Ask an Expert

Raymond Leury
Electric Vehicle Council of Ottawa
Margaret Flores
Hydro Ottawa
Mitchell House
City of Ottawa
Felicity Borgal
EnviroCentre

Do you have a question about electric vehicles?

Check out the Q&A below and if you still can’t find what you’re looking for, submit a question to one of our local EV experts at the bottom of this page.

Get to know EVs

How far can an EV travel on one charge?

The distance you can travel (or range) on a single charge really depends on the EV model. The typical range for EVs sold in Canada today is between 350 km and 450 km. But what many people who are new to EVs struggle to get their minds around, is that you will likely never need to worry about how full your battery is, as you can plug your car into a socket at any time. A bit like your mobile phone or tablet, you will usually plug it in at night and never give your battery charge another thought.

Are EVs as powerful as non-electric cars?

Yes! In fact, they are generally more powerful and faster than gas-powered vehicles. Since electric motors can provide maximum power from zero RPM (revolutions per minute), this allows for maximum power when the accelerator pedal is pressed. Gas fuelled vehicles required the engine to rev at high speeds in order to provide maximum power and that does not occur until at least several seconds after the accelerator pedal is pressed.

Do EVs still work in the winter?

Absolutely! EVs always start no matter how cold it is. Colder temperatures affect their range, but less so during long trips. You can extend the range of your EV in winter by pre-heating your EV while it’s still plugged in so that you use grid energy to pre-heat instead of depleting the battery. EVs don’t depend on engine heat to heat the cabin, so heating is much faster than gas-powered vehicles.

Is driving an EV different from driving a gas vehicle?

Yes and no. The main principles of driving are the same and functions like turning on your headlights, indicator lights, or operating your windscreen wipers, are identical. The pedals are also the same as in an automatic gas-powered vehicle: two pedals, the break and the accelerator (you can’t call it the gas pedal anymore!).

But there are differences too. Because EVs don’t have internal combustion engines, they don’t make any noise. This can be a very strange experience for first-time EV drivers.

Another big difference is that EVs effectively only have one gear, this is because there is no need for the transmission to work its way up and down the gears according to the car’s speed and the load placed on the engine. When your foot presses down on the accelerator of an EV, the power is directly applied to the wheels and the car accelerates very quickly. This is most noticeable at lower speeds.

The last difference is regenerative (regen) braking. What this means is that when you take your foot off the accelerator, the electric motor automatically slows the car down without the need to apply breaks. In doing this, it regenerates electricity! This helps to extend the range by putting electricity back in the car’s battery. Regen breaking does feel a little bit different than standard breaking, but nothing you won’t adapt to in a very short time.  

Why is there less maintenance with an EV?

You don’t need to be a car mechanic to know that internal combustion engines (what gas vehicles use) have many moving parts – pistons, cylinders, timing belts, spark plugs, gaskets, starters … the list goes on. The more parts you have, the greater the risk that they will break. EVs on the other hand have far fewer parts because there simply isn’t the need for them. And that means you spend a lot less time, energy, and money on maintenance.

Regenerative (regen) breaking in an EV will generate electricity as the vehicle slows down.  That means that most of the energy is absorbed back into the battery instead of wearing out the brakes. This also means … you guessed it: that the brakes last much longer on an EV.  One local EV owner just changed the brakes for the first time after 275,000 km. Try doing that with a gas-powered vehicle!

Charging & Batteries

How long does it take to charge an EV?

The easy answer is about 10 seconds, which is the time it takes to plug in your EV when you get home at night and unplug it in the morning! But of course, there is more to it than that. Charging times will vary according to the make and model of your electric vehicle, how much charge your vehicle already has when you plug it in, and what level charging station you are using – ➀, ➁, or ➂.

Level 3 chargers are the fastest, they are the chargers you would stop at on a long trip and will typically charge your EV in 20-40 minutes. The exact time will depend on the charging station’s speed, your EV model and the temperature of the battery. We dive into charging your EV in more detail here.

Keep in mind that depending on how far you need to travel, you won’t need to fully charge your vehicle every time you plug it in. EV technology is ever-evolving and charging times are likely to get faster and faster to meet demand.

Should I charge an EV to 100%?

This really depends on the EV model. Your best bet is to check the owner’s manual for guidance on your specific model!

How long does an EV battery last?

Most manufacturers offer an 8-year or more warranty on electric vehicle batteries. EV batteries, however, are expected to last 10-20 years before needing to be replaced. EV batteries are designed to outlast the vehicle itself!

