e-Touring in Quebec

Over 4 days in June we traveled from our home in Ottawa to Baie-Trinité on the North shore of the St Lawrence and back. The journey was a great chance to look at how the charging network in Quebec is deployed and to look at how the rest of Canada can learn from Quebec’s experience.  The North shore or Côte-Nord is a vast, sparsely populated area with about 1% of Quebec’s population.

Over the 4 days we drove up and back with a stop in Quebec City in both directions. Each day was about 500km, with two Level 3 fast charges each day.

The Quebec charging network is impressive, The Electric Circuit has about 115 Level 3 fast chargers in Quebec and Eastern Ontario. The chargers have all been deployed strategically, mainly on highways with good spacing. Many of the stations have a level 2 charger as a backup. At heavily used locations 2 or more fast chargers have been installed.

Electric Circuit’s Charger Network

The conditions for the drive were very good, just about perfect temperatures and low winds, allowing our e-Golf to excede her rated range of 201 kms.  On the way to Quebec City we stopped at Galeries d’Anjou, a Shopping Centre in the east end of Montreal (Click on the link for the Plugshare information on the charger). We arrived with 22kms left on the Guess-O-Meter (GOM) after about 203 km.  It was dinner time, and by the time we had found the food court and eaten the finest fast food available, the car was charged.

The Guess-O-Meter showing an optimistic 262 km range

The next stop was at Roulez Électrique in Trois-Rivieres, a run of about 125 km. Another 125 km later we stopped for the night at Château Repotel Henri IV in Quebec City.  The hotel had one Level 2 charger which provided a full charge overnight.  Hotels are increasingly providing chargers to their guests, As anyone with an EV will strongly prefer to charge overnight, this is a good business move.  Tesla offers a “Charging Partners Program” to provide discounted or free chargers to hotels and similar places.  This program will provide both Tesla and regular Level 2 chargers to suitable properties.

After a quick stop in St Anne de Beaupré to pick up coffee, we headed off to our first charging stop at Saint-Siméon, a distance of about 182 km.  St Anne would be a great spot for a charger, but the Church does not seem to be up to speed yet.  Past St Anne, the geography changes, you are no longer in the relatively flat country that stretches from Windsor to Quebec City.  The terrain becomes much more three-dimensional, with rolling hills and great views of the St Lawrence.

Saint-Siméon is a great example of how to do a charging station right, located at the tourist information centre in the village, with toilets on-site.  The station has a Level 2 as backup and is prewired so that another Level 3 fast charger can be added when it is needed.   The only thing missing was a little coffee shop.

Sometimes things are not as they should be.  The next charger from Saint-Siméon is at Forestville, a 135 km run.  Sadly this charger was not working, but thankfully this was clear from Plugshare.  So the next available charger is at Ville de Ragueneau about 207 km from Saint-Siméon.  Thankfully, this was in range, we had over 260km on the GOM.  The drive to Ragueneau was great, nice roads, a ferry and lots of great views. The only downside was the hills. EVs don’t use a lot more going up and down hills, but the GOM will guess that the big hill you are going up will continue forever and show a big drop in range.  This is restored as you come down the hill, so other than creating some range anxiety, it all works out in the end. It would be nice to have the GOM look at the elevation and give better numbers, but Alice does not have a built in nav system, we use Android Auto which needs an EV mode, but that’s another story.

The charger at Ragueneau came into view with about 25 km left on the GOM and all was well.  The picture at the top of this post was taken there. Another tourist information location with toilets, a park, right on the shore.  After a quick stop in Baie-Comeau, we got to Baie-Trinité in the afternoon.

We stayed overnight at a friends house so we had 16 hours of Level 1 charging before we left on the return trip via Quebec City with a GOM of about 160 km.  We stopped at Ragueneau for a full charge as the car was heavier and we had a bit of a headwind.  We arrived at Saint-Siméon with 32 km on the GOM.

We stayed overnight at the Hotel Chateau Laurier in Quebec City, taking advantage of one of the 4 charging stations they have in their parking.

In the morning we played tourist in Quebec City and had crepes for lunch.  Heading home in the afternoon we stopped at Baie-de-Maskinongé, a highway service centre that turned out to be on the eastbound lanes adding a few kms to the trip.  The last stop was at Rigaud. The weather was warm and this stop saw our charging speed drop to about 20kW or about 122 km/h.  This delayed us by about 20 minutes.  This was the same behaviour seen by Tesla Bjorn in his e-Golf test drive.  I have now got an OBDeleven so I can monitor the battery temperatures and all the other charging parameters, but given that it took 4 long days for this to happen  rather than the few hours it took Bjorn, I am not too concerned.

Much of Quebec is now easily accessible to almost all EVs, at least in the summer and is a great place to tour.  New Brunswick and  Nova Scotia have growing networks and travel from Ottawa to Halifax and beyond will be very simple by next year.  The charging network is designed with the right spacing of chargers, with capacity added where needed.  Quebec should be used as a model for other provinces.

Trip Statistics:

Total Distance 1964 km
Total Energy 299 kWh
Total Cost $77.65
Charging on the road 6:23 hours
Level 3 Charges 8
Level 2 Charges 3
Level 1 Charges 1
GHG Emissions Avoided 295 kg

You can look at the detailed data here.

