- Helping you drive happy

Electric vs Gas

This is the real question Automotive columnist: , Updated:

I know very little, my wife will attest to that, but I do know about the car business.

I am a recent graduate of the “I drove the Volt” camp and the experience left me perplex, somewhat. In my career’s time, I've cruised around in many a hybrid, from the original Honda Insight (eeesh!) to the rare Chevrolet Silverado and Dodge Durango hybrids and everything small and large in between. I've also managed to spend time at the wheel of a contingency of EVs including the Mitsubishi i-Miev, a VW Golf Blue-e-motion and a Tesla Roadster.

Other than the final car in the above list, I've always noticed a serious change in my driving behaviour; I get all mellow, keep my cool and take my time. The whole driving experience goes from hectic and insane to “must not kill the battery”.

Photo: Mathieu St-Pierre/

As I briefly hovered above the road on a cushion of green in the Volt, which was incidentally very low on power, I pondered my behaviour, analyzed it and came to the conclusion that we should all drive this way. I'm no Doctor but I suspect that we'd all live longer, suffer fewer accidents and decrease our collective carbon footprint.

Or would we? This is the reason behind my tweet (@Matt_St_Pierre): “I've finally taken the Volt for a spin. I'm not 100% sure about this whole EV thing...”

As I've previously stated, I thought for an iota that we should all own an EV or at the very least, a hybrid. Then, I got to thinking about batteries, what they are made of and where the power to recharge all these vehicles would come from.

I recently read a story pertaining to server farms located in North Carolina. Why in this scenic coastal state? Because electricity is cheap. Why is power cheap? Because it comes from coal. What does burning coal do other than generate electricity? That's right, pollute. And massively I might ad.

Many Provinces and some States have access to hydroelectricity, but this is far from being a 100% clean way to produce electricity. Wind and solar power are low-impact alternatives, although we'd have to cover the entire province of Manitoba to get enough juice. I might be exaggerating on that last point, however, wherever the energy comes from, there will be a price to pay. Nuclear energy?

So there begins or continues my conundrum. Burning gas in our cars pollutes. Drilling for oil has its own consequences as we all know from last year's Gulf Disaster. How about mining for lithium or nickel? No one's going to convince anyone that doing so is good for the environment. And then there's the impact from transporting the stuff, any of this stuff, from one end of the world to the other, much like oil tankers skimming our oceans.

Photo: Matthieu Lambert/