By on May 8, 2017

CCS Charging pic

Plug ‘n Drive sounds like the world’s less appetizing fast food restaurant but is, in actuality, a not-for-profit organization with a strict focus on encouraging the adoption of electric vehicles. It’s so committed, in fact, that it is opening a “Electric Vehicle Discovery Centre” near Toronto’s York University in order to provide the general populace free opportunities to pilot EVs.

Of course, you don’t just get to test drive electric vehicles — there is an agenda here. Plug ‘n Drive also wants to use the location as a base to educate people on how to get the most out of EV ownership, make a case for the environmental and economic benefits of electric transportation, and explain government programs like Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan. Think of it as an EV church, where the faithful can worship and and non-believers can be converted. 

“Try to imagine Science-Centre-meets-car-showroom,” Cara Clairman, Plug’n Drive’s founder and president, to Automotive News in an interview.

Mobility centers have cropped up all over North America, usually as short term galleries specifically designed to show how modern an established automaker has become. They frequently lack substance, placing an emphasis on abstract concepts instead of hardware. Plug ‘n Drive’s Discovery Centre is different in that it is ready to hand over the keys to existing models while persuading you into becoming a true believer in EVs.

According to Clairman, visitors to EVDC can take advantage of their entire fleet free of charge. However, the models included the lineup are yet to be decided. Plug ‘n Drive will be charging automakers a premium to have their vehicles made available for test drives, meaning whoever shells out the most money is likely to have the best chance to sway public opinion in their favor — especially since the EVDC will also provide free referrals to specific dealerships.

At least a few of those referrals should be for Chevrolet dealers. David Paterson, General Motors Canada’s vice-president of corporate and environmental affairs, says the automaker supports the Plug’n Drive initiative. GM will also be providing both the Volt and Bolt for free test drives.

“We love what she is doing [and] we’re excited about the plans to create a home where people can do test drives,” said Paterson.

Obviously, dealerships also provide test drives but the chance to drive multiple vehicles back to back offers specific advantages if you’re in the market and comparing EV. Still, even if you are not looking to buy, just being able to have some hands-on time with various electric cars is an interesting opportunity. Just be prepared for the hard sell — not on a car, but on the notion that electricity is superior to gas.

“It is totally different than going to a dealer,” says Clairman. “We’re not really trying to sell you a particular car. We’re really trying to sell you a concept. Why are these cars good for the environment? How can they save you money? What’s the value proposition of electrified transportation? Why are we moving in that direction … all things that someone would ask before making the switch. Communicating the features and details of the car? That’s what the dealers are really great at.”

For those of you interested in joining the EV cult, or are simply curious about electrified models, Plug n’ Drive’s new facility is located at 1126 Finch Ave W, North York, Ontario, and opens on May 18.

[Image: BMW, Daimler, Ford and VW Group]

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44 Comments on “EV Proponents Try Something New: A Permanent Location for One-Stop Test Drives...”


  • avatar

    Great idea. But I’ll stick with ICE unless and until ranges reaches an absolute minimum of 250 miles, recharging time is a maximum of 10 minutes (~maybe~ 15), and recharging stations that can provide quick charges are plentiful along the backroads of America.

    • 0 avatar
      brandloyalty

      Or until the water comes through your front door.

      • 0 avatar
        Ianw33

        “Or until the water comes through your front door.”

        Believe it or not, a great # of people who have not purchased an EV, did so because the EV doesn’t make financial or practical sense for their situation. Its not always because they hate the earth.

        I would be all about volt. However, i dont have a place to reliably plug in and i drive about 50 miles a day. Secondly, i was able to purchase a basic new jetta that gets 36mpg in my driving cycle for $15K. If they volt was priced anywhere close to the jetta option, and i was able to charge it consistently, it would have been a consideration.

        Once EV’s meet the 3 standards that ICE drivers are used to:

        1. range 250-300 miles
        2. Ease and time of charging (similar to filling ICE with fuel)
        3. Purchase price similar to ICE vehicle

        There will be a huge increase in EV purchasers.

        • 0 avatar
          WheelMcCoy

          As a moderate greenie, I was surprised to learn half the carbon footprint of a life of a car is in its manufacture:

          https://www.theguardian.com/environment/green-living-blog/2010/sep/23/carbon-footprint-new-car

          So it helps the planet by holding a car a little longer, and driving it a little less, before even considering upgrading to an EV.

      • 0 avatar

        That’s why I live on top of a hill

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        Looks like that is already happening in central Canada.

        I should embrace climate change. That means I won’t need to travel over 500 miles to reach ocean front property.

        Gotta break out that contour map.

        labs love water.

