Thriving Not Just Surviving

Atlantic Canadian electric vehicle industry plugged in and powered up through pandemic

By Kristen Lipscombe

It seems not even a global pandemic can put the brakes on the electric vehicle industry.

“It’s been growing exponentially,” said Kurt Sampson, co-founder and chair of regional non-profit group the Electric Vehicle Association of Atlantic Canada (EVAAC), which got its start just over three years ago. “The pandemic hasn’t slowed us down at all.”

Whether it’s colleagues, friends, family members – or just those who have stumbled across EVAAC looking for information – more and more people have been reaching out to well-known regional “EV guy” Sampson to inquire about the advantages of ditching gas and plugging in.

“There are a lot more people getting to the point where they are contemplating or close to being certain that their next vehicle is going to be electric,” Sampson said. “They can really picture themselves (driving an electric vehicle); they just need to ask a few questions first.”

Questions from those new to electric vehicles range from how long it takes to charge, to winter range, and long trips. More specific questions come from those who are getting closer to buying one, like “do you undercoat your EV?” or “do they make a difference on insurance?”

“They’ll get more specific, like ‘should I get just a 30-amp charger, or should I install one that is 50 or 80 amps?” described Sampson. “You can tell they’ve been doing research themselves, so it’s good to see.”

It’s good to see for many reasons, said Sampson, who is an EV encourager but, believe it or not, doesn’t sell vehicles himself. His day job is a systems analyst at Dalhousie University in Halifax, N.S. and those good reasons aren’t just the oft-touted environmental benefits of EVs, although that is largely why he personally drives electric.

“I’m a parent of two small children, and I work at a university and am around scientists and have good friends who have been working on issues related to the climate for a long time,” Sampson said. “I have a strong desire to leave the world in a better place for my children, and for everyone’s children.”

The economics are well-worth it, too. Sampson is certain of that because he’s put his IT-expertise to work calculating costs of the various hybrid and electric vehicles he’s owned over the years. “They’re a little more expensive up-front, but the operating costs are so low,” he said. “It’s about two cents a kilometre to drive an electric car; that’s for fuelling it and for the most part covers maintenance.”

Although Sampson isn’t a car salesman, he’s certainly got a knack for answering all of those questions he’s getting in his volunteer role as EVAAC chair. Craig Allen, on the other hand, is in the business of dealing vehicles; he’s director of sales and marketing for Peterbilt Atlantic, which sells three models of electric trucks and is the exclusive dealer in the region for the brand with eight locations in five provinces.

Allen, who is based in Fredericton, said that when it comes specifically to electric trucks, the market “was slightly stalled by the pandemic, but it appears to be charging ahead as the economy rebuilds.”

This could be because the medium and heavy EV truck is comparatively quite young. “In ten years, EV trucks will probably be very common,” Allen said, with government regulations and incentives likely to continue driving individuals and companies more toward electric. “The entire Peterbilt Atlantic team is happy to work with any company interested in bringing electric trucks to Atlantic Canada.”

David Giles is vice-president of ALL EV Canada, Ltd., an electric vehicle outlet in Dartmouth, N.S., that opened its doors in January 2020, literally just before COVID-19 took hold of the globe. But despite what has been a financial setback for many businesses, ALL EV has already managed to set up a second shop in Charlottetown, P.E.I.

Through the pandemic thus far, the company “has still continued to draw a lot of interest for electric cars,” Giles said.

“I think a lot of people (have been) at home, looking at different avenues, like ‘look I don’t have to go to the gas station, so there’s less risk of getting sick,’ ” he explained. “And once you get in it, and it’s self-sustaining – ‘meaning I can do everything from home, I can fuel my car.’ ”

Giles agrees that potential buyers seem to be doing “a lot more research” on electric vehicles during COVID, likely surfing the Internet, reading about the growth of Tesla, which has been “growing exponentially over this time” and seeing a lot more news about its CEO Elon Musk, who most recently even appeared as guest host on Saturday Night Live.

“Their stocks are climbing, evening during the pandemic,” he said, “and we’re continuing to grow.”

“People are buying cars, they’re seeking servicing and we’re getting really well-known in the EVAAC community; our reputation is growing.”

In fact, the company was able to shift gears last summer from selling and servicing both gas and electric vehicles to focusing on, well – all EVs.

“That’s all we do; we don’t do anything else,” Giles said.

“The pandemic has almost been a storm that we’re just weathering,” he said. “Hey, if we can survive this, we can survive anything.”

That’s no surprise to Sampson, who said EVAAC is also growing on social media, with new followers and members on Facebook joining every day with questions about going electric. “It’s an amazing resource,” he said. Join the conversation at www.fbook.evaac.ca or visit www.EVAAC.ca for more information.

Sampson also encourages Atlantic Canadians to check out what rebates are available in their provinces, such as the EVAssist program through the Clean Foundation, based in Nova Scotia. Visit www.EVAssist.ca for more information.

Make no mistake about it; going green isn’t the only reason Sampson is an electric enthusiast. “My dad sold cars out of the driveway, so I was a big motor guy,” he said. “I used to rebuild motors in high school, I drove high-performance motorcycles, so I’m into that.”

But Sampson sold his beloved gas motorcycle and is now looking for an electric version.

“Electric vehicles are totally the new muscle vehicles,” Sampson said. “If you want the best performance vehicle now on the road, you’re buying electric. A lot of people don’t realize that; they’re breaking all the records.”

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