By Matthew Liebenberg
There are still not too many of them on Saskatchewan roads, but there were plenty of interest in electric vehicles at a presentation in Swift Current.
A capacity audience attended the Swift Current Museum Lunch and Learn on Sept. 13 to learn more about this automotive technology from local electric vehicle enthusiast Lloyd Fehr.
He was pleased to see this level of interest, because for many years there were few others around who shared his curiosity in electric vehicles.
“The fact that there’s so many people here today says that the attitudes are changing, and people are starting to ask questions,” he mentioned.
He enjoys sharing his passion with others and helping them to gain a better understanding of the technology.
“I love doing this kind of stuff,” he said. “I’m going to Saskatoon and Regina in the coming weeks to do the same sort of thing.”
He has a background in automotive electronics and has been an early adopter of electronic vehicle technology. It began 10 years ago, when he converted a 1986 Porsche 944 into an electric car.
“I drove it here today, and that was kind of a bite to start doing electric vehicles in Saskatchewan,” he said. “I did it as a proof of concept, saying that maybe electric vehicles can work in Saskatchewan. And 10 years later it’s still the case.”
Some of his other vehicles were also on display outside the museum. He has owned a Tesla Model S electric vehicle since 2016 and he purchased an all-electric Ford F-150 Lightning truck in 2022. His most recent project was to buy and repair an accident damaged Tesla Model S.
“It’s actually very easy to work on,” he said. “You don’t have injectors, timing chains, spark plugs, air filters. You’re missing a lot of components on it, and it makes it a lot simpler to work on.”
He shared some rarely known facts about the history of electric vehicles in Saskatchewan. The first electric vehicle made its appearance in the province in 1912. The Rauch and Lang was purchased for $4,250 in Saskatoon. This was expensive compared to the $600 price of a Ford Model T.
The odd-looking Electrek Uncar, which was built by Unique Mobility in Colorado, came to Saskatchewan in 1982. SaskPower purchased one to test its performance during a prairie winter, but the technology with the use of lead acid batteries was still lacking.
The modern technology electric vehicles began appearing on Saskatchewan roads a decade ago and initially most of them were Tesla models, but now different vehicles by various manufacturers are available.
“There are companies you’ve never heard of that make electric vehicles and then there’s always traditional manufacturers as well,” he said. “And now that we can get into the used EV market, the prices come down. If you can buy a used vehicle for a lot less, you’re more able to get into it.”
Rapid development of battery technology means the average range of an electric vehicle is now around 400 kilometres.
“There are companies that are putting out 800 and even up to 1,000 kilometres of battery range,” he noted. “They’re getting it because of efficiencies with aerodynamics, with better battery tech, with better motor tech. They are just getting more efficiency.”
The number of electric vehicles on Saskatchewan roads have been increasing at a slow, but steady pace. In 2016 there were only seven fully electric or battery electric vehicles in the province, and one of those was owned by Fehr. In 2022 there were 506 battery electric vehicles in the province.
If the number of hybrid electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are added, then the total number of electric vehicles in the province increased from 233 in 2016 (0.43 per cent of total vehicle sales) to 2,211 in 2022 (5.16 per of total vehicle sales).
He noted that the number of electric vehicles in Norway increased from five per cent of total new vehicles in 2013 to 80 per cent of total new vehicles sales. This turnaround was a result of government incentives.
The price of electric vehicles will continue to come down as sales increase and more are built, but he felt government support is also needed in Saskatchewan to increase the adoption rate for electric vehicles.
“I would like to see some EV incentives, whether it be a tax incentive like the federal government is doing or maybe you don’t charge an EV tax for having a vehicle that is cleaner,” he said. “I would like to see money put into charging infrastructure and maintenance, because the hurdle is long-distance traveling in Saskatchewan. We live very remote. We need to have chargers everywhere and that makes a big difference.”
The most common question he receives about electric vehicles is if they will work at the low temperatures of a Saskatchewan winter. His own experience shows that they can be driven under those conditions, but cold weather does affect their range, which will become shorter in very cold temperatures.
“There is a learning curve,” he said. “If you slow down a little bit, your economy gets better. … If you have more charging stations, that worry goes away.”
He noted that the use of an electric vehicle can be helpful to live in a more sustainable way, but it is only one step.
“It’s a piece of sustainability,” he said. “It’s not the answer to everything, but it is a piece that can make things better.”
Lunch and Learn takes place at noon on the second Wednesday of each month at the Swift Current Museum. Guest speakers make presentations on a variety of interesting subject. See the museum’s Facebook page for details and updates about events.