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Electric vehicle 101

April 20th, 2023  |  Auto

Thinking of buying an electric vehicle? You’re not alone.

With Canada’s ambition to reach a net-zero emissions goal by 2050 and its goal to reach 100% zero emissions vehicle sales by 2035, it’s likely not a matter of if you’ll buy an EV, but when.

Driving a hybrid or electric vehicle reduces air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and your carbon footprint. It can also keep more money in your pocket, especially with rising gas costs.

According to Plug'N Drive, a non-profit organization that promotes electric vehicles for their economic and environmental benefits, they are rising in popularity. Consider:

  • There are more than 150,000 electric cars on the road in Canada and counting
  • Driving an electric car can save between $1,500-$2,000 per year on fuel and maintenance
  • Canada's electricity is clean with the majority of our power coming from hydro and nuclear
  • Driving an electric car in Canada can reduce your vehicle's emissions by as much as 90 per cent


There are different types of electric vehicles:

Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) - These are fully electric cars which never use gasoline and are powered exclusively by an electric motor and battery pack. The cost to charge a BEV is about 1/5th the cost to refuel an equivalent gas vehicle. They do not require oil changes, transmissions or exhaust systems. The majority of BEVS fall in the $35,000-$45,000 range and are capable of 250+ km of driving on a full charge with some models capable of 400+ or more.

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) – This vehicle has a larger battery pack that can be recharged by plugging-in. Depending on the model, they provide 20-80 kilometres of dedicated all-electric driving. Once the battery is used up, a gasoline engine or generator takes over and the vehicle functions like a regular Hybrid.

There are two kinds of Plug-in Hybrids: Parallel and Extended Range. Parallel PHEVs have a gasoline engine and an electric motor that operate independently, but work side by side. Extended Range PHEVs use a gasoline generator that makes electricity to power an electric motor.

Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) - These Hybrids contain a gasoline engine, an electric motor and a small battery pack. The electric motor turns on when the vehicle comes to a stop and when it first accelerates. Once at cruising speed the gasoline engine takes over. They are still mainly gas-powered and not considered a true electric vehicle.


Consider how often you drive, and how far. For those who work from home or mostly use their car for short trips and errands, an EV with a shorter range will suffice and be less expensive. Those who use their vehicles frequently for longer drives should look for models with batteries that hold a charge for a longer period to extend how far you can go before charging.


Expect an electric vehicle to cost more up front than most traditional gas-powered vehicles. To be objective with the overall cost of EVs, it’s better to consider both the purchase price and the operating cost.

Studies show that over time, EV owners save money. Plug’N Drive notes the average Canadian driver, travelling 20,000 km per year, can save as much as $2,000 per year on fuel alone. They note most vehicles take less than five years to break even.

And, GreenCars notes EV owners also spend less time in the shop since they require less complicated maintenance. If maintained according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, EV drivers pay half as much to repair and maintain their vehicles.

While a battery replacement can be expensive, manufacturer warranties tend to last for at least eight years.


As a Canadian resident, you may be eligible for the Zero-Emission Vehicles (iZEV) Program, which offers up to $5,000 off the purchase or lease of an EV. The Government of Canada continually updates the list of eligible vehicles. Be sure to check to see if the model you’re considering qualifies.

In B.C., if you lease or buy an EV you can apply for a rebate of up to $4,000. You can also get rebates on charging stations too. Quebec offers up to $7,000 for new vehicle rebates. Be sure to find out if they are offered in the province you live.


When it comes to driving in winter weather, Canadians should consider models with batteries that can handle colder temperatures. An electric vehicle model with thermal management will protect your battery from depleting in cold temperatures, which could reduce how far you can travel before needing another charge. Thermal management also protects your battery from losing range if your battery gets hot while rapid charging or while driving long distances.


Do you live in a house, condo, or apartment complex? Can you have a charging station installed at home? If you rent, it may be more difficult to charge your vehicle.

It’s best to investigate charging options available near some of the places you visit most. Knowing how many charging stations are accessible may help you decide if you need a low- or high-range EV.


Generally, yes. Many insurers offer a discount for EVs. That said, it depends on a multitude of factors that varies for each consumer and the vehicle they’re comparing – safety and tech-savvy features, for example, will all have an impact.

Many insurers offer discounts or incentives for EVs. Hybrid is usually a five per cent discount, whereas electric can be as much as 10 per cent. Keep in mind, if you’re installing a charger at home, you will also need to let your home insurer know. Once you decide to go electric, speak with your broker about what’s the best fit for you.

RELATED READING: Where to find a charging station near you

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