June 17, 2024

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Savvy Car Technicians

Want to try out an EV? Here are some electric car rental options


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This week:

  • Not ready to buy an electric vehicle? There are now options to rent or share them
  • Making the case for food diversity
  • Native plants finding their way to more Nova Scotia gardens this spring

Not ready to buy an electric vehicle? There are now options to rent or share them


If you’ve ever wanted to give an electric car a try, but aren’t ready to buy one, here’s some good news: there are more and more options across Canada to rent one for a few hours to a few weeks, at prices that aren’t that different from the cost of renting or sharing a comparable gas-powered vehicle.

Maybe you need a rental while visiting or travelling, and want a greener one, or just want to try something new. For daily or weekly rentals, there are a few options:

  • If you’re in Vancouver, rental giant Hertz offers the Volvo XC40 Recharge and Hyundai Kona. They are available for on-site purchase or via an upgrade. “Daily rates for EVs are similar to rates for our luxury vehicles,” the company said in an email. Hertz announced in October that it was buying 100,000 Tesla Model 3s for its fleet, but they’re not yet available in Canada.

  • If you’re in Vancouver and set on a Tesla, there’s a company that specializes in that: Zerocar. The company charges $169 per day, but offers discounts for longer rental periods.

  • Outside Vancouver, there are fewer options, but one available in 350 cities across Canada is Turo. It’s an app and website that lets individual car owners rent out their vehicles, a sort of automotive Airbnb. Users can filter for electric vehicles, hybrids or both. Turo says use of the filter tripled between February and March, as gas prices soared. Prices range from about $109 per day for a Chevy Bolt in Montreal to $130 per day for a Tesla Model 3 in Vancouver.

For drivers who need a car for shopping or day trips, there are options in some cities for hourly rentals or car sharing.

  • Communauto, which offers car-sharing services in four provinces, has 113 electric vehicles, 108 of them as part of its Montreal fleet of more than 2,400 vehicles.

  • In Vancouver, Zerocar recently launched a Tesla-only car-sharing service targeted at locals. So far, 50 vehicles are available in the downtown, Coal Harbour and Olympic Village neighbourhoods, but the company hopes to expand soon to the West End. It has ordered 100 more vehicles and has requests to add cars in more suburban areas.

Rentals may also be a good option for people who want to try an EV before they buy.

A recent study conducted by Dunsky Energy and Climate Advisors for Transport Canada found that a majority of dealerships across the country have no zero-emissions vehicles in stock, especially outside Quebec, B.C. and Ontario. 

Cedric Mathieu, vice-president in charge of Canada at Turo, said that means official test drives are “very, very hard to come by.”

Darryl Croft, president of the Toronto-based Electric Vehicle Network, which helps car owners transition from gas to EVs, said given the differences between the two types of vehicles, prospective owners may want more than a half-hour test drive.

“People may want to bring the vehicle home for their significant other or give it a bit of a longer test to make sure it meets their lifestyle needs,” he said, adding they might also want to get a bit more comfortable with the logistics of charging.

At the moment, the Electric Vehicle Network offers fewer than a dozen EV and plug-in hybrid models to rent in Ontario. It’s planning to expand the program to Nova Scotia and Alberta later this year, in partnership with multi-residential buildings and factories that want to make the service available to residents and employees, said Croft.

Mathieu sees Turo as a way to help people get more comfortable with EVs. Renters can get tips from owners as well as firsthand experience. Meanwhile, owners can offset the higher cost of EVs. 

He added, “It’s also a great way to share your enthusiasm and your knowledge about electric cars.”

Emily Chung

Reader feedback

Last week, Inayat Singh wrote about efforts to recycle used electric vehicle batteries.

Ted Radlak wrote:

“Really enjoyed this and many of your articles. Battery recycling is so important and many don’t know how much of these rare earth minerals like cobalt we can extract from spent batteries. 

“I have to give a plug to such a homegrown facility run by Electra in Ontario, which the province and feds have invested a lot of money in to secure our supply and promote Ontario as a hub of the EV industry. Electra is about to commission their cobalt sulfate refinery in December followed by their battery recycling plant in 2023. They intend to have the lowest carbon footprint of all cobalt sulfate producers in the world. Very exciting stuff in our unstable world suffering from tenuous supply chains.

“I’m in no way affiliated with the company, just a huge supporter of green industry and a sustainable, Canadian-made future.”

Heinz Vogel suggested another use for old EV batteries.

“They are great for off-grid or power backup instead of generators. There is a big demand for these batteries and they need very little work to convert to 120V. In an off-grid house they can last another 10 years before the need for recycling! Off-grid houses run off of solar or wind, not coal, gas, nuclear or hydro dams. ‎

“The reason this is so perfect is that a car battery needs to have capacity to travel a decent distance, and a house doesn’t,” wrote Vogel, who signed his email with “Off Grid on the Canadian Shield.”

