By Michael Bettencourt, photos courtesy of Sun Country Highway

Last month it was Tim Horton’s, this month it’s Canadian Tire that has added an electric vehicle Level Two (L2) charger, this time in Ontario’s Niagara region, the first Canadian Tire outside of Vancouver to offer up a 240-volt shot of fuel to customers. And unlike the one in Vancouver, which admittedly was well ahead of its time when it was installed more than two years ago, this one is free for all customers, all the time, says the store’s owner.

The free service will encourage customers to stay longer, said Graham Keene, the owner of the Welland Avenue Canadian Tire store in St. Catharines.  Keene also installed a tower with solar panels as well as a small wind turbine, complete with a large sign encouraging customers to plug in to the store’s ‘Tower of Power.’

The single L2 will help reassure EV owners from the greater Toronto area that a trip to the Niagara Falls region is indeed possible, especially for BEV owners with no internal combustion back up engine. It’ll also appeal to plug-in hybrid owners that wish to maximize the time and distance spent in silent EV mode – vehicles such as the Focus EV, and C-Max Energi, respectively.

CT Tower at Graham's Canadian Tire, St. CatherinesCanadian Tire EV event
CT Tower at Graham’s Canadian Tire, St. Catherines & Canadian Tire EV event. Click image to enlarge

Ford Focus EV – starting at $36,199

When Ford advertises gas Focus models for $13,499, as a base Focus appears as of this writing on Ford’s Canadian consumer site, it’s tough if not impossible to sell an EV version of that same car that starts at over 36 grand. And that’s after Ford cut the base price by four grand to start 2014. So it’s no surprise Ford sells only a handful of them each month, though the Focus EV is arguably the best-looking of the affordable plug-ins.

The dollar difference is a touch less shocking when you look at comparable equipment levels, because the fully loaded Focus EV closely aligns with the Focus five-door’s high-end Titanium trim, which would price out at about $26,699 with the automatic. At least in Ontario and Quebec, this means a minimal one to two grand price bump after provincial rebates, for a Rolls-silent driving experience – much of that drivetrain provided by Canadian parts powerhouse Magna – and super low operating costs.

Owners report about 120km of range on a full charge, so fairly similar to the Nissan Leaf. But like all Ford’s current plug-ins, the Focus EV comes off as a rather half-hearted plug-in effort, a converted gas car offering much less cargo room, and no fold-down rear seats.

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Ford Fusion Energi – starting at $38,399

Perhaps the most practical of Ford’s three plug-in models, the mid-size Fusion Energi was one of two plug-ins found to have overstated their official fuel efficiency numbers for ’13 and ’14 models, the company announced in June, its overall efficiency dropping from 4.5 L/100 km to now 5.0 L/100 km. For this, Ford will send out ‘mea culpa’ cheques to Canadian Fusion Energi buyers of $925, or $600 for those who leased it.

The EPA suggests this overall mileage figure is actually closer to 6.2 L/100 km, and that owners can expect a max of about 30 km worth of all-electric range from a full charge, while owners report 40-50 is easily possible, though as usual with plug-ins, the three “h” words take a bite out of those max range estimates: hills, heating and highway driving. Canadian fuel economy statistics will be revamped for the 2015 model year, and will likely end up close and perhaps bang on to these EPA figures.

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