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Winter Driving in an e-Golf

We are in the midst of a cold snap here in Ottawa, colder than Mars according to the headlines.  The temperatures over the last week or two have been consistently very cold, with a few days not making it much above -20C.  We have had some snow and the roads have been challenging at times.  Electric Alice has behaved well, and here are some of our thoughts and observations.  We have only used the car in town at these temperatures so far, a longer trip will have to wait for another post.

Driving

We have installed good winter tyres, Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2s, They are great tyres and perform well in all the conditions we have had so far. The R2 is designed for low rolling resistance and scores very highly in tyre tests.  We have found that the R2s are noisier than the summer tyres, but overall the noise level is not much worse.

On slippery roads, the traction control works really well, no torque-steer at all with really only the light on the dash to tell you what is happening.  EVs generally have good traction control as the motor is far more responsive than a gas engine. Under hard braking, the ABS works well, just like any other VW.

Regenerative braking seems to work differently if the battery is cold.  In warmer weather, we see about 50kW of regen in B mode and 100kW under braking.  With low temps, the regen seems to be much reduced, perhaps less than half of normal operation.  This is similar to driving with the battery close to 100%.  I suspect that the battery is being protected from some high current events.

Creature Comforts

Volkswagen have clearly put a lot of effort into making the e-Golf comfortable in the winter.  The heater is very powerful, keeping the cabin warm in temps well below -20C.  There is a combination of heat pump and resistive heating, with a total power draw of about 6-7kW.  When the car is cold and you turn on the heated seats, heat front and rear windscreens, the power draw sits at about 7.8kW, a huge draw. Once the cabin is warm, this seems to cycle between 4.4 and 6 kW at -20C.

On the cold days I have been using the preheating function to take the edge off, it is nice to reach the car across the large and windy parking lot at work and settle into a warm car.  It is a shame you can’t turn the seat heaters on with the timer, but they come on in a few seconds.

Range Impact

All this warmth has a big impact on range guess-o-meter (GoM) and the real range. We keep our car in our garage that sits at a few degrees above zero if it is -20C outside.  We see about 110 km on the GoM before we turn the car on, about 130 km when the car is on.

Just turned on in the garage

Driving around town is about the worst thing you can do for range in the winter, the draw of the heating systems does not drop as you sit in traffic, getting out of the car to run an errand lets the cabin cool down and you have to put a bunch of heat back in.  On Saturday we did about 75km in -22C temps with about 6 stops over the day, we got home with about 25km range, so 100km is a realistic range in these conditions. This was the only time I have experienced a touch of range anxiety in town, but when I thought it through, I know where the DC fast chargers are and we were never more than a few km from one so if we had gotten close to running out of electrons, I could have picked some up easily.

We use about 30kWh/100km at -20C, compared with about 16 kWh/100km in warmer weather. A lot of this is the heating but there is also some loss of range due to increases in rolling resistance due to road conditions and hysteresis of the cold tyres. Air resistance is higher in cold temperatures too.  Fossil cars are also much less efficient in cold weather, perhaps 30% or so.

The reduction of range really brings into focus the benefits of workplace charging.  If you have a longer commute, plugging in at work, with the option to preheat your car without using the battery is a big help.  Thankfully, the e-Golf does not have to be plugged-in to use the preheat function.

When we bought Alice, we did so on the assumption that we would rent a car for all long trips.  In warmer weather we have not found that necessary, but I think we would have to think hard about a long trip in the depth of winter.  On the other hand, in town, even in a cold snap we have a car that is warm, comfortable, easy and safe to drive on difficult roads and I have not had to stand in -20C for 5 minutes to fuel up.

 

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Introducing Electric Alice

Electric Alice is our Volkswagen e-Golf, She is white, like a lot of Golfs and she is a 100% electric car.  With no gas or diesel engine we rely on charging at home or on the road to keep moving. Why Electric Alice? Alice as in Alice in Wonderland, buying this car was a trip down a rabbit hole to a different world.

Why did we buy this car?  We choose an e-Golf firstly because it was a Golf.  I like Golfs, they are smallish, well designed and well built.  Golf’s fit our lifestyle and fit in our garage without requiring a huge reorganisation of all our stuff.  The e-Golf is just a better Golf, all the nasty diesel or gas bits are gone, replaced with an electric drivetrain.  We bought the car sight unseen

Here are a few key facts about the car:

Power – 100kW or 134 bhp

Torque – 214lb-ft

0-100km – 9.6 seconds

Battery – 35.8kWh

Range – 201km

I am not a journalist, but Jonny Smith is and he has a great review of the e-Golf that reflects how we view the car.

 

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A Fun Summer

Where does all the time go?  We have had a very busy summer and not much time to blog.  A mix of family responsibilities, setting up our new lives ashore and getting back to work have taken a lot of time but we did find time to take some road trips.  Starting with a trip to Solomons in Maryland and trips to see Jimmy Buffett, a break in Vermont we have put over 10,000km on Alice.

We have really enjoyed the road trips, other than a couple of charger issues, we had no problems, even on long trips.

 

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