Old issues of What on Earth? are right here.

There’s also a radio show and podcast! This week, What on Earth is expanding its footprint… the show will now run for an hour and air in a new time slot. On the inaugural hour-long show, Canadians living on low incomes talk about the challenges of trying to participate in climate solutions while inflation is at a 30-year high. What On Earth now airs on Sunday at 11 a.m. ET, 11:30 a.m. in Newfoundland and Labrador. Subscribe on your favourite podcast app or hear it on demand at CBC Listen.

The Big Picture: The importance of food diversity

Climate change is having myriad impacts, which include threatening the long-term viability of our food supply. From wheat to corn to almonds, many crops are imperiled by increasing heat and less access to water. As author Dan Saladino has pointed out, we have created a very efficient food system, where we are able to grow a certain number of crops in great abundance and feed more people. But he warns that this will not work in our favour as global warming becomes more acute.

In his book Eating to Extinction: The World’s Rarest Foods and Why We Need to Save Them, Saladino explains why the key to survival is food diversity — that is, ensuring the health of as many crop species as possible, so that if climate change jeopardizes certain species, others might survive. To illustrate his point, he cites the example of another endangered crop: coffee. Scientists have identified 130 coffee bean species, but the world relies on two, arabica and robusta — both of which are susceptible to the effects of climate change. Arabica, for example, grows best at temperatures around 19 C, and any deviation from that can lead to a drop in productivity and the risk of fungal disease.

Saladino reports that in 2018, scientists found and cultivated a species called stenophylla, which had last been found in Sierra Leone in the 1950s. This species has a number of benefits, both environmental and gustatory: as Saladino writes, “stenophylla can cope with higher temperatures and possesses greater tolerance to drought, as well as being a great-tasting coffee, one that Victorian botanists even described as ‘superior’ to arabica.”

(Rodrigo Arangua/AFP/Getty Images)

Hot and bothered: Provocative ideas from around the web

Native plants finding their way to more Nova Scotia gardens this spring

(Robert Short/CBC)

Susan Lawrence knows her plants. 

She and her partner, Robert Baldwin, own and operate Baldwin Nurseries in Upper Falmouth, N.S. Over 27 years, the nursery has grown into a two-hectare operation offering tree seedlings, shrubs, perennials and more. 

But Baldwin Nurseries offers something not all plant sellers provide ⁠— native Nova Scotian species. 

“For me, it’s exciting to see a young couple coming in, and they want to do a garden, they want a pollinator garden,” Lawrence said. “They want as much native [vegetation] as they can get.”

Over the last six years, she’s noticed an increase in interest for native plant species. Plants indigenous to the area now make up about 20 per cent of stock, something Lawrence said brings benefits to a home garden.

“When you have a native species, it’ll be more successful,” she said. “It’s already used to the climate here.

“There’s going to be no problem with a harsh winter or droughts. It’s already been here for so long. So it’s adaptable.”

Melanie Priesnitz, a conservation horticulturist at Acadia University’s Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens, has spent much of her life working with native plants. The gardens have more than 250 different species, all native to the region.

“A plant native to here is one that existed prior to European settlement, and its range is the Acadian Forest,” Priesnitz said. 

“Before European settlement, it was called the Wabanaki Forest, named by the Mi’kmaq of this whole area, which is the land of the dawn where the sun first rises.”

The Wabanaki Forest region includes the Maritime provinces, parts of Quebec and certain areas of the northwestern U.S.

Priesnitz said there were originally more than 1,400 indigenous species in the region until colonization, when around 900 non-native species were introduced.

“It really changed our ecosystem here. It changed what the Wabanaki Forest is.”

Priesnitz said there are many benefits to planting native species in a garden. That includes insect resistance, saving water, deterring invasive species and using fewer pesticides and fertilizers.

“Gardening with native plants is really giving back to the land,” Priesnitz said. “It’s providing habitat for wildlife, it’s putting the right plant in the right place. It’s reforesting areas, it’s trying to restore pieces of land that we have changed.

“We can really make a difference to the natural world by making good, responsible choices about planting.”

The botanical gardens have native plants like ostrich fern (see photo above), yellow twig dogwood, mayflower and bayberry that could easily be planted in a home garden.

Lawrence grows and sells bayberry, a plant known for its fragrance, at the nursery. They start the seeds in their propagation room, where most of their native plants begin their life. After four years of growth, they’re ready to be taken home and planted. 

“Bayberry is a coastal plant, mostly on the edges of beaches. So Lockeport, Chéticamp, Cape Breton, anywhere where there’s a coastal area you’ll probably find bayberry,” Lawrence said.

Right now, she’s gearing up for what she expects to be a busy spring planting season.

“I’ve had a few different jobs in my life, but [with] this job, every single day, at the end of my day, I say, ‘I love my job.'”

Victoria Welland

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Editor: Andre Mayer | Logo design: Sködt McNalty


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