Dozens of electric vehicles quietly zipped around southern Vancouver Island over a recent 10-day span, their drivers taking part in a rally open exclusively to e-vehicles.
Participants had to unravel clues and travel to as many of the 122 rally locations as they could in the first-ever Plug-In Challenge.
“It was huge,” said Julian Sale, a director with the Victoria EV Club, which organized the event.
“The intention here was to get people driving around on electricity, without burning any gas at all,” said Sale.
Even though they already own EVs, many of the 56 drivers were surprised what the vehicles are capable of.
“In this challenge we did about 900 kilometres, and at the highest BC Hydro rate for my car to go that 900 kilometres cost me $18 in electricity," Martin Webb, the proud owner of a Smart EV.
"For 10 days of driving for hours on end and having absolutely tremendous fun, $18,” he said.
“And finding the huge number of chargers over on Salt Spring has now taken away the fear of being able to drive over to Salt Spring with the car that has limited range,” he added.
His experience is in line with a new Research Co. poll which found most Vancouver Islanders say they’ll seriously consider buying an EV the next time they purchase a new car.
“What is also interesting is a really high level of endorsement for the things that the government is doing – so 71 per cent who say it's a good idea that by 2040 all vehicles should be electric and zero-emission," said Mario Canseco, president of Research Co.
According to the poll, the biggest thing holding islanders back is the concern about having enough places to charge a vehicle, followed by the fear of being stranded if they can’t find a charging station. The price of electric vehicles was the third concern.
Canseco said there are far more charging stations than most people realize and with the right combination of rebates drivers can take up to $16,000 off the price of an EV.
There are about 400 charging stations on the South Island.
Somehow those facts have to get to drivers, Canseco said.
"It's not only about infrastructure but information. People need to know that by the time they make this decision that the charging stations will be there for them," he said.
Cordova Bay’s Sheena Pennie doesn’t need any convincing.
Pennie and a friend managed to get to 101 destinations during Plug-In Challenge, more than anyone else.
“These two crazy ladies and we won the top prize, it was fantastic," said Pennie, who has two electric vehicles. "We just had a blast."
She said the rally was a great opportunity to educate others about electric cars.
“Once you are an EV driver, you are the biggest ambassador going. You will tell and convince everybody to buy electric cars.”