Saturday, February 21, 2009

Electric Vehicles at the Canadian International Autoshow in Toronto

So what does the Canadian International Autoshow have this year for someone who wants to go out and buy an all electric vehicle right now? Here I mostly restrict myself to products that are market ready and available for purchase in Canada. Some are market ready and we should be able to buy them but can't because provincial or territorial regulations don't allow them yet.

If you live anywhere other than New Brunswick or the Northwest Territories regulations allow you to drive one of these:

Electric Scooter by ElectroWheels
Electric Scooter by ElectroWheels**

I love this one! As soon as I have a shed to park it in I'm going to run out and buy one. Even though it looks like a scooter, it's classified as an electric bicycle (notice the pedals down at the side) which means everyone riding one has to wear a helmet regardless of age, but you don't need a licence or insurance. You just need to be over the age of 14. They have a regulated top speed of 32km/hr and this is plenty fast enough for the average person on a bicycle!* There are a few brands of electric bicycles, scooters, tricycles and limited speed motorcycles on the market and you should be able to easily find dealers in your local yellow pages. But if you're in Toronto and can still make it down to the Autoshow, ElectroWheels is offering a discount from regular in store retail prices if you buy at the show. ElectroWheels bikes/scooters are assembled in Canada from imported parts from China and they configure a variety of models. I'd say this qualifies as a made in Canada product considering the extent to which vehicle manufacture is almost never done in entirely one country anymore .**

If you live in Alberta in addition to being able to buy and ride electric bicycles and scooters you can also get one of these babies:

Vectrix 100% Electric, Zero Emissions Motorcycle
Vectrix 100% Electric, Zero Emissions Motorcycle

This Vectrix electric motorcycle has a top speed of 100km/hr and is currently only available in Calgary at All Season Motor Sports. It's classified as a motorcycle by Transport Canada so you can ride it anywhere you can ride a regular motorcycle. They are looking for more dealers to carry them so they could be available in other provinces soon. Here's the Transport Canada ecoTECHNOLOGY page on the Vectrix. For more on Vectrix check out autobloggreen.

If, on the other hand, you live in Quebec or British Columbia you could buy and drive an enclosed, all-season low speed electric vehicle for tooling around town like this:

ZENN Made in Canada neighbourhood electric vehicle
ZENN Made in Canada neighbourhood electric vehicle

The ZENN (as well as the NEMO, not featured at the show) is manufactured just outside Montreal in Quebec. These are Low Speed Electric Vehicles/Neighbourhood Electric Vehicles with a regulated top speed of 40km/hr.* On display in the GTA in Motion exhibit are the ZENN and Electrovaya vehicles, including the MAYA which is supposed to be launched this summer. For more on the MAYA see this article on For some inexplicable reason the GTA in Motion display is not with the Transport Canada ecoTECHNOLOGY display and National Resources Canada's most fuel efficient cars display in front window of the North Building, but instead as you come from the North Building into the South it's tucked away in behind the first escalators.

Of course if you absolutely must have a highway capable, all-purpose electric vehicle there is only one way to get it right now and that is to convert a regular or hybrid car. If you want to do it yourself one group to talk to would be the EV Society of Canada. The Electric Vehicle Society of Canada has a small booth beside the GTA in Motion display.

And no, even if you did have US$109,000 to spend on the base model of the Tesla, it is not currently available for purchase in Canada, only in the U.S. and Europe.

There are rumours around the show of manufacturers coming out with affordable ($40,000-$50,000) all-purpose electric vehicles. Even under the best of circumstances none would be available in less than 18 months to 2 years. And given the bureaucracy that could be involved in getting these vehicles approved for the Canadian market it could easily be longer. The vehicle that's furthest along is this one:

Mitsubishi iMiEV
Mitsubishi iMiEV

This car is scheduled to go into production and be on the Japanese market this year, but there has been no announcement about the timeline for launching it in North America.

If you want to see it this is the last weekend for the Autoshow in Toronto. It goes until 10pm tonight Saturday February 21 or tomorrow Sunday February 22 from 10:30am to 6pm.

Here are a few Toronto Star articles on with some of the highlights:

Alternative-power cars debuting in Toronto: Alternative fuel cars mix performance, efficiency

"The future of the car takes shape: GTA in Motion exhibit explains how electricity will play a vital role in the car of tomorrow"

*edit February 22: Added information on regulated vehicle speeds.
**edit February 22: Removed the "Made in Canada" description. Will follow up to see if this was just a misunderstanding with the sales representative at the show. A company spokesperson confirmed that they are assembled in Canada from parts manufactured in China but did not say where the designs originate.


Secret said...

The claim that ElectroWheels ebikes are made in Canada is blatantly false. They are made in China.

kristin said...

Thanks for the comment. The person I spoke to at the Autoshow certainly indicated that they could put together a variety of models and that they are based locally but I do see upon close inspection of their website that they don't claim to be made/assembled in Canada. I will certainly follow up and make a correction/clarification in the next few days.