Viewpoint: EV cycling not for everyone

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by Jim Standen

I would like to respond to Gary Gagne’s Viewpoint of July 3 entitled “Electric cars not a panacea.”

Thank you, Gary, for writing on this important subject. Climate change requires immediate action and ongoing conversation is one of the keys to initiating and maintaining mitigation action.

I fully agree EVs are no panacea, but they do provide an option for some individuals to partially address a portion of our island emissions, the 13 per cent that cars generate as reported in the 2011 Climate Action report. A good parallel example is how recycling, garage sales, garbage collection, volunteer pick-ups and composting all play a role in keeping a clean island.

I also agree that walking, ride-sharing, hitch-hiking, biking and buses (electric or not) are better solutions for the environment and we should use them as much as possible.  Biking and walking are even better for your health (bonus). Much gratitude to Gary Holman and other players who created our award-winning bus system.

But I have a personal issue with the safety of biking on Salt Spring Island. Island Pathways is doing a wonderful job of creating safe thoroughfares, but many routes remain unaddressed. The road from Vesuvius to Tripp Road has no path and is too dangerous for me to consider navigating. When I was younger I did so on a regular basis, but I am increasingly safety driven. It is an age thing.

This is compounded by learning about my fellow EV owner, Dennis Fortin, who just in the last month fell from his bike coming down Ganges Hill into town. He incurred a compound fracture of the wrist, fracture of the right great trochanter, facial contusions, lacerations and sinus damage. Certainly not encouraging for me to take the risk.

Gary moves on to make some other very good points. I agree that EVs are not for everyone. There are no trucks, almost no five-plus occupant versions and few four-wheel-drives. The manufacturers are replacing their most expensive models with EV versions and are garnishing headlines through “wow” performance metrics.

On the other hand, the +130 Nissan Leafs on the island are a testament that there are more affordable options, especially when you factor in reduced operational and maintenance costs and the option to purchase a used model. One also needs to observe that the transportation industry is in a remarkable transition. We are seeing Harbour Air go electric, and in Europe, ferries and fleet vehicles. China has 421,000 electric buses on the road. It is pretty easy to predict that as part of this transition, the costs of the entry-level vehicles will certainly decline. 

There is a lot of misinformation out there on batteries and the role of renewable energy and Gary has put forward some comments. I will address these in future issues of my monthly EVolutions column in the Driftwood.

We are hoping to have some EVs displayed at the Eco-Home tour on July 28, where some houses that show the synergy between solar panels and an EV will be on display.  Make fuel on your roof and run on sunshine.

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