It seems like everyone in the city is swapping their gas guzzler for a sleek, climate-friendly electric vehicle. Here’s everything you need to know before taking the EV plunge
The signs of Toronto’s transformation into an EV capital have been gradual but unmistakable: Teslas everywhere, new charging stations popping up on the daily commute and, this past December, the launch of Canadas first full-scale electric-vehicle production facility, in Ingersoll, just west of the city. Last year, six per cent of registered cars in Canada were fully electric (as opposed to hybrids, which are powered by both an electric motor and a gasoline engine), and the numbers are on the rise.
One big reason for the shift is that EVs finally make financial sense and are practical to own. Some can now travel up to 800 kilometres between charges. They are, on average, cheaper than ever, with budget-friendly models selling for just over $40,000 (there’s also a $5,000 federal rebate for some EVs) and charging costs that amount to a tiny fraction of what you’d pay at the pumps. And they’re supported by better infrastructure: the city has committed to installing 400 public chargers by the end of this year.
The industry is still dealing with growing pains, like long wait times to purchase the most popular vehicles and overall higher off-the-shelf costs than comparable gas-powered options. But, with so many hot new models on the market—like the Chevrolet Bolt, the Ford F-150 Lightning XLT and the Lucid Air Grand Touring—Tesla is far from being the only name (and price tag) in town. Read on to learn about our favourite EVs for every type of driver and what EV buffs love about their eco-friendly, battery-powered rides.
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Who: Courtney Lauderdale and Paolo Ferrari
What they do: Director of operations and principal designer at Studio Paolo Ferrari
What they drive: Tesla Model Y
Courtney: Paolo and I used to be hardcore Mini Cooper people; we each had our own before we met. In 2021, just as the lease on our Mini was ending, we started noticing people around us driving electric cars. We thought, EVs are better for the environment, and they look so sleek. Why not get one? So we test-drove a bunch of brands, including the Mini SE and a Tesla. We hoped that we wouldn’t like the Tesla—we joked that buying one would feel like joining a cult.
Paolo: But, as it turns out, the Tesla is a rocket—lightning fast with fantastic technology—so we caved and bought it. It’s like an iPhone on wheels: you make a software update and your car has a new feature, like a heated steering wheel. The Tesla Supercharger network has tons of locations, the smart cruise control delivers a smooth ride nearly
on its own, and I’m amazed by its roadside assistance. Once, when we were in St. Louis, Missouri, our touchscreen started glitching. We asked for service on the Tesla app, and someone showed up 15 minutes later. I was blown away.
Courtney and I agree that the car isn’t the sexiest out there, but it has one of the most refined interiors I’ve ever seen. Many car manufacturers get gimmicky with dashboards, but the Tesla Model Y is stripped down to one screen that’s easy to use. I think every other company has a long way to go to catch up. What can I say? We’ve joined the cult.
The Green Guru
Who: Mike Schreiner
What he does: Leader of the Green Party of Ontario and MPP for Guelph
What he drives: Chevrolet Bolt
In 2018, I wanted to exchange our family Prius for a fully electric vehicle, but the wait time was so long that we opted for a Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in hybrid, using the provincial rebate of up to $14,000 (which was nixed later that year). In 2020, we took advantage of the $5,000 federal rebate and bought a fully electric Chevy Bolt for around $40,000 before discounts.
We love the car, not only because it doesn’t pollute as much but also because of how affordable it is. I’m saving a ton of money on maintenance: there’s no need for oil changes, and it has fewer mechanical parts that are prone to break down than most gas-powered cars. I also save a lot on fuel. When I drive to work events, I plug a nearby level-two charger into the Bolt for three hours, and it costs me less than five dollars. If I’m in a rush, I use a level-three charger and refuel the car in an hour or less, for $20 max. There’s a misconception that all electric vehicles are $100,000 Teslas, but there are many options that are less than half the price, like the Bolt, the Hyundai Ioniq 5 or the Kia Niro. Financially, it’s a no-brainer.
I’m also a fan of the Bolt’s significant range. It can cover around 400 kilometres on a single charge. I drive a lot for work, and I never worry about not making it to where I need to be. I even go on canoe trips with my daughter as far north as Temagami without fretting. Our charging infrastructure keeps getting better. I hope we continue to develop it to accommodate the growing number of EVs on the road.
Who: Craig Mannix
What he does: Vice-president of Black music at Universal Music Canada
What he drives: Tesla Model Y
I wanted a Tesla the minute they were released in 2008, but I couldn’t afford the six-figure price tag. I’m a big tech fan, and I like the idea of being kind to the environment, so I started saving up for an electric vehicle. By 2015, I’d bought myself a BMW i3—a nice carbon-fibre, high-roof hatchback that seemed like it would last forever. It had a relatively small battery, so its range wasn’t the best, but I lived in the city and made it work. My plan was to drive it for five years, keep it in good shape and save the money I would have spent on gas until I could flip the car for a Tesla.
