So. Along with the usual crud that infects my inbox comes this little gem today, courtesy of the Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association mailing list. More after the PR…

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Doreen Allen <>
Date: 2009/3/3
Subject: Tesla comes to Canada!

I’m excited to announce that Tesla Motors will begin taking orders today from customers in Canada, and we’ll begin delivering Canadian cars later this year. This is great news for Canada’s many car enthusiasts, including scores of Tesla fans who have written passionate e-mails over the years about why Tesla should go north. We listened to you – and we look forward to delivering your cars starting in the fourth quarter of 2009.

Canada is uniquely positioned to become a premier showcase for Tesla, still the only production automaker selling highway-capable electric vehicles in North America. Canada is one of two countries in the world (the other is Norway where the majority of electricity comes from renewable resources, including run-of-river small hydro, wind, biomass, ocean, geothermal and solar energy.

An EV recharged from the current Canadian grid, on average, would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by
about 85 percent compared to an equivalent gasoline-powered vehicle. In hydro-dominant British Columbia, Quebec and Manitoba, the reduction would be an impressive 98 percent.

We are already busy considering retail opportunities in this vast country. In the short term, we are confident that we can serve a large percentage of our customers through retail stores in Seattle and New York, which we plan to open in the first half of this year. Eventually, we envision Tesla-owned retail and service centers in Ontario, British Columbia and possibly Quebec.

The base price for Roadsters in Canada will be set closer to the start of deliveries in the fourth quarter, and pricing will reflect exchange rates at that time. The CA$60,000 reservation fee is refundable, and the remainder of the balance is due upon the start of production, a few months prior to delivery. In the United States, the base price is $109,000.

These Roadsters will comply with all Canadian safety regulations for mass-produced, highway-capable vehicles. As they have for Americans and Europeans, we’re certain Roadsters will quickly become the automobile of choice for Canadians who refuse to compromise between performance and efficiency. You can order your Roadster today online, or call us directly at +1-650-413-6300.  We look forward to hearing
from you!

Doreen Allen
Director of Sales Operations
————–End Forwarded Message———–

Now let’s think about what you get for your — at today’s exchange rate — C$140,651.83. Oops! Forgot the GST. That should be C$147,684.42, and oh! by the way, you still need to put the tags on it and pay the guy who shipped it up from Seattle (and pay some additional money to the Registrar of Imported Vehicles and to Canadian Tire for the Federal and Provincial safety check-off). I’m not really getting down on Tesla, here. I just want to look at what you’re getting for all that money.

If you bought a Honda Fit you’d have a car with a back seat. You would still be burning that evil gasoline, but it gets 50 mpg Imperial or 40 mpg American. Since we buy gas in litres, we get to do some more math: At 3.78 litres per gallon and 1.61 kilometres per mile, that 40 mpg is 17 kilometres per liter. I know that’s not how we think of the litres vs. kilometres question! Remember that mpg measures distance against a fixed quantity of fuel, whereas l/100 km measures fuel against a fixed distance. I’m looking for a conceptual similarity that will be plain in a moment.

I can go down to Kamloops Honda today and drive away in a nicely equipped Fit for $26,000. I drive 80 km on average every day except Sunday, so let’s call that 500 km per week or 2,000 km per month. Just to keep the math simple let’s say I’m paying $1.00 per litre for fuel. I’m burning 117 litres of gasoline a month, at a cost of…gee…$117.00. Add in the every-two-months oil change, tires once in a while, a pack of chips for the driver, and we could see $150.00 per month combined operating costs. See where I’m going?

Let’s add it up: $26,000 for the car, $1500 a year for insurance and registration, $150.00 month for gas, oil, tires and stuff. In the first year, that’s $29,300. In year two, an additional $3,300. Assuming that $150 per month doesn’t change, how long can I drive that car before I’ve paid for a Tesla?

According to my math, 36.5 YEARS. How far is that at 2,000 km/month? 876,000 km!

By now some person has noticed that I’m comparing apples to oranges. Perhaps I should run the numbers on buying a Corvette. Too bad GM is bankrupt. It might still be a good deal.

Now let’s get to my real point, which is that a “production automaker selling highway-capable electric vehicles in North America” can get four wheels on the road for less than that. A lot of people miss the secondary point here, too. That is that the Tesla Roadster is designed for the kind of people who just have to pay close to C$150,000 for the moral equivalent of a grocery-getter.

As it happens, there are at least a couple of companies right here in Canada that can get you going electric. One of them is Canadian Electric Vehicles on the Island. They don’t produce the vehicle, but they produce the kit that you use to modify the vehicle. It’s pretty specific — their kit is designed to quickly and easily change a late-model Chevy S-10 or GM Sonoma into an EV. You supply the truck — called a “glider” in EVspeak — and either they do the work, you do the work, or you can farm it out to any decent mechanic.

Cost? I’ll toss up some numbers with the same level of precision as I used above. C$10,000 for a truck in clean condition with good running gear (you can pull the old gas engine and sell it on eBay to save more money). C$15,000 for conversion parts and batteries. You get a usable range of 60-80 kilometres. If you want the spiffy lithium-ion batteries that are all the rage, expect to pay $25,000 for your batteries. Double the price of the vehicle, triple the range. You could go high end three times for the price of a Tesla, and it’s a made-in-Canada solution that puts Canadian bread on Canadian tables. Which option are we most likely to see on the streets of Kamloops?

Which brings me to the last lesson for today. I hear people complain all the time about not being able to get a “legal” EV in Canada. I checked the regulations. I called an ICBC specialist to be sure I was comprehending what I read. There is no law against EVs on Canadian roads. There is a law against driving a vehicle that won’t go fast enough. You can’t drive an electric golf cart on the Trans-Canada because you can’t make it go fast enough to be anything other than a mobile speed-bump. Any vehicle that meets crash test requirements and goes faster than 60 km/hr is legal on the road, as far as I can tell. Doesn’t matter whether it runs on coal, diesel, steam, gasoline, propane, electric, wind, hot air from Ottawa, or by running along like Fred Flintstone.

So for the cost of a Honda Fit, you can get an electric vehicle that will meet almost any around town and commuting need, carry two or three people and some groceries, and “fill up” for a dollar a day.

Or if you need serious “points” you can splash out for the Tesla. If you do, I’d like a ride.