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Cars and trucks are Rob MacGregor’s life, fixing them, teaching others how to fix them.
But with a finite fuel supply and growing concern about greenhouse gases, he knows their—and his—days are numbered.
So when the director of development and business at BCIT’s School of Transportation met Kent Rathwell, the founder of president of Sun Country Highway, a Saskatoon-based company working to install charging stations for electric vehicles across Canada, he saw the future. For the automotive industry, and his students.
Tuesday, at MacGregor’s invitation, Rathwell brought some leading edge electric vehicle technology, including a Tesla Roadster sports car and Canada’s first electric pick-up truck, to BCIT’s Burnaby campus.
The event was an opportunity for fleet managers to get a close-up look at vehicles that could save them money as they save the environment, as well as a chance for MacGregor’s students to see the kinds of vehicles they’ll be working on in the future.
“We need to be seen as part of a movement,” said MacGregor. “As a leading institute of technology we have to lead the acceptance and application of this technology.”
Having a little sizzle to sell the steak doesn’t hurt.
The Roadster is a lithe little soft top whose 300-horsepower AC induction motor and single-speed gearbox can get it to 100 kph in 3.7 seconds.
It can travel almost 400 kilometres on a single charge, generating no emissions along the way. Its production run sold out in North America despite a price tag north of $100,000.
The pick-up truck, built by VIA Motors, which converts conventional pick-ups, vans and hybrids from General Motors to electric drivetrains, can tow 6,500 pounds.
But all that technology won’t get very far if the batteries can’t be charged, conveniently and cheaply.
That’s where Rathwell’s company comes in.
He’s looking to keep electric vehicles moving as simply as fossil-fueled cars by establishing the infrastructure of high speed charging stations at service centres, businesses, hotels and restaurants.
The chargers would allow motorists to empower their batteries while they have dinner, play a round of golf or stay overnight at a hotel, rather than the 12 hours it can take to top up the batteries using conventional household current.
It’s like a chicken-and-egg thing, said Rathwell; people need reliable places to charge before they’ll commit to electric vehicles in a big way, but high-speed chargers won’t be widely available until there are more electric vehicles.
It’s much like gas stations were back in the earliest days of the horseless carriage when there wasn’t a pump every few blocks, explained Rathwell of his plan to establish charging stations across the country where few currently exist.
“But we’re trying to do it in one year.”
After meeting MacGregor at the Vancouver Auto Show, he installed one of his company’s high-speed charging stations at BCIT’s automotive building, supplementing the four 110-volt and three 240-volt plug-ins already on campus.
“These guys are putting their money where everybody else is just putting their mouth,” said MacGregor of his visitors.
“This is not just stuff from textbooks anymore.”