New Tim Hortons in Milton offering EV charging
New Tim Hortons in Milton offering EV charging
New Tim Hortons in Milton offering EV charging. Click image to enlarge

Article by Michael Bettencourt

Gord Krantz, the smiling mayor of Milton, Ontario sat in the discontinued but still attention-grabbing Tesla Roadster to celebrate the official opening of the town’s sparkling new Tim Hortons, complete with two electric vehicle chargers to match its two drive-through lanes.

It’s one of four Tim Hortons locations in the province to offer EV owners a place to recharge with faster Level 2 machines, and twelve across the country. “We have been outfitting new restaurants with provisions, like conduit to designated parking spaces, for two years now,” said Olga Petrycki, senior manager for public affairs at Tim Hortons. “This will make the future install of stations quicker and easier for our restaurant owners.”

The final decision – and costs – however still come down to each independently owned franchise location, said the Thompson Road South Tim’s franchisee and Tesla Model S owner Daniel Sdao. This means it will be more likely for new stations in the works to offer them, rather than current locations that would have to rip up busy parking lots to run wiring underneath it, said Sdao, whose parents have been Tim’s franchisees for over 25 years.

The charging stations are meant to encourage folks to come and stay a while, said Sdao, as is the fireplace and big screen TV inside. “It’s expensive (to install), but it’s the future.”

The stations, at 48 amps continuous and installed by Saskatchewan-based Sun Country Highway, are the fastest L2s in the country available at a quick-serve restaurant, said Kent Rathwell, president of Sun Country, though there’s a St. Hubert’s in Quebec that offers an even faster L3 charger. These chargers actually came online along with this Tim’s opening in November, but Sun Country has since upgraded the location with retractable cords for free, said Sdao, which keep the cords tidier all year long, and out of ice and snow in the winter.

Line of plug-ins showed up to help celebrate, including one future one

Sun Country also brought along the V-Trux plug-in pickup it will distribute in Canada, complete with a prototype solar panel bed cover that can add 10-12 km of range in a day when parked out in the sun. Like the Chevrolet Volt, this truck runs on battery power alone, with a gasoline engine that acts as a generator whenever the large 22 kWh lithium-ion battery depletes. The company plans to start fleet sales of the full-size Silverado-based pickup in Canada in late 2014 or early 2015, with its first plug-in cargo van slated to be delivered this summer, said Rathwell.

This was likely the first time in Canada that a complete row of any Tim Hortons parking lot was full of plug-in vehicles, its owners passing by to help celebrate the opening as well as encourage the local mayor and Ontario government to open more such stations, as other provinces have done.

This also marks a good opportunity to run down some of the most popular plug-ins available now on the Canadian market – which is much more limited in choice than the U.S. – starting with the latest BMW i3, and in future installments we’ll cover significant changes to current EVs and what’s coming for 2015.

2014 BMW i32014 BMW i3
2014 BMW i3. Click image to enlarge

As always with plug-in vehicles, though often not mentioned in reviews, the Canadian prices listed don’t include provincial government rebates in Quebec and Ontario of up to $8,000 and $8,500 respectively. These are often discounted right at the dealership at the time of sale – these are the amounts provided for most gas-free battery electric vehicles (BEVs), as well as plug-in electrics with larger batteries (Chevrolet Volt, BMW i3). British Columbia exhausted its $5,000 EV rebate fund in March 2014, though the province is still funding a network of Level 3 (480V) high-speed chargers around the province to encourage plug-in adoption.

The following are the latest entries or updated for 2014:

BMW i3 – starting at $44,950

Available in pure electric i3 or range-extended i3 REx models, BMW is one of the few automakers making a concerted effort to design, manufacture and market a proper and unique plug-in vehicle, along with Nissan, battery-only EV maker Tesla and GM with its Chevy Volt. Other automakers are either not offering their EVs outside of states that don’t require them (Honda Fit EV, Toyota RAV4 EV, Fiat 500e), or offering them in very limited quantities in Canada (Ford Focus EV, Toyota Prius Plug-In).

2014 Cadillac ELR
2014 Cadillac ELR
2014 Cadillac ELR. Click image to enlarge

BMW says the lightweight carbon fibre–reinforced plastic body panels help the i3 BEV to an average driving range of about 160 km, though its official EPA range is 130 km (81 miles). The worthy range-extending engine option adds $4,000 to the 45 grand starting price, but never directly powers the wheels. The added weight decreases the all-electric range to an EPA-estimated 115 km, but roughly doubles the range on the i3 REx model, to an EPA estimate of 240 km.

Cadillac ELR – starting at $78,250

Another newbie on the plug-in block, the Cadillac ELR coupe went on sale early this year to rave reviews about its sumptuous good looks, and calls of raving lunacy on its price. See, the ELR uses an updated but largely similar drivetrain to the Chevrolet Volt, Canada’s best-selling plug-in, but the Cadillac starts at about double what the roomier and more practical four-door Volt costs.

Either one still offers one of the most advanced drivetrains in the business, with an EPA estimate of 59 km of all-electric range (AER) before the gasoline four-cylinder acts as a backup generator to allow for over 500 km worth of range. The engine noise is much more subdued than in the Volt, but still noticeable compared to the near total silence of its EV mode, so even well-to-do owners will likely play with the unique “regen paddles” that adds some rare and welcome driving involvement to the ELR.

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