Rethinking Lifestyle

Powered by Water

  • Eric Rempel, Blog Coordinator
  • Advocate, South Eastman Transition Initiative

I wonder how many readers noticed our float in the Pioneer Days Parade last weekend. We wanted to draw the attention of parade watchers to the possibility of powering our transportation with water.

Manitoba exports clean energy – hydro electric energy. I wonder how many other jurisdictions on the planet do that. I know Quebec does, but are there others? True, a growing number of countries are generating significant electricity from wind, particularly in Europe, but that is to replace coal generated electricity. That is not for export.

This being the case, why is it then that there is no program in Manitoba to encourage car owners to switch from internal combustion engines to electric cars? The technology has existed and been reliable for about five years. B.C., Ontario and Quebec offer incentives for the purchase of an electric vehicle. Manitoba offers none.

Norway generates most of its electricity from hydro, and has had an aggressive program promoting electric car use. There, in 2017, 40% of all car sales were plug-in electric. The popularity of electric vehicles in Norway is largely the result of government incentives.

I pay $0.085 per kWh for my electricity. The rate in Ontario is $0.146 and in Norway is $0.159. In other words the electricity cost in Manitoba is about as low as it gets on this planet. In spite of that, there is this singular lack of interest in electric cars here. Why is that? I don’t know.

The mystery goes beyond that. In the 1950s Steinbach became known as “The Automobile City”. This was because the Steinbach auto dealers had the vision that Steinbach could be a magnet for people all over southern Manitoba and northwestern Ontario who wished to buy a car. Today Steinbach is ideally located for an electric vehicle hub. The distance between Steinbach and Winnipeg is about ideal for a battery driven electric car. Most plug-in electric vehicles on the market today can easily be driven from Steinbach to Winnipeg and back on one charge without creating any anxiety. Does anyone know how many people do the daily commute, Steinbach to Winnipeg, or Winnipeg to Steinbach? There are hundreds, if not thousands. Why do the Steinbach auto dealers have no vision to capitalize on this?

The electric car is the car of the future. This is being recognized world wide. In 2008 there were basically no electric cars on the road. In 2014 there were nearly 1 million, and by 2016 there were 2 million. In November 2017 that number passed 3 million. China is the largest electric car market globally. In 2017 alone, 777,000 electric vehicles were sold in China.

And what about the commuters? According to an online calculator, it typically costs almost $8.00 in gasoline to drive $100 km. That works out to just over $11.00 for a trip to Winnipeg and back, assuming gasoline at $1.06 per litre. That same trip with an electric car would cost about $2.25. Of course the cost of the electric car is higher than the gasoline driven car. An electric Ford Focus, for example, would probably cost about $15,000 more than a similar gasoline powered car. Do the math. See what works for you. What are the chances that gasoline is still $1.06 in a few years.

Considering the changes we have seen in recent years, it seems trite to say that the future in energy will be as it has been in the past. Changes are coming. It is time we got on board.