Calgary might be the oil capital of Canada, but that didn’t stop ex-oil-patch engineer Jim Steil from launching a store that sells only used electric vehicles.
“Everybody should be able to drive an electric vehicle,” said Steil, but not everybody can afford to buy a new one, even with government incentives.
British Columbia and Quebec are the only two provinces that offer rebates for electrified vehicles, while the federal government launched a national program effective May 1 that provides up to $5,000 on select hybrids and EVs.
There is no provincial program in Alberta and there are no incentives for the purchase of used electric vehicles in the federal program.
Despite this, Steil and his partner David Lloyd saw an opportunity. Their company, GoElectric, sells and leases used EVs, and converts customers’ internal-combustion vehicles to electric using parts sourced mainly from the United States.
“We really like Tesla batteries for conversions,” Steil said. “The ones we find rarely have more than a couple of years’ use; they are compact and last a long time.”
GoElectric uses all-in pricing for its used EVs, with the final price including the GST.
When he set out to stock his lot, Steil discovered that importing used EVs from California makes the most sense — although some are sourced in western Canada — because “down there, they have a $10,000 incentive on electric cars, so that drops the price on used electrics a [similar] amount. It’s a lot of money.
“We don’t have a lot of [space] here,” he said, “but we try to have 10 to 12 cars available at any one time.”
GoElectric is importing EVs that were leased for two years and then returned.
“They’re really reasonably priced at a dealer auction there,” he said.
With fewer moving parts than internal-combustion vehicles — there are no exhaust systems, even — EV maintenance is relatively low, which can be a selling point.
“Electric cars need no drivetrain service at all for the first 150,000 kilometres and then the only thing that needs to be done is drain the oil out of the single-speed transmission. Depending on the vehicle, battery coolant needs to be changed around the same time.”
DEALING WITH THE UNKNOWN
Since his store opening in late November, Steil said business has been growing quickly, “especially since we began leasing.” He declined to provide numbers.
Steil said people “were a bit leery of something this new” which makes leasing much more viable, financially.
Steil said does not expect the federal rebate program to eat into GoElectric’s business.
Vehicle pricing also includes two sets of mounted EV-rated tires (winter and summer) with alloy wheels and tire-pressure monitoring, all-weather floor mats and a snow brush.
There’s also a 30-day bumper-to-bumper warranty and a 90-day buy-back guarantee. Return it, and customers get their money back less 25 cents per kilometre driven, and a $500 administration and reinspection fee.
MORE THAN AN OIL TOWN
Steil took the entrepreneurial turn when he was laid off from the oil patch, and after reading a story in Alberta Oil Review about electric cars. Co-founder David Lloyd is an electrical engineer.
GoElectric — as unlikely as such a business concept might seem in oil-rich, pickup laden Alberta — might be an idea whose time has come: In a bid to remove a key barrier to the adoption of EVs, the city recently announced plans to install 42 new charging stations in three downtown parking locations.
“As part of Calgary’s Climate Resilience Strategy, it was determined that electric vehicles represent the single largest opportunity to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and air pollution from transportation,” Eric MacNaughton, senior transportation engineer with the municipality, said in a statement.
“With exponential growth of electric vehicle adoption expected, these new charging stations are one way we can make sure Calgary is ready for the future of transportation.”
The latest addition of 240-volt Level 2 charging stations brings to 48 the number in Calgary’s core.