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Electric vehicles about to become mainstream: study

BURNABY (NEWS 1130) – The next time you’re out for a drive, count how many electric cars you see. There may soon be a whole lot more on our roads given the excitement over the latest launch in the electric vehicle market.

A study out of Washington State suggests we could be on the verge of a tipping point when it comes to drivers adopting the technology. The Sustainable Transportation Lab at the University of Washington looked at the halo effect surrounding the sales launch of Tesla’s Model 3.

“In the first week alone, Tesla got 325,000 pre-orders. To put that number in perspective, that is equivalent to 25 per cent of all EVs on the road at the end of 2015,” says Don Mackenzie, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at UW.

MacKenzie’s team also analyzed the spillover effect generated by the Model 3 and found it rippled across the electric vehicle industry.

“Not only is the Model 3 generating interest in Tesla, but we saw a factor-of-three increase in Google searches [in Canada] for the BMW i3 and the Nissan Leaf. The Chevrolet Volt, which is arguably the Model 3’s closest competitor, saw Google searches increase by between five and 10 times at the time of the Tesla launch,” he tells NEWS 1130. “So, it looks like the Model 3 is benefitting the whole EV market, not just Tesla alone.”

The head of Tesla, Elon Musk, has said he wants to spark the entire electric vehicle industry, and MacKenzie says it is interesting to see that actually starting to play out.

“The Tesla is a beautiful luxury car within spitting distance of an average new car in the US, and this is giving the company $325 million in cash to work with through the deposits customers are putting down. But there are also a lot of other great EVs either already on or coming to the market. People are interested in those as well.”

Mackenzie suggests all that interest could very well tip the industry into the mainstream.

“This is really Tesla’s strategy, to build cars that people want, not because they are electric but because they are great cars with amazing performance that are fun to drive. The technology does offer some benefits over internal combustion engines. You get great off-the-line performance, great acceleration and a very quiet ride. It’s not just that they are clean at the tailpipe, but that they are a pleasure to drive.”


Maintenance is key

Just like any other vehicle, electric cars need to be maintained. Lessons about the increasingly popular vehicles are slowly being added to the curriculum of the automotive program at one local post-secondary school.

Program Associate Dean Mubasher Faruki says BCIT is in the process of starting to cover fundamentals like the powertrain and braking systems. “So our foundations for example, we will cover some of the basics around the safety of navigating around one of these electric vehicles.”

So, what about mechanics already working? “Most technicians who are very familiar with the driveability or electrical systems on vehicles — with some proper training or some additional training I think is probably a better way to phrase it, will be able to easily adapt to the new technologies in these vehicles,” he adds.

Faruki adds how students are trained is largely dictated at the provincial level, and at this point, no extra time has been allocated in BCIT’s program to incorporate lessons on electrical vehicles.

He says technicians with a particular manufacturer will automatically be taught to work with new technology as it’s developed, saying there’s a higher chance mechanics at independent shops may not get those additional lessons.

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