When is the best time to charge my EV?

Generally speaking, the best time to charge your EV  is at night – not only do you wake up to a full battery but electricity also costs less when it is used during off-peak hours!

What happens if I get stuck in traffic?

Being in an EV won’t change the fact that traffic is no fun. But idling in traffic won’t use up much of your battery charge to maintain cabin temperature and in-cabin electronics. The motor is only “on” when the car is moving, and it is when the car is moving that the most electricity is used. Another bonus? No nasty fumes while you are sitting there waiting!

How can I minimize range loss in the winter?

There are a few things you can do to get the most km out of your EV in the winter – and don’t forget on longer trips, the cabin, battery, and moving parts stay warm, which helps minimize range loss anyway. Here are a few tips:

  • Warm up your vehicle from your phone while it is still plugged in
  • Charge up your battery while it is still warm from your trip, or bring it to room temperature before plugging in
  • Use seat and steering wheel warmers to keep passengers warm – it is a more efficient use of energy than heating the cabin
  • Turn down regenerative breaking as well as hardware features

For more information on EV range in winter go here.

Cost & Incentives

How much money can I save by purchasing an EV?

Electric vehicles are cheaper to drive and maintain than gas vehicles. EVs cost up to 75 percent less to drive than a gas car, saving the typical driver $1,500-$2,000 every year on fuel. Your maintenance costs will be at least 50% lower every year. The initial purchase price of EVs is still higher than that of an equivalent gas vehicle, but prices are coming down and are expected to continue to decrease in the coming years. To see an updated list of EVs available in Ontario EVCO’s Buyer’s Guide.

Are there any financial incentives for buying a new EV?

Canada-wide, electric vehicles (including BEVs, HFCVs and longer-range PHEVs) are eligible for $5,000 incentives. Shorter-range PHEVs are eligible for $2,500 incentives. For more information visit Transport Canada.

Are there any financial incentives for buying a used EV?

In Ontario incentives on used EVs are offered by Plug’n Drive. Québec also has incentives for used vehicles, click here to learn more.

Environmental Benefits

Why are EVs better for the environment?

The biggest reason is that they don’t run on fossil fuels, so they don’t produce greenhouse gas emissions. In Ottawa, fossil fuel vehicles produce 42% of emissions, so getting drivers to switch to transportation that runs on clean energy, like EVs, is key if we are to meet our climate targets.

Don’t EV batteries contain rare earth elements?  

No, battery cells typically contain lithium, nickel, graphite, cobalt, iron and/or phosphate, none of which are rare earth elements.  All of these are abundant in the earth’s crust. 

The chips used in all vehicles can contain rare earth elements, for example, catalytic converters used in gas-powered vehicles contain precious elements such as platinum, palladium and rhodium.  

What happens to an EV battery at its end of life?

Once an EV battery has reached its end of life in a vehicle, it can still be put to good use in other ways – like storing electric energy in static storage. By putting electric vehicle batteries to use like this they can last another 10 years! After this time the battery can be recycled with material recovery rates exceeding 95%.

Can EV batteries be recycled?

Yes! There already are several EV battery recycling programs in place here in Canada. EV batteries are expected to outlast the car, but at some point, they will need to be recycled. Conventional lead-acid batteries are recycled at a very high rate.  You can expect lithium-ion EV batteries will be recycled at similar rates. 

By how much will I reduce my emissions if I switch to an EV?

If you live in Ontario, Québec, or anywhere where electricity is mostly emissions-free, then you will be producing virtually no emissions by driving. But a little known fact is that even in those places where electricity is sourced entirely from coal plants, EVs still emit around 30% less GHGs than their equivalent gas vehicle. To learn more visit the Canada Energy Regulator.

E-Bikes & E-Scooters

Where can I ride an e-bike?

E-bikes with pedal-assist for personal use are allowed on all City of Ottawa and NCC roads and cycling infrastructure.

How far can an e-bike travel?

Most e-bikes can run between 50-60 km on a single charge with a little bit of pedal assistance.

Are rebates available for e-bikes?

Unfortunately, no rebates are currently available in Ontario for the purchase of an e-bike. Write to your local politician – let’s get that changed!

Where can I ride an e-scooter?

E-scooters are allowed on all City of Ottawa roads and cycling infrastructure. They are not permitted on the NCC pathway system at this time.

Your Questions Answered!

David: Hi, would I be able to pull a small utility trailer with most EVs? I noticed that most EVs don’t have a towing capacity listed. 