In 2021, I traded the BMW for a Tesla Model Y. It did not disappoint. The charging infrastructure is next-level: the stations are everywhere, and the chargers are fast. My problem with the BMW was that, on road trips, I’d be dealing with a scarce and at times run-down network of chargers. (In some countries, drivers can use Tesla chargers to power vehicles of other brands, but not yet in Canada.) In comparison, the Tesla network has thousands of chargers across North America, and I could drive all the way from Toronto to Mexico City without an issue. Local drives are also a lot of fun. I’ve tried Tesla’s advanced driver-assistance features, and I love how they detect stop signs, slow down gradually at yellow lights and automatically indicate turns. A bonus is the incredible sound system: at my job, I listen to music in a controlled studio environment all day, but I still love the sound quality in my car.
I could easily see myself driving this car for the next 10 years, but the EV industry is evolving so quickly that I don’t know if my next vehicle will be a Tesla. It might be a Mercedes-Benz, a domestic brand or even a Honda. Either way, I’m pretty sure I’m on Team EV for life.
Q&A: The Trailblazer
Nino Di Cara, head of the news platform Electric Autonomy Canada, on everything, everywhere in EV land
First of all: What do you drive?
I’ve been driving a Tesla Model 3 since 2019. I bought it because Tesla has the most experience with EVs and I was a fan of the founder back then. Now, he’s a lot more polarizing.
What are the best and worst things about EVs?
The best are that they’re climate friendly, quiet and smooth, and you don’t have to pump gas outside in sub-zero temperatures. As for the worst, wait times to purchase EVs can be long.
What’s the coolest innovation to cross your desk in the past year?
Many EVs on the market now have a very solid range—we’re talking over 400 kilometres. Drivers used to have this idea that they could end up stranded on the highway during a long journey, but now you can buy an EV for $45,000 that can travel great distances.
Which new releases are you most excited about?
General Motors is working on an electric delivery van here in Toronto. We rely so much on vans for deliveries—imagine how much we could reduce our carbon footprint if we replaced those gas guzzlers with electric alternatives. On the luxury side, the Lucid Air has wild acceleration, and Rolls-Royce has committed to going fully electric.
Is the infrastructure evolving at the same rate as the vehicles?
Not quite, but it’s catching up. Toronto is planning to install 300 off-street chargers and 100 on-street chargers by the end of the year. Ontario now also has the Ivy Charging Network, which has 160 public stations and charger rental options. My family recently went to Prince Edward County, and our hotel was happy for us to use our 110-volt charger, which plugs in to a regular outlet. We didn’t need to charge anywhere else for the whole trip.
How close are we to self-driving cars?
I think we’re still years away. There aren’t any fully autonomous personal vehicles on the market yet. The only similar tech available to the public are Tesla’s Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, which can control speed, braking and lane-keeping. It’s glorified cruise control. We’ll need a few more technological leaps before we can take our eyes off the road.
An EV Buyer’s Guide
Mercedes-Benz EQS 580 4matic
Range: 450 km
Size: Four-door sedan
Sexiness scale: 7/10
Fun feature: The battery is in the vehicle’s underbody, resulting in a lower centre of mass and a sports car feel.
Biggest pitfall: The back seat ceiling is low; tall passengers are better off riding in the front.
Best perk: The Hyperscreen—three monitors spread across the dashboard with entertainment features, basic driving information and a navigation system with augmented reality.
Ford F-150 Lightning XLT
Range: 370 km
Size: Full-size truck
Sexiness scale: 8/10
Fun features: The Lightning’s intelligent adaptive cruise control, 12-inch touchscreen and automatic emergency braking make it far more sophisticated than your dad’s Ford.
Biggest pitfall: The wait list, which is currently anywhere from four months to a year.
Best perk: Versatility: it can tow 7,700 lbs, drive for 370 km between charges and comfortably fit a family of five. It’s suited for a construction site, a camping trip or a leisurely weekend drive.
Lucid Air Grand Touring
Price: From $212,500
Range: 830 km
Size: Four-door sedan
Sexiness scale: 10/10
Fun features: The seats have massage functions, the windshield extends overhead for an expanded view and facial-recognition software automatically adjusts the seat height to suit the driver.
Biggest pitfall: It’s a whopping five times more expensive than the Bolt.
Best perk: Its bone-rattling acceleration: zero to 100 km/h in 2.8 seconds.
For thrift seekers
Range: 420 km
Size: Five-door sedan
Sexiness scale: 3/10
Fun feature: Removable floor panels for extra storage in the cargo area.
Biggest pitfall: The charging speeds are relatively slow: its 55 kW power means you’ll spend twice as long at the charger as drivers of a Tesla Model 3.
Best perk: Range for cost. Chevrolet’s flagship EV costs little more than a gas-powered equivalent and outdoes the range of competitors like the Nissan Leaf (340 km) and the Mini SE (180 km).