Electric cars are finally rolling out onto the market. It’s all well and good for the environment, but many potential buyers have unanswered questions. We went to the experts for answers. The edited interviews are below.

The vehicle has a charger built into it, so from that point of view, all you need is electricity. The electricity is supplied through what we call an EVSE (Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment), which is just an interface [installed in your garage] between the vehicle and the grid. So you do have to have that piece of equipment in order to run the charger.

No, every manufacturer will have an EVSE of some sort that is the interface.

With 120V, it takes about 17 hours from a depleted battery state, and with 240V, it takes about 7 hours from the same depleted battery state. The level-two charger (240V supply) is what we recommend as the best charging dock.

Well it’s not different. The only difference is that there’s a piece of equipment that exists to indicate that the battery is accepting the charge.

No, that needs to be purchased separately. I mean it’s possible that the consumer may have one already because the plug is an SAE standard, so all plug-in hybrids or plug-in electric vehicles will use this same plug.

No it’s very different. The J1772 Standard is a very unique plug.

Roughly $2,000 – $2,500. The equipment itself is around $1,000 and then it depends on exactly what it takes in a home—if it’s a normal, modern house with an up-to-date electrical panel, it could be $1,000 to $1,500 to install it.

That’s partly true. We’re working with our partners to encourage them to encourage others to install charging spots… But at the moment there are almost no electric cars on the market, so it’s kind of “chicken and egg.”

In most of our provinces, electrical supply is extremely green… because most of it comes from hydro generation, so it generates no GHG (greenhouse gas) in production. Some people say, “Well, you’ll just change where you’ll be generating GHG from [elsewhere, as in coal-powered electricity plants],” but that’s not the case in Canada.

This battery is designed for a lot of cycle use, so it doesn’t really bother it if it’s plugged in. The power flow gets shut off and it doesn’t really matter… It’s kind of designed around the idea that it will be plugged in a lot.

Most modern break-in periods are pretty limited—it’s more a matter of “just don’t drive at a steady speed for 500 km.” That’s pretty minimal. But with an electric vehicle there is no break-in period.

Is it true that Nissan offers gasoline cars for people who want to go on longer road trips?
In the United States, there is a program around that. I think in the U.S. it’s part of an upgraded roadside assistance program that you can get. We’re considering that for Canada but we haven’t made a decision.

The vehicle has been of course thoroughly tested to meet all of the crash regulations, so there is little danger. The battery is in the middle of the vehicle, so it’s in the safest location. And the materials in it are quite inert. It would take an extremely violent crash to cause the battery case to rupture. I’m talking extremely violent.

We estimate somewhere between five and ten years for a useable life in a vehicle, and that has to do with the capacity to take a charge… We warrant the battery for eight years.

No, everything is sealed. This is not an experimental car, this is a real car, so it has to meet all of the standards that we have for any other car… From our point of view, in terms of where does the vehicle make the most sense—it makes the most sense if you own a garage, so that you can install the power line to run the EVSE. If you park on the street, then it’s not going to work very well and we don’t recommend it. But that gets into infrastructure that the municipalities are doing to support this kind of technology… We’re recommending that in the beginning (of the EV movement), people have a garage to make charging easier.  

The vehicle itself is highly recyclable, including the battery. And the battery can be reused as well, even after its life in the vehicle. It can be used for storage for solar or wind power.

It can. One of the nice advantages of the Volt is that its charge time on 120 volts, or a regular wall outlet, is about 10 hours, so you can easily do it overnight or at work during the day. But we do recommend that people install an EVSE in their homes, because an EVSE will reduce the charge time from ten hours to four.

Yes, it is offered for sale separately. The vehicle comes with a 120V charge cord, and the EVSE equipment will be offered through a turnkey process similar to what we have in the U.S. We haven’t finalized it here, but in the U.S. the price of the equipment is $495, plus installation. If you do a survey of the EVSE from other automaker OEMs or even independent OEMs, our EVSE comes in at a very competitive price.

We’ve done our absolute best to try to make the electric vehicle experience accessible to as many people as possible. We designed our own charging system, optimized for the Volt to bring it in as an affordable a cost as we could.

Well we’ve already done a battery electric vehicle in the ‘90s. One of the key things we learned from EV 1 was the large role that range anxiety plays in the lives of the drivers who were using battery electric vehicles. And near the end of the EV 1 mandate we were actually, in some cases, towing a generator behind our electric vehicles in case they ran out of electricity. Learning from that lesson, what we did with the Chevrolet Volt… was to package that generator [the 1.4L gasoline engine] into the vehicle. This gives people the ability to use all of their electric range without any anxiety.

It does, and what you’ll find with the Chevrolet Volt is that it’s engineered for almost every scenario, including ensuring that the gasoline in the tank does not go stale. It actually has a special, pressurized fuel storage system… As well, if you’ve gone a month without using gasoline, the vehicle will let the driver know that the engine needs to cycle. The driver can say yes or no, and if they say no, a day later it will come up with a second warning, saying “we need to cycle for a couple minutes,” and at that point it will just flip the engine on and cycle for a couple minutes.

Well we’ve designed it for the life of the vehicle and we’re trying to provide consumers with confidence by offering an eight-year/160,000 km warrantee.

We definitely recommend and offer a process through which a certified electrician will install it in one’s garage. Assuming that that happens and all of the necessary inspections take place, I wouldn’t expect any type of safety concerns.