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Electric Avenue

When I was quite small, the family car, an old 1938 Chrysler, finally gave up the ghost, and we went for 4 years without a vehicle. New cars were expensive and my Dad, a bus driver, had a mortgage to pay and not much else left over after that. We pretty much walked or took the bus everywhere we needed to for those four years.

Finally, around about 1966, my Dad bought one of the first Toyota Corolla’s in Canada. It cost him $2298.00. And, as he recollected in his memoirs, that was with a radio included!

One of our first road trips with the new car was a drive to the BC interior. Whenever we stopped for gas, the gas attendant would stare up and down the car in wonder. The Toyota looked nothing like the North American vehicles everyone was used to at the time.

Dad loved that car and drove it for many years.

Fast forward to last year, February 2020, when my daughter became the first in our family…well, the first of anybody we know, actually, to get an electric car. She’s had her red Hyundai Kona for almost a year now, and it’s been a learning experience, but not a difficult one.

With the recent announcements by GM that they will be building electric vans at their plant in southern Ontario, and President Biden revoking the Keystone XL Pipeline permit, there is a feeling of change in the air. Literally, I suppose.

Gas vehicles won’t disappear overnight, of course. And hybrid vehicles will help the transition for many. But more and more people are lining up to buy electric vehicles these days.

Still, change can be slow. One of the concerns many people have is the number of charging stations across the country, and the other is the length of time it takes to charge, even for a fast charge. More and more infrastructure is being built across Canada, with many gas stations also providing EV charging stations now, but it’s a process. And you won’t find EV charging stations yet in many smaller communities.

Charging up certainly isn’t quite as quick as gassing up. While she was waiting for her Kona to arrive, my daughter plotted out where all of the charging stations were in and around the city and on the Pat Bay Highway. Then it came down to figuring out how to use that charging time effectively. Like plugging into an EV stall at the mall and getting her grocery shopping done at the same time.

When she comes to visit us, she plugs her car into a regular outlet outside the house. In an 8 or 9 hour visit, she can only get a 10-15% charge. As an example, she uses that much charge just driving to and from work for one shift out at Swartz Bay.

At the mall, with what is called a Level 2 charge, she can get the same charge in about 2 hours. With a Level 3 charge, it’s two or three times faster than that. Of course, that all depends on the size of the battery too.

Me, well I still have my 2004 Mustang GT convertible. It’s a gas guzzler, but it’s pretty nice. I love to put the top down. When it isn’t raining, that is. And it has a V8 engine, so you can hear me coming from many blocks away.

Ford came out with an electric vehicle called the Mustang Mach-E but it looks nothing like a Mustang to me. So I have refused to purchase it, in protest. If they ever make an electric Mustang that looks like a Mustang, I’ll be first in line.

I don’t drive a lot. I work from home, so typically, I get in the car once or twice a week, if that. Some might say I don’t even need a car considering how little I drive. But I can’t let go of my Mustang. Don’t make me!

The car also has to be plugged in when I’m not using it. Just like a lot of muscle cars, the battery drains when it’s sitting there for too long. So I have a battery maintainer that I attach to it to keep the battery charged.

In which case, I guess you could say I DO have an electric vehicle, no?

People Who Inspire

I saw a story about William Kamkwamba about a year ago on TV and was instantly moved to tears hearing his account of building something that most of us would more or less think nothing of; a windmill.

William comes from the Republic of Malawi, a small, land-locked country in southeastern Africa. It is one of the most densely populated and least developed countries in the world. William was born in 1987 and had to leave school when he was 14 because his parents could no longer afford the $80 US tuition. He decided to educate himself, and began to visit his village’s library where he found a book called Using Energy that explained the workings of windmills. He took it upon himself to attempt to build one, and using blue gum trees, bicycle parts, and materials collected in a local scrapyard, he built a crude windmill that had enough energy to power the lights in his family’s home. And then he built another windmill that had enough power to pump water to irrigate the fields in his village, where drought had devastated the crops in the preceding years.

His story spread to all corners of the world, and in 1997 he was invited to speak at TED, a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. TED started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Participants are invited to give talks lasting no more than 18 minutes to explain their concepts, ideas or passions and the annual conference attracts the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers.

William is not entirely fluent in English yet, but he does his best to explain his dream of building his village’s first windmill in the following video:

William has gone on to do many things since building his first windmill. You can read all about his ventures here. If William Kamkwamba doesn’t inspire you, I don’t know who will!

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