More Canadians than ever are considering electrified vehicles these days, which we’ll define here as hybrid electric vehicles (or HEVs, like the Toyota Prius or Ford Fusion hybrid), plug-in hybrid vehicles (or PHEVs, like the Mitsubishi Outlander and Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid), and fully electric vehicles (or EVs, like the Nissan Leaf or BMW i3).
In an HEV, a battery and electric motor supplement a conventional gasoline engine, to reduce fuel usage. In an HEV, there’s no plugging in required (or possible), as the batteries are self-recharging.
A PHEV works similarly to an HEV, but uses a bigger battery that owners can charge by plugging in, at their convenience. Recharging this battery from external power enables a few dozen kilometres of all-electric driving. Once that runs out, the vehicle switches to conventional gas hybrid motoring, using fuel and electricity to tackle longer trips.
Many shoppers choose a PHEV to handle their weekly commute solely on electric power, though gasoline backup is in reserve for longer trips. A PHEV is like an electric car on shorter drives, but can drive hundreds of kilometres more on gasoline, when needed.
Finally, in a full EV, there’s no gasoline involved. All driving is powered by the on-board battery, which needs to be recharged by an external power source.
Dominick Maldonado lives in Sudbury, Ont., and has been driving a fully-electric Nissan Leaf EV for about four years.
“I decided to go electric for the first time with this car and it’s been a rewarding experience,” he explains.
“I use this car solely for driving to and from work. I leave it plugged in at work, and at home, at all times. I use no gasoline for commuting and the cost of the electricity to charge is tiny. We’ve got an SUV for longer trips, and the Leaf keeps me off of gasoline for the shorter ones.”
Still, Maldonado had a few hiccups on his way into the world of electric motoring.
After deciding he’d buy his Nissan Leaf in Sudbury, Ont., some years ago, he was surprised to find out that the dealership there couldn’t sell him one.
“I knew they didn’t have any on the lot, but I figured they could help me track one down,” he says.
This wasn’t the case, according to Maldonado, who says the local Nissan dealership was not able to sell him a Leaf EV, as they weren’t “authorized” to sell this particular model.
Eventually, Maldonado bought his Leaf from a dealership out of town. Later, when his car was due for its first servicing appointment, he called the Sudbury dealership to make an appointment, and was met with another surprise.
“Turns out they can’t service the Leaf, either,” he said. “The car doesn’t need much servicing at all, but I like to stay on top of it. When it’s due for some work, it requires a trip out of town.”
Maldonado’s story references one specific situation, but reinforces an important point for shoppers considering the switch to electrification: Make sure your local dealership is able to sell, and service, the vehicle you decide on.
The reason? Sometimes, though rare, not all dealerships can sell and service every vehicle in a given automaker’s lineup.
Further, bearing in mind the very low sales volumes of electrified vehicles, certain dealerships choose not to make the investment in specialized equipment, training and tools to service and sell them.
The gist? If you’re thinking of electrification, do your homework first.
When you do, you’ll likely discover that coast-to-coast sales and servicing of electric and electrified vehicles is strong and growing rapidly, though it all comes down to what you want to drive, and where you live.
Below is a look at several popular electrified vehicles, and at the service coverage provided by Canadian dealerships.
Mitsubishi Outlander (PHEV)
Mitsubishi’s popular plug-in hybrid is an AWD crossover, and Canada’s best-selling PHEV model.
At writing, 88 of Mitsubishi’s 93 Canadian dealerships are certified to service the Outlander PHEV.
Nissan’s all-electric Leaf EV is a big-selling mass-market electric car, and the number-one best selling vehicle in Norway, at writing.
Nissan says that EV certification is at the discretion of the individual dealerships, noting that they have 121 EV-certified dealerships across Canada (of roughly 200). A Nissan spokesperson says this figure is growing gradually but imminently.
Various Ford hybrid/PHEV/EV models
Ford has (and has had) numerous HEV, EV and PHEV models on offer, and more are coming—including the upcoming new Ford Escape PHEV.
At this writing, about 225 of Ford’s 425 Canadian dealerships are PHEV and EV ready. A Ford representative notes that dealers “need to be certified to sell and service electrified vehicles”.
Chrysler Pacifica hybrid
This award-winning PHEV version of the Chrysler Pacifica minivan gives you room for the family, and has an all-electric range that will get most drivers off of gasoline for their daily commute.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has full sales and servicing coverage of this model — every Canadian dealership can sell and service the Pacifica hybrid.
Volvo XC90, S90, Others
Volvo has numerous models available with a high-performing PHEV powertrain, dubbed the ‘T8 Twin Engine”. Availability of this powerplant across the Swedish automaker’s lineup will likely expand as the brand shifts further toward electrification.
If you’re considering an electrified Volvo, you’re in luck — Volvo reports that all Canadian dealerships are certified to sell and service models with the T8 PHEV powertrain.
“Training is required as mandatory for servicing (PHEV) vehicles at all our dealerships. Volvo Cars’ PHEV Twin Engine technology has been added to every new model we have launched since 2014,” a representative told us.
BMW i3, i8, 5-Series PHEV, others
BMW delivered over 140,000 electrified vehicles to customers last year, and more are set to join the automakers product lineup in the coming years. By the end of 2020, BMW will have added over 10 new and upgraded electrified models to their portfolio.
At writing, BMW reports that every Canadian dealership can sell and service PHEV-powered models, and that 33 of 50 dealerships are certified to sell and service fully electric EVs. The remaining 17 retailers will be fully EV-certified by the end of 2019.
Chevrolet Bolt (EV), Chevrolet Volt, others
Under parent company General Motors, Chevrolet offers two electrified models at the moment, and various others are expected in the coming years.
At present, GM reports that major traffic routes across Canada have EV-certified dealerships in place, with the vast majority being in Ontario, B.C. and Quebec, since those provinces make up nearly 100 per cent of demand for EVs. As more models come to market in the coming years, GM’s dealer network will grow accordingly.
Honda Clarity, Honda Insight, Others
Honda has several options for shoppers after a HEV or PHEV, including the Clarity PHEV and Insight Hybrid.
Currently, about two thirds of Canadian Honda dealerships are set up to service current and future electrified vehicles.
“Roughly two-thirds of Honda dealerships across Canada have invested in installing two level two electric charging stations in order to service our current and future electrified fleet of vehicles,” says Honda’s Salil Kapoor, product lead for Honda Cars and Alternative fuel vehicles.