      • 0 avatar
        markf

        “Or until the water comes through your front door”

        The sky is ALWAYS falling with these Global Warming types.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      David C. Holzman, I’m all about choice. Choice to be able to buy an EV, PEV or Hybrid.

      I’ll never buy one for myself, no matter how much they improve the range, because the gasoline infrastructure is already in place, tried and true, been working great for decades. Well thought out and well laid out.

      My only objection to EVs, PEVs and Hybrids is that they are taxpayer subsidized. I also understand that without the taxpayer subsidy, EVs, PEVs and Hybrids sales would be an even smaller fraction of the already inconsequential insignificantly small percentage of the annual SAAR in the US.

      But for those who want them, EVs, PEVs and Hybrids should be available in the market place.

      And with the overabundance of oil on the planet, it looks like ICE will rule the day for decades yet to come.

      • 0 avatar
        brandloyalty

        Hybrid and ev sales certainly are not insignificant along the west coast.

        You can’t mention ev subsidies without mentioning subsidies to the oil industry. Not to mention the untold eventual cost of pollution from burning fossil fuels.

        Fossil fuels will not run out. They will be left behind, just as dumping your excrement in the street was phased out whwn cities developed and humanity came to understand the downsides of that pollution. The faster we replace the ICE, the better off we, the other people and species we share the planet with and depend on, and future generations, will be.

  • avatar
    shaker

    “…agenda…” Perhaps even a CONSPIRACY!!!!!!!

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    “Think of it as an EV church, where the faithful can worship and and non-believers can be converted.”

    Pretty much sums up the modern environmental movement. Only difference is that environmentalists will convert you at the point of a gun if necessary.
    .
    .

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Oh, the drama!!!!!

      (Places hand on forehead, faints…)

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      What have environmentalists forced you, personally, to do at the point of a gun?

      • 0 avatar
        Master Baiter

        “What have environmentalists forced you, personally, to do at the point of a gun?”

        Indirect taxes payed in the higher cost of goods and services. One example is my electric bill: Rates in CA are significantly higher than the rest of the nation because environmentalists won’t allow new capacity to be built, and we have renewable energy mandates that drive up the cost.
        .
        .

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          “Rates in CA are significantly higher than the rest of the nation”

          Maybe turn down the Air Conditioner?

        • 0 avatar
          HotPotato

          The ol’ “Rates are higher because the state won’t allow new plants to be built” is probably a common assumption, but as it turns out, the fact of the matter is almost exactly the opposite. Following the Enron power-withholding scandal, the state allowed as many plants to be built as the utilities desire, and the way the rules are written, the utilities get paid to do it whether the capacity is truly needed or not. So there’s a massive overcapacity of conventional power plants in CA — some were shut down only a few years after opening but the ratepayers are paying them off regardless. There’s also the problem of the gigantic nuclear plant retrofitted with an “upgraded” design that failed and left the utility, not the Japanese manufacturer, holding the bag, stuck paying for a plant they had to take offline. I’d look up the links for you but it’s late; the LA Times archive will support what I’m telling you.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    “visitors to EVDC can take advantage of their entire fleet free of charge.”

    Free of charge?

    That means you can’t drive them anywhere! ;)

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    “Think of it as an EV church, where the faithful can worship and and non-believers can be converted.”

    Meanwhile, you can find the 3800 Church somewhere in the vicinity of Pittsburgh. Amen.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      The engine was produced at the Flint North plant in Flint, Michigan, with engine blocks and cylinder heads cast at the Grey Iron plant (now the GM Saginaw Metal Casting Operations plant) in Saginaw, Michigan.

      FreedMike – Missed it by that much!

  • avatar
    Caboose

    They want to convert me on the premise of environmental responsibility?

    Willy Wonka sez, “Tell me again how mining toxic lithium that is mostly found in 3rd-world salt flats but requires huge amounts of imported fresh water to process, contributes more to metal depletion, destroys local ecologies, leeches a bunch of nastiness into the ground, and is rarely recycled is good for the environment.”

    http://www.kitco.com/ind/Albrecht/2014-12-16-How-Green-is-Lithium.html

    https://u.osu.edu/2367group3/environmental-concerns/effects-of-mining-lithium/

    Just because the environmental burden of EVs is shifted away from the phase of the life cycle where they are driven doesn’t meant they don’t exist. Extracting, processing, and transporting oil only jacks up the local ecology when something goes extremely wrong; with lithium, massive ecological destruction is just part of the process; it’s guaranteed.

    • 0 avatar

      Ah yes we should stop mining for lithium because of the pollution it creates and the impact on impoverished nations we are taking advantage of. This can be attributed to a one time event for the life of a vehicles battery.