Answer: Most internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles don’t have a towing capacity and EVs are no different.  If you want to tow a small utility trailer, all EVs would technically be capable of doing that as they all have plenty of torque.  It would however be advisable to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for towing just as you would for a typical gas-powered vehicle.

Michele: I understood cabin heating in an EV during the winter drains the battery. Do any EVs use heat pumps/heat recovery ventilation? This would be more efficient than straight electric heat and therefore increase range. 

Answer: Heating in winter takes much less energy than moving the vehicle. Many EVs (depending on model and trim level) use heat pumps as they allow higher efficiency as you point out, which in turn allows the range to be stretched a bit further. Resistive heating also works well and will provide heating without having a major impact on range. Speed has a much higher impact. Modern EVs with 300-400km of range will work well in winter with or without using a heat pump.

Jess: I’ve seen more and more people out and about on e-bikes and am thinking of getting one but can I carry my kid/kids on an e-bike?

Answer: Yes, you can! Ottawa allows passengers to be carried on e-bikes and e-cargo bikes, provided they have a seat designed to carry them. Some bikes are even specifically designed for carrying kids, including long-tails (the rear of the bike is extended to allow 2+ children to sit there) and bakfiets (also known as box bikes, where kids sit in a box in front of the rider; there is usually space for 3-4 kids, depending on the model). These types of bikes can come with or without e-assist, but the assist really helps cover distances while carrying growing kids (or even adults).

If you’re not sure about the best set-up for you, reach out to your local bike shop, or ask a friend who already rides with their kids!

Larry: Last Fall I got on the list to purchase a Toyota RAV 4 Prime. I was told I would have to wait 2 years to receive it. And, as someone living in a rural area, charging stations don’t exist. Thus the PHEV seemed the way to go. Are there other options similar to the Toyota RAV available now?? 

Answer: All EVs and PHEVs are in short supply at the moment.  If you are able to charge at home, then the availability of chargers in your area whether rural or urban should not be a factor.   When looking at charging outside of the home on a trip, what’s important is the availability of chargers either on the way to your destination or at the destination. A home charging station (Level II  at 240V 30A) should allow you to fully recharge any full EV in the RAV4 class overnight without any issue.  Depending on how much you drive, a Level I (120V 12A) charging solution could provide the charging you need.  Most EVs come equipped with a Level I “mobile” charging station.  We recommend going with a full EV instead of a PHEV such as the RAV4, especially if you drive long distances as it will provide more fuel savings. 

Katie: Where is the best place to find information on charging stations across Ontario? We regularly drive to northern Ontario to see family and we want to make sure we’ll be able to change on the way. 

Answer: If you are a Tesla owner/driver, the onboard Tesla app is the best guide.  For non-Tesla vehicles, there are several phone/web apps that work well.  www.PlugShare.com  and ABRP (abetterrouteplanner.com) are both excellent choices!

Brian: I have seen lots of EVs in my neighbourhood. What I see is mostly Tesla cars being charged in driveways, even at houses with a garage. Are there restrictions on having a charger inside a garage? I understand that most condominiums don’t allow the installation of EV chargers. Is there a danger with chargers, like a chance of fires? 

Answer: A charging station that is properly installed poses no risk of fire.  Charging stations are relatively simple devices that are designed to prevent electrical problems and overheating that might lead to a fire.  Charging stations are typically rated for both indoor and outdoor installation.  Charging stations should be approved by UL or CSA for installation in Canada. 

Ellen: For many years now we in northern climates have been driving front-wheel drive (or AWD) vehicles for better control in winter. So many of the EVs are rear-wheel drive (or AWD but at a “cost” to battery). Should we be thinking about this when we buy? 

Answer: Before the ’80s, RWD vehicles were the norm.  FWD was adopted mostly to reduce fuel consumption following the energy crisis in the 70s. Everything else being equal, FWD vehicles also have the benefit of being better than RWD vehicles in snowy conditions.  Because of the dynamics of a car’s movement where the weight shifts to the back during acceleration, RWD vehicles perform better in warmer conditions, particularly on quick acceleration where they get better traction. RWD EVs also perform better than FWD EVs in warmer conditions and don’t have the fuel consumption penalty that gas vehicles had, so many manufacturers are favouring RWD for some EVs. The good news is that the electronic traction control that is available in modern RWD EVs makes winter driving much easier than the RWD vehicles of the 80s.  AWD EVs will always be better than either FWD or RWD in winter conditions but aren’t necessary unless you drive in particularly difficult winter conditions. 

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