If Jeremy Flatt needed proof his electric car could survive a Yellowknife winter, the city’s recent weather delivered the ultimate test.
After weeks of temperatures dipping as low as -40C, the Fat Fox catering business co-owner is now satisfied the company’s Kia Soul can handle life in the North.
“I’m glad we had that freezing cold snap straight away,” said Flatt as he toured Yellowknife in the four-year-old vehicle, which had its first outing on January 2.
“Firstly, it was within the time period where I was allowed to send the vehicle back to the dealership if I didn’t like it,” he said, “Secondly, it was good to get that out of the way and see, OK, this does work.
“The range took a pounding, for sure – it went down to about 50 km on the coldest day [from a regular maximum of around 155 km] – but it was still fine. It charges just fine, it starts fine, and it gets warm straight away as it doesn’t have to wait for the engine to heat up, which is pretty cool.”
The all-electric white 2016 Kia Soul is charged at Flatt’s home and the city’s curling club, where the Fat Fox catering business is now based. Having demonstrated the Kia can survive the cold, Flatt says it’s perfect for ferrying food across the city.
“We want to reduce our environmental impact – that’s a big part of it – but we realized we were spending about $90 a week on gas driving to and from little drop-offs in town,” he said.
“Even if the car’s range was reduced to 60 km in cold weather, we really wouldn’t have any problems at all. We would be able to charge in between all the short journeys.
“Yellowknife is actually the perfect place for electric vehicles in that sense. You can’t drive more than five kilometres in a straight line without ending up in the forest, and I think a lot of Yellowknifers drive like us – lots of short journeys with time to recharge if they need to.”
Flatt acknowledged “you’re not going to drive to Edmonton in this thing,” adding: “A lot of people in town have two vehicles, certainly families. If you’re worried about range, buy one electric vehicle and drive to Edmonton in your other car.”
Exactly how much the company has saved in costs through the switch is not yet clear.
The car’s bottom-line is being helped by a City of Yellowknife vehicle charger outside City Hall which, Flatt says, is currently free of charge.
“The City installed it last year or the year before to provide for people who have electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids, but there aren’t that many in town,” he said.
“Either they deliberately haven’t set up the payment system yet, or they just haven’t got around to it. Either way, it’s free right now.”
Flatt believes the Kia is the first fully electric vehicle seeing such regular use in Yellowknife, but others are expected to join it in the near future.
The YK Car Share Co-op is set to introduce electric vehicles, reserved and paid for in half-hour increments, this year. The City of Yellowknife has agreed to become a corporate member of the co-op, allowing its staff access to an electric vehicle.
“I really wanted to go with the full electric just to be brave, you know?” said Flatt on Sunday. “It’s pretty cool. It’s the future.”