Plugging into the future

BlackBerrys, MyLearningSpace and OpenText are not the only technological advances to be seen improving Waterloo. Visitors and residents of the area may have noticed charging stations for electric vehicles at either Conestoga Mall or at Schlueter Chevrolet on Weber Street.

In a rapidly developing technological community such as this, these charging stations seem like a natural next step for the community. However, though there are stations, there has yet to be an electric car.

“I think Waterloo is underserviced in that we’re a technology hub,” said Terry Knarr, a representative of Schlueter Chevrolet parts department. “We’ve gone from making car parts and sausages to RIM, and OpenText — high tech companies. [The electric car] would be perfect up here.”

The Chevrolet Volt is the world’s first electric vehicle with extended range, meaning it can drive between 40 and 80 kilometres on electric power alone — and then keep going, thanks to the 1.4 L gasoline-powered generator.

To car aficionados these facts may sound fantastic, but for the everyday person who just wants to spend less money on gas and help the environment, the Volt could be the answer to their problems. “I’m not necessarily getting onto it because of the environment per se,” said Knarr. “But I look at it and I say, ok I’m not going to be spending x number of dollars on gas. And the money I’m not spending on gas can be allocated toward … paying for the car,” he laughed.

“And then after that, it’s all gravy right?” he continued. “You’re not paying for fuel. Now there is a gas tank on board so if you want to put gas in it [okay] but it depends on how you drive.”

But with only two known charging stations in the Waterloo area, the concern arises that there aren’t enough places to re-boost an electric car.

“People’s biggest concern about electric cars is range anxiety,” Knarr explained. “What’s going to happen with the battery dies? With the Volt you can go up to 80 km on pure electric under ideal circumstances and at that point, the range extender kicks in and you can go another 350 km on gas assist.”

General Motors recently completed a study to see how far U.S. citizens typically take their cars on an average day. For the standard person, their cars are used to travel under 80 km a week. Therefore, in essence, a person could drive an entire week to work and back without using gas. If they choose to charge their car at night (since the car can be plugged into a 110 charge cord that can plug into a house), they might never have to use gas again if they keep their trips to under 80 km.

“Once we get the product out there, it’s really going to sell, I think,” said Knarr. “Just to get a scope of what the car does; the software developers wrote over ten million lines of computer code for that car. That’s more than a jet fighter.”

One of the downsides of this environmentally-friendly vehicle is the fact that it’s strictly a four-seater car. As well, due to the high cost of these new vehicles (approximately $41,545) they are more suited to a specific niche market. explicitly people who are better off financially.

“A lot of people from any of the new technology companies in town, I think this’ll be right up their alley.” Knarr said. “It’s strictly for someone whose in that business; it fits right in with them. For the average person, I don’t think so.”

Rick Rezeplinski, sales manager at Schlueter Chevrolet did however mention that there is an $823 rebate given by the government if someone purchases a Volt, which is set to enter Canada June or July 2012.

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