissan Leaf. So, that is a significant decrease in the cost, just in fuel alone. There’s also that brakes will last longer, not as many moving parts, you don’t have to go for an oil change because it’s an electric motor. There’s that cost parity. But you need to look into it, and you have to know how much you spend in gas in a year. It’s funny, because it’s a major expense. But we used to travel to a lot of car shows with the program engaging consumers in that conversation. You would ask them, How much do you spend in gas in a year? And they can’t tell you, they don’t even know. It’s a major expense; we’re talking for most Canadians $2,000 a year. So, with electric vehicles, there’s a major opportunity there to decrease that cost. And then you match that up with the rebates that provinces make available, and then you’re at that cost parity.

Joel: Wow, that’s much better than I thought it was. For me, personally, that’s the thing preventing me from getting an electric vehicle right now. I wouldn’t call myself a car guy, but I do love driving. I really like muscle cars. I like the power — I’m not going to expand on that, depending on who is going to hear this! — but I do enjoy driving. My worry is that driving electric vehicles wouldn’t be as much fun. 

Yves: Now we’re talking cars, now we’re having fun.


Yves: What do we love about those muscle cars? There’s the power, the smell of gas, the smell of burning rubber. There’s the sound of the engine, that aggressive look, that styling, that we love. There’s also the feeling of torque, when you accelerate and you get pushed back into your seat. Well, that’s one thing EVs have a lot of. You think of a light: you flip the switch, the light is on. There’s no torque band in an electric car. It’s 100 percent of torque right from zero. So it’s fun in that sense. We talked about the Leaf; the 2017 Leaf, I think, had about 210 power force of torque. So for a small car, pretty reasonable amount of torque. You think about the top echelon, Tesla model S — now that’s a car that’s fun to drive. It actually has a mode “Ludacris.”


Yves: It’s called “Ludacris Mode.” You flip that “Ludacris Mode” on a Tesla Model S with a big battery P100 — zero to 60 in 2.7 seconds.

Joel: I kind of feel like, to get the feel of the full experience, I would need to test drive the Tesla. Can that be done?


Yves: I’ve been working on that myself.

Joel: Ok, yeah; we’ll work on that.

Yves: I don’t know if you’ve seen this Road & Track Performance Car of the Year competition. The Tesla Model S was the vehicle with the best acceleration that they had ever tested. And then they put it up against all the super cars — McLaren, Ferrari, Bugatti, every top super car — and they did a quarter mile race, and the Tesla beat everything.

Joel: Really!

Yves: And it did it quietly.


Yves: So, they’re fun to drive and there’s a different fondness about … you know, the other thing we like about muscle cars. People will stop you when you’re driving one of these cars, and they have a story about they drove a car like that, or their parents had one, or something like that, or they learned how to drive in one, those hot muscle cars of the 60s and 70s. And also the looks that you get when driving down the street with one, you know when people are looking at you — that’s exciting, that’s fun. There’s that with EVs too. They’re so new that you’ll be parking somewhere — you know, the grocery store — and someone is stopping you and asking you all the questions we’re asking today because they’re curious. They want to know more about it so that’s fun. The other thing is, we have a Ford and Ford has an app and you can track all the vehicles performance on the app, which is fun for a gear head like me. But the other thing is that it will rate you on your driving, give you achievements and medals and all these things. It’s kind of fun. And then it also compares you to people in your area. So you know you can say you’ve got this kind of eco-driver score and you rank at this level. So it’s fun and competitive in that way to. They’re fun to drive in a different way. The car also gives you a lot of feedback. It will rate you on your braking: the more fuel-efficient that you drive, digital leaves will grow on a screen. Start driving aggressively, and these leaves start flying away and you’re like, “Oh my God, I have got to slow down!”

Joel: It’s all positive feedback. It’s not like a back seat driver that’s criticizing your braking?

Yves: No, you can turn it off too; you might not be able to turn off the back seat driver.

Joel: That’s true.

Yves: You can change the menu as well. But yeah, they’re fun to drive.

Joel: Awesome, that’s great, Yves. Thank you so much for taking the time to come chat with us.

Yves: My pleasure.

Joel: Awesome, we’ll have you back for a sequel after we test drive the Tesla.


Yves: That’s a great idea.

Joel: Okay, thanks.

Yves: You’re welcome.

Joel: So now is the point of the episode where we ask you, the listeners, to continue the conversation over social media. If you have any questions for Yves, or if you have comments on this episode, please go on Twitter and tweet us using the #AskNRCan. We also want to invite you to check out Simply Science. It’s the Natural Resources new online scientific magazine. The focus of the magazine is to profile the science that we do here at the department, but also the people that do it. We do this through podcasts like this one, videos and articles to make our science engaging and accessible. You can find Simply Science online at If you check out our Simply Science page about this podcast, you’ll see links to any relevant materials, so you can do your own research, and you can send Yves and me some questions.

Joel: If you like this episode and are listening on ITunes or SoundCloud, please consider subscribing so you can check out any of our previous or future episodes. Well that’s it for us today. Thank you for listening. We look forward to hearing from you, and we’ll see you next time.