      That is somehow worse than the combination of the ecological problems drilling/mining for oil or oil tar products (with similar effects on the local populations) continually for the life of the vehicle’s engine *PLUS* the daily spewing of noxious fumes into the air we breathe as the gasoline/diesel is burnt in every corner of the globe.

      • 0 avatar
        shaker

        There’s a “Pro Oil Religion” as well (cough) that ignores the tremendous environmental damage that it has wrought over a century plus.

        Drill, Baby, Drill.

        EV’s are the best solution that we have right now for commuting – all of the “freedom” less of the stink.

        • 0 avatar
          Caboose

          @shaker, I’m not an adherent of that “religion” you mention.

          I’d argue that the cleanest mile driven is the mile that isn’t driven at all. If we could get just 1% more of the populace (e.g.-knowledge workers and software developers, already heavily urbanized) into remote work, we’d see a dramatic reduction in urban commuting outcomes. 5% would be a game-changer.

          My last several contracts have been remote work. Consequently, my gas consumption has fallen from two 20-gal. tanks per week to one tank per month. I’m not contributing as much wear-and-tear to the roads (unlike our EV-driving friends who do, but don’t pay for it), the environment, or my own stress.

          A side effect is that, when I do drive, it’s vastly more pleasurable.

      • 0 avatar
        Caboose

        I didn’t say it was worse than petrol over the life-cycle of the vehicle. I’m arguing that batteries aren’t any better. Especially when you consider the fact that recycling for li-ion batteries is somewhere in the single-digit percent range and once you factor in the source of the electricity.

        The electricity your car uses also comes from the spewing of noxious fumes. Probably much more noxious, in fact, given that even the most stringent environmental controls allow much more nastiness from a powerplant’s smokestack than tailpipe emissions allow. And whereas tailpipe emissions are regulated uniformly at the federal level, power-plant smokestack emissions are largely controlled by the Several States with mere Federal advice.

        It is entirely possible, Mr. White, that what comes out of my tailpipe in Nashville is cleaner than than what comes out of the smokestack that powers your car in whatever part of Tennessee you’re in.

        So if you’re driving your Leaf because it’s cheap, fine. It is. But don’t fool yourself into thinking it’s any cleaner. It ain’t.

        • 0 avatar
          brandloyalty

          So you believe we have only thermal power generation and we are stuck with it? Or all batteries used for vehicle electrification contain lithium?

          Or there are not dirty aspects of gasoline upstream from your fuel tank?

          Consider that it’s not the fault of ev owners that so much of our power generation is from coal and gas or that such generation is so poorly regulated. Are they supposed to buy gas cars because of that? Probably ev owners are the first who would be happy to pay more for electricity from cleaner sources. And electricity from clean sources is rapidly becoming the cheapest anyway.

        • 0 avatar
          brandloyalty

          What the neighbors are doing:

          http://www.thestar.com/amp/news/canada/2017/05/02/two-thirds-of-canadas-electricity-now-comes-from-renewable-energy.html

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @brandloyalty – it is getting much tougher to get approval for dams.
            89% of Canadian land is publicly owned. We can get away with hydroelectric power. In the USA only 28% is public land.

          • 0 avatar
            brandloyalty

            Well, the wind blows and the sun shines and the tide changes for both Canada and the US.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @brandloyalty –

            From the article you posted:

            “The National Energy Board says renewables are responsible for 66 per cent of Canadian electricity, with 60 per cent of all power in Canada coming from hydro.”

            “In 2013, the leading type of power generation by utilities in Canada is hydroelectricity, with a share of 60.1%. Nuclear (15.8%), natural gas (10.3%), coal (10%), wind (1.8%), fuel oil (1.2%), biofuels and waste (0. 8%), wood (0.4%) and solar (0.1%) follow. Other sources, such as petroleum coke make up the remaining 0.5%”
            ………………………………………..
            Most of our power comes from hydro. Other renewable sources are a minimal contributor.
            ………………………………………..

            Major energy sources and percent shares of U.S. electricity generation at utility-scale facilities in 20161

            Natural gas = 33.8%
            Coal = 30.4%
            Nuclear = 19.7%
            Renewables (total) = 14.9%
            Hydropower = 6.5%
            Wind = 5.6%
            Biomass = 1.5%
            Solar = 0.9%
            Geothermal = 0.4%
            Petroleum = 0.6%
            Other gases = 0.3%
            Other nonrenewable sources = 0.3%
            Pumped storage hydroelectricity = -0.2%4
            ………………………………………..
            Hydro isn’t as good an option in the USA because as I have pointed out, most of the land is private. Owners aren’t going to want their land put under water. Buying land that would be flooded or eroded by man made lakes reduces the profitability of hydroelectricity.

