These vehicles were researched at the request of Aki Energy in January 2015, which wanted to purchase an electric vehicle suitable for its activities in Garden Hill First Nation in northern Manitoba. (Some of this information was updated in 2018.)
Why Consider Electric?
Because gasoline and diesel have to be shipped in on winter roads, they are—and will remain—expensive in Garden Hill. When gasoline was selling for less than $0.90/litre in Winnipeg, it was selling for $2.20/liter in Garden Hill. In contrast, because it’s on the Manitoba Hydro grid, electricity sells for the same rate in Garden Hill as it does in Winnipeg (roughly $0.08/kWh). This means that the operating-cost differential between electric and fossil-fuel powered vehicles will be higher in this community than it is in Winnipeg. And it means that the differential is permanent; it’s not significantly altered by fluctuations in the price of crude oil. As well, because the community doesn’t have an extensive road system, the distances travelled will be short. So, provided an electric vehicle can be easily recharged, range anxiety won’t be an issue. Finally, because the community is on Manitoba’s electricity grid, and virtually all of Manitoba’s electricity is generated by hydro power, an electric vehicle fuelled and used in this community doesn’t contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.
There are many options for electric vehicles. Given the nature of the roads in the community, electric and hybrid cars designed for on-road and urban use weren’t considered. Electric motorcycles and scooters weren’t considered either. That still left plenty of off-road vehicle options. In this review, more than 20 vehicle options were considered (see table below). Off-road industry manufacturers are developing an increasing variety of electric vehicles. Some of these manufacturers by large companies; some are startups. The manufacturers tend to have expertise in one or more of the following vehicle product categories:
- off-road recreation
- golfing and golf course maintenance
- airport & industrial service
- urban delivery
- retirement community travel
Because none of these exactly match the intended use, an estimate had to be made on which products would fit best.
In addition to price, we developed a number of criteria to help sift through the vehicle options:
- easily recharged on a 110 or 220 volt system
- easy to maintain
- good ground clearance
- designed for at least two people (a driver and a passenger)
- able to carry at least 200 kilos (400 lb) in addition to the driver and passenger
- able to tow a trailer
- able to protect driver from mosquitoes and black flies
- well-supported by a dealer in or near Manitoba
- manufactured by a company very likely to remain in business
- average or above-average range
- able to be shipped up on the winter road during the 2014-15 winter season
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No vehicle met our criteria perfectly. The two vehicles that best met the criteria were the Polaris Ranger EV and the Club Car Carryall 500. Both were recommended and the Club Car Carryall 500 was purchased, with modifications. The modifications made were:
- a lift kit to raise the suspension
- off-road tires
- an enclosed soft cab
The vehicle was used in the summer of 2015 for a farming and food project in the community. Depending on the results, these vehicles may be suitable for use in similar communities (both First Nations and others) across Canada.