WEB EXCLUSIVE: Q&A with electric car advocate Eric Leclair
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WEB EXCLUSIVE: Q&A with electric car advocate Eric Leclair

By Victoria Abraham

Eric Leclair won a Have A Say! award from the National Capital Commission last year for his idea to develop infrastructure for electric vehicles as part of the Choosing Our Future campaign. Leclair will be part of a panel discussion about the future of the automotive industry on March 18, following a screening of the film Revenge of the Electric Car at the Wakefield International Film Festival

What do you think is the message behind Revenge of the Electric Car?
The message I took from the movie is: we have to drive change and then big companies will come on board.  You can’t rely on big government and you can’t rely on big industry to be the leaders, it takes little companies with ideas. What I love about this movie is that Bob Luxe, who is a huge auto seller, who was always behind the big muscle cars is now the champion of electric cars. When you look at other automobile manufacturers, they are all in the race now. When you see the car industry getting on board the electric car bandwagon, it is because it is going to happen.

Do you think the movie is relevant for a Canadian audiences?
I think it is very relevant because the love of the automobile in Canada is as great as the United States. An automobile is much more an essential piece of one’s life in Canada: we have big distances. The electric car is a much better option than having all these vehicles burning their own fuel.

Why do you think the electric car is experiencing a resurgence?
I think the first big reason is that the technology is making it possible. So we have types of batteries now that are much safer and have a much higher energy density. The number two thing, I think, is that the writing is on the wall when it comes to oil. The consumption of gas is just getting that much more expensive and it’s making electric vehicles much more appealing because they are cheaper to operate and a more efficient way to travel.

How long does an electric car take to charge?
It can range from one hour to overnight. They have quick charge stations now, so it is essentially charged in a couple of hours. The key thing is to have infrastructure where when you pull into Loblaws and park your vehicle, you can charge it. It is not about being at a full battery all the time.

How does the cost of an electric car compare to the cost of a regular car?
The Chevy Volt is still more expensive than the $20,000 range that has mass appeal. If you look at a pure electric vehicle they are still on the high end. In the next three to five years, electric vehicles will be at the same price point as the average vehicle. It is coming more and more within reach. One of the things governments are doing is they are offering incentives where if you buy an electric vehicle, the government kicks in several thousand dollars to fill that gap. So for example, Ontario gives out up to $8, 000 which helps a lot to bring the price into an affordable range.

What kind of car do you drive?
Currently, I drive a minivan and I recently test-drove a Chevy Volt. I am looking to purchase an electric vehicle.

Why do you think Ottawa needs to develop infrastructure for electric cars?
They are coming, they are already on the street.

What kind of infrastructure would be needed?
Charging stations. It is a pretty simple approach. We already have electricity going to every dark corner of the city. It is much easier than providing gasoline because everyone has access to electricity and [electric cars] are easy to charge. It is a lot safer than having large deposits of gasoline under these gas stations. Cities have to start putting these things in permit processes.

How plausible is it that Ottawa would put in such infrastructure in the near future?
I think its probable as long as the political will is there. The city took the first delivery of the new Chevy Volts. I think that the mayor that we have in place and some of the councilors — people that are strong believers in environmentally sound projects. Electric cars aren’t going to solve all the problems, but they are definitely a step in the right direction and much better than gas cars.

Revenge of the Electric Car. At the Wakefield International Film Festival on Sunday, March 18.