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E-cars eye cross-