MICHAEL BAXTER with his electric car.

Man braves north in electric car

Michael Baxter's trip north from Vancouver Island was a great opportunity to see if going electric would work in the north

AN ENTHUSIASTIC Nissan Leaf owner, Michael Baxter has a joke he likes to tell about electric car owners which goes something like this: “How do you know that someone has an electric car? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.”

Baxter is indeed enthusiastic about the $45,000 purchase he made last fall. For one thing, he’s a member of the Leaf Club which brings owners together to educate them about the stunning features of their speedy eco cars.

He also has an app on his phone called PlugShare which he uses to find the closest charging station in order to plan trips like his recent one to Terrace.

Baxter explained his recent trip north from Vancouver Island to visit his brother was a great opportunity to see if going electric would work in the north despite the fact that, according to the app’s map of charging stations, the north looked a bit like the Bermuda Triangle for electric car transit.

“Foot on the brake, press start. That’s all you have to do,” said Baxter, as he invites the reporter into his car and shows off certain features of his silent automobile such as swift acceleration and regenerative breaking that charges the battery using kinetic energy.

He set out in early August from his home in Colwood near Victoria, which he says is a mecca for electric cars and skimmed towards Port Hardy, a route along which charging stations became fewer and farther in-between.

He made it to Nanaimo with a safe two of 12 bars remaining on his charge meter but between Nanaimo and Port Hardy, in a town called Woss, the limitations of rural charging started to hit home for Baxter.

The level two 220 volt station in Woss meant a six hour stop, most of which Baxter spent lounging at a local hotel.

In the more populated areas, Baxter explained, the 480 volt level three charging stations are available that can do a swift 30 minute full recharge.

Once he got to Port Hardy where there are  a couple of level two stations, he next took the ferry to Prince Rupert where the situation became more pressing as he found himself in a town with no charging station whatsoever (an issue he has now taken up with local officials), so he had to book a hotel in advance that had an exterior plug for his Leaf’s special extension cord – a 16 hour level one recharge done on a standard 110 volt outlet.

Then onto Terrace going 60 km/hr on Hwy16 at first to conserve power, pulling onto the shoulder to let the combustion engines by. Baxter made it the 143 kilometres to his brother’s house in Terrace, a town where he was happy to find there are now three level two charging stations.

Baxter is still optimistic about the Leaf’s chance in the northern markets, saying that it might serve well as a second vehicle, as the electric could be used locally in places that have charging stations such as Terrace and Houston.

At $45,000, the cost might be a lot for some people, but Baxter says it starts to pay itself off pretty quickly with only one servicing needed a year.

“It’s wonderful not to pay anything when you are driving around town,” he said. “I pay $15 a month to do 1,000 kilometres.”

As for long trips along Hwy 16, Baxter said that would require lengthy stops for level one recharges at hotels or friends’ houses.

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