Charge into the Week with Myles O’Brien from Town of Richmond Hill

By: Samantha Maurice

Did you know that the first cars ever invented were electric? Long before Henry Ford’s invention of the gas car in 1903, electric vehicles paved the way for the automotive industry. It goes without saying that electric vehicles of the past were nowhere near as advanced as those of the present, but it begs the question:

Why did we ever stop using them?

We know technology has rapidly changed throughout the years (case in point: cars are now driving themselves), but when did gas vehicles become the popular commodity in how we commute? Surely, electric vehicles would have seen just as many significant changes and advances as gas vehicles.

Electric vehicles are powered partially, or fully, by an electric motor and battery pack. Unlike hybrids, electric cars charge their battery packs by plugging into the electricity grid and have dedicated all-electric driving distances. They operate on a smoother acceleration and are durable, efficient, and cheaper to maintain. By buying an electric vehicle, you can say goodbye to high gas prices and maintenance fees!

But with great strides comes great misconceptions. Would they be drivable for far distances? What would it cost to purchase an electric vehicle or a charging station? What if I got stranded because I wasn’t able to charge it enough? These were all questions I asked myself when I heard about electric vehicles. But with all great questions come great answers. My questions were answered when I visited Plug ‘N Drive’s Electric Vehicle Discovery Centre (1126 Finch Ave W), where I learned more about electric vehicles and received answers that I didn’t expect. 

For example, in Canada alone, there are 28,000 electric vehicles on the road with 23 models available for sale right now! When driving an electric vehicle you save between $1,500-$2,000 in fuel and maintenance fees. And here is the best answer of all …

British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec provide provincial incentives, where drivers receive a rebate of up to $14,000 off their vehicle purchase and $1,000 off home charging stations. And after purchasing an electric vehicle, you’ll receive a Green license plate which allows you to take HOV lanes even without another passenger in the car. 

Now, I can tell you all of these facts and answers but they still may not change your opinion about electric vehicles. But have no fear readers, you’re about to have all your electric vehicle questions answered. I had the opportunity to interview Myles O’Brien, the Environmental Education and Engagement Coordinator from the Town of Richmond Hill, about his electric vehicle purchase and how driving an electric vehicle has changed the way he commutes to work. 

Hi Myles, thanks for much for taking the time to talk with me about how you commute to work. So let’s get started! My first question is what is your main mode of transportation to work?

Myles O’Brien: I drive to work every day. But what’s great about my commute is that in the last year, I purchased an electric vehicle, which I now use to get to work.

You’re the first Sustainable Superstar story that we’ve featured that discusses the use of electric vehicles, so I have to ask … what was your motivation to purchase an electric vehicle as opposed to a gas-powered car?

MO: I used to carpool but when I moved to a different work location, that option, along with cycling and public transit, became less feasible. So when my 2004 vehicle starting having problems, I replaced it with an electric car. It may not reduce traffic congestion, but definitely reduces emissions and overall dependence on oil & gas. So my motivation was primarily environmental.

I also enjoy the cost savings as operating and maintaining an EV is much cheaper than for a gas-powered car!

There seems to be some misconceptions surrounding electric vehicles, so it’s great to hear from someone who actually owns one. I think it will give our readers more insight into electric vehicles, how they operate, and debunk the misconceptions. So since owning an EV, what have you learned and what tips can you offer someone who is maybe thinking about purchasing one for the first time?

MO: Driving an electric car is in, most ways, the same as driving a gas-powered car. The main challenge is adapting to a lower range (which in the future, will likely not be an issue). But remember there are perks: no gas stations or oil changes, an incredibly smooth and quiet ride, and no emissions, which are easy to adapt to.

Electric vehicles are excellent for commuting, because in most cases the round trip distance is known and does not change. As long as that distance is within the range of the vehicle, then the main issue people have - range anxiety - is nullified. There are generous rebates from the province on vehicles and home charging stations, and there are more and more public stations popping up every year. There are also new EV models from various brands, increasing the likelihood of diverse drivers finding a suitable option.

And does the Town of Richmond Hill offer any amenities for people who do have electric vehicles?

MO: My workplace (225 East Beaver Creek Road in Richmond Hill) has two Level-2 chargers for electric vehicles. These are free to use and are available to all drivers (not just employees).

And how did this factor into your decision to purchasing one?

MO: This was an important factor in my decision to purchase an electric vehicle, as it allows me to split my charging between work and home, and provides some assurance that I won't run out of battery power in case I need to do more driving on a certain day.

That is a great amenity to have at the Town of Richmond Hill. It’s also great that the Town of Richmond Hill offers these chargers to other people in the Richmond Hill area. As you mentioned, electric vehicles do have a lower range, so could you describe your commute for our readers? I think it would be great for them to see how you travel.

MO: I take the 404 for a short stretch, I then make a right onto Highway 7 and follow it west until I reach East Beaver Creek where I make a right into the Town of Richmond Hill. I am eagerly awaiting the extension of the HOV lane north of Highway 7!

It’s great to hear that your commute is unaffected with an electric vehicle. I have one final question for you, Myles. How would you describe your commute?

MO: My commute is smooth, quiet, affordable, and more importantly, emissions-free and (almost) guilt-free!

Well readers, has Myles’ changed your mind about electric vehicles or calmed your fears and misconceptions? Let us know in the comment section below or share your electric vehicle stories. Also, if you’d like to learn more about electric vehicles or test drive one, you may contact Plug ‘N Drive on their website.

I’d like to thank Myles for sharing his electric vehicle story with us. Myles, thank you for contributing to answer the misconceptions surrounding electric vehicles and sharing your story on how it has shaped you personally and financially. Your dedication to the environment is an inspiration to us all. It was a pleasure getting the chance to speak with you.

I’d also like to extend a thank you to Town of Richmond Hill for their contribution to providing the residents of Richmond Hill, with the chance to choose a sustainable vehicle by providing charging stations to the public. Your message to creating a greener and sustainable Richmond Hill has been heard. We’d also like to thank you for your continued support for the Smart Commute program. You continue to support every initiative that the program promotes, and for that we thank you. We look forward to our continued partnership as we educate individuals on sustainable commuting options and the benefits these options serve them.