Electric cars popular here

There were five electric cars parked at the Star Café on a recent morning. There is no way of knowing just how many electric vehicles there are in the Town of Brome Lake, but anecdotal evidence would indicate there are about 10.

Mario Alarie of Knowlton drives a Tesla Model S 90d, an expensive electric car with the longest range of any electric vehicle on the market. Fully charged, Tesla claims the car can drive 475 kilometres. That’s enough to drive from here to Bar Harbor, Maine, or Chicoutimi, with a few watts left over.

Fuel economy is where the Tesla, and other electric cars such as the Chevy Volt or Nissan Leaf, excel. This is particularly true in Quebec, which has the lowest residential electricity rates in North America. According to a 2016 survey by Hydro Quebec, it runs to 7.23 cents per kilowatt hour in Quebec versus 27.69 cents in Boston.

“I calculated the trip from Montreal to our house in Knowlton costs me 75 cents,” says Alarie.

An equivalent sized luxury car using premium fuel priced at $1.16 a liter would use 9.84 liters at a cost of $9.14 cents for the same 108 kilometer trip, says an online fuel calculator, GasBuddy.com.

Alarie has a fast charger at his home, the same as you need to run a dryer or a stove. He and other electric car owners save money charging at home, though there are at least three public electric charging stations in the Town of Brome Lake, including the Dépanneur Rouge and Le Relais in Knowlton and the Auberge West Brome. There are 54 public charging stations in a 30-mile radius from town hall.

Speaking of town hall, does the local government have any plans to deal with the coming age of the electric car? Mayor Richard Burcombe says the town is actively looking for a location to install a charging station.

Quebec, and other governments, encourage electric car ownership. Quebec offers a subsidy of up to $8,000 on the purchase of an electric vehicle and up to $600 on the purchase and installation of a home charging station. Electric cars also have bragging rights: green lettering on the licence plate.

Those are the economic benefits. Electric cars emit zero pollution and no carbon.“You drive past every gas station, knowing there is no pollution coming out the back,” says Jonathan Cowen, a Tesla owner in Knowlton. “When you look at the problems of climate change, this is the way to go.”

Electric cars are a niche thing for now. Every car maker plans to have electric cars for sale in the next couple of years, cheaper electric cars that may soon fill local parking spaces in the location with the cheapest electricity on the continent.