            Coal plants are obviously the USA’s biggest problem when it comes to “clean” energy.
            ………………………………………..
            Washington, DC — The nation’s power plants emitted 2.56 billion tons of global warming pollution in 2007, which is equivalent to the pollution from nearly 450 million of today’s cars – nearly three times the number of cars registered in the United States in 2007, according to a new analysis of government data released today by Environment America. More than 70 percent of this pollution came from plants – primarily coal plants – built before 1980.
            ………………………………………..

            As long as “dirty electricity” exists, electrification of the automotive market is an inefficient place to focus if environmentalism is your primary concern.

        • 0 avatar
          HotPotato

          You’re right that the cleanest mile is the one not driven (and the cleanest car is the one not built). But that said, an EV is cleaner on both a per-mile and lifecycle basis than an ICE car. This has been studied to death. The absolute worst case scenario is an all-coal grid; even then, an opulent Tesla luxobarge is about as clean as a tinny gas econobox. But of course we’re shifting away from coal at an ever accelerating rate; the cleaner the grid gets, the cleaner an EV gets.

          The lithium thing is also a load of, well you know. We’re talking about a salt here, one that’s neither rare nor particularly destructive to mine. You want to talk about rare earth elements or heavy metals, I’m with you, but lithium not so much.

        • 0 avatar
          hgrunt

          It’s probably cleaner if you consider what it takes to extract, refine and transport gasoline out of oil.

          Unlike ICE cars, EVs can theoretically be powered by any fuel. If a coal plant is closed, for say a CNG plant, it’s more rapid, and more effective reduction in carbon vs enforcement of, and increasing tailpipe emissions standards.

          Regarding pollution, having it localized means it’s a little more manageable as well. There might be other benefits like lower aggregate healthcare costs in areas that have a lot of cars, etc.

          That said, I think most people who drive EVs do it because it’s cheap. It’s hard to say no when the car can be leased for under $200 a month and the electricity only cost $30 a month.

          However, current limitations on EV range means they’re not good for anyone who doesn’t live in a high density urban area…which is pretty much anywhere that’s not the dense costal cities.

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            @hgrunt: “That said, I think most people who drive EVs do it because it’s cheap”

            As an EV owner/driver, I disagree with that. I think it’s an EVs torque, smoothness, and quiet is what is really selling them.

            Look at how many Teslas they sell. Buying a Tesla is not about low cost. It’s all about the way that drivetrain feels. The instant response and smoothness. It’s addictive.

            In an age where we’re seeing more turbo 4s it’s nice to drive something that feels like a V8 or 12 – even in a small car like a Leaf or Bolt. Some of you guys really need to spend time behind the wheel of an EV and see what it’s all about.

            There are drivers that are buying them for green purposes and some for the low maintenance costs, but I really think it’s the driving characteristics that are winning most people over.

  • avatar
    hgrunt

    You -really- don’t like this, do you?

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    Since a lot of claims were made in this discussiin without any backup, I thought I’d do a little research. Read on…

    http://science.howstuffworks.com/science-vs-myth/everyday-myths/does-hybrid-car-production-waste-offset-hybrid-benefits.htm

    “If you drive both a conventional and hybrid car for 160,000 miles (257,495 kilometers), the conventional vehicle requires far more energy to operate and emits far more greenhouse gases over its lifetime, significantly canceling out any imbalance during the production stage”

    http://batteryuniversity.com/learn/article/availability_of_lithium

    – a Nissan Leaf battery contains about 9lb of refined lithium.
    – lithium can be recycled an unlimited number of times
    – the lithium in a car battery is less than 1% of the cost of the battery
    – lithium is common (can be extracted from seawater) and supplies are adequate as reflected by the price

    And the Canadian company Electrovaya:

    http://www.financialpost.com/m/wp/investing/blog.html?b=business.financialpost.com/midas-letter/podcast-electrovaya-inc-ceo-says-products-superior-to-tesla-panasonic-and-byd

    “We have the safest lithium ion battery on the planet today, and that’s mainly coming because of our full ceramic, flexible separator. That separator gives the highest level of safety, so highest safety in a lithium ion battery.

    The second thing which we have that other people don’t, is cycle life. Because of certain technical reasons, our cycle life is nearly double the cycle life of our competitors.

    And the third thing we have is non-toxic production.”

    “Batteries are — once that technology comes in, it doesn’t move very fast. Look at lead acid batteries; it was invented in 1847 and it’s still going strong. So it’s controlled by what we call the periodic table, and lithium is the most electropositive element in the periodic table. So it’s unlikely to get replaced. So we think lithium ion batteries will be the standard for the next 30, 40 years, and it will improve, though. The energy density will keep on improving, so you will get better and better lithium ion batteries.”

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