By Ian Graham

My Father got me interested in renewables when he and Mom bought a cottage on the same lake that they ran their fishing lodge on.

The cottage had no electricity and being the ever curious and resourceful man he was, he tapped into the waterfalls beside the cottage flowing into the lake with a microhydro turbine system. This aspect of freedom from the grid intrigued me and as gas prices were going up constantly,

I decided to start my own research into an alternative. This led me into buying a 1994 GMC 3500 Diesel van in 2007. It could be run on waste vegetable oil with a slight conversion and for 8 years and $16,000 in savings, I collected my fuel from restaurants happy to give it away and even did a 4000KM round trip to Cape Breton without spending a dime and gas at $1.50/litre.

But as time went on and the age of the van showing, I needed to get into something new. In 2015 I bought a Chevy Volt, two weeks after I had toured GM’s manufacturing plant. Talking to other Volt owners trying to get the worst repairs out of them, I realized that EVs just do not have anywhere the issues and maintenance compared to the regular gas car. Plus charging them at home was cheap! 

As my love of EVs became more passionate, I wanted a full EV and fulfilled a desire to get a Tesla Model 3 (photo at top) in September 2018… Two days before the Ontario EV incentives were to be gone! I LOVE this car especially having frequent software updates adding new features and making it the safest car on the road today. Driving to the cottage six hours north is not an issue as 85 percent of the drive is done with one charge and Autopilot. Finding chargers has never been an issue whether it be a Tesla Supercharger, Destination Charger, or standard Level 2 and use of the PlugShare app makes planning a breeze. The freedom from the grasp of big oil dictating prices is liberating especially with being able to have a full “tank” every morning. Preconditioning the car in the coldest of winters from a phone app? Awesome!

I feel one of the exciting aspects of EVs is keeping up with the news feeds on new technology. EVs already are superior to their gas counterparts and are only getting better with battery technology, future supercapacitor integration, autonomous driving, and safety. Tesla is leading the way but many other major manufacturers are getting on board putting millions into research and development. Looking at a gas car today feels like using a rotary phone. Having 18 moving parts compared to the thousands in an ICE car plus no muffler, no catalytic converter, more space, almost zero maintenance, etc. gives me a lot of peace of mind.

But there’s one huge advantage to the EV experience compared to our ICE vehicles… we breath cleaner air! A recent documentary has shown scientists now linking dementia to the gas transportation sector as the heavy metals in the fuel not burnt are so fine that we can’t see it and yet we breath this in everyday which enters our brain. It can even cause the brain to have a reaction and shrink! In New Delhi, the gas transportation sector pollution is so bad, it’s equivalent to smoking 25 packs of cigarettes a day. Asthma is the biggest reason children go to the hospital. Premature deaths from air quality is higher then traffic related accidents. Remember that your tax dollars are not only subsidizing the oil and gas industry but propping up the strained health care sector due to air pollution.

Let’s now consider the advantages of EVs beyond the driving experience. All types of energy has a consequence including renewables and EVs. But what many don’t look at is the positive cycle renewables and EVs have on the environment over time. If we are to continuously burn fossil fuels, we need to mine, refine, transport, etc this energy only to use it ONCE in a 15-25% efficient engine! Imagine ordering a pizza and throwing out 3/4 of it! Now take away the pepperoni, cheese, etc from the remaining slices due to oil changes, brake work, mufflers and so on. Also… can you put an oil refinery in your back yard to make your own gas? Right… you’re chained to the pumps and whatever price is dictated to you!

But while there still is a consequence in producing solar panels, EVs, batteries, etc., the positive is that the loop only gets cleaner over time. Producing a solar panel could take 1.5-3 years of energy to recover BUT the panel would now produce at a minimum 25 years of power (and even more years beyond that but at an efficiency of 85%). It may have taken fossil fuels to initially build the solar panel factory, but over time the factory can eventually power itself cleanly with it’s own panels. Can you put up solar panels on your home? In most cases…YES! Charging from the sun with programs such as net metering are very doable!. Even those who can’t, can still invest into solar co-ops for a healthy return. I personally own two 10KW solar arrays and love knowing that my car is charged with clean energy.

Ian Graham's solar roof

Ian Graham’s solar roof

Today’s politics are unfortunately giving a lot of misinformation. But after being in renewables and EVs for almost 20+ years, I would never consider going back to a gas car… my time, health and freedom are too valuable to me.

Follow me on Twitter @redbartesla
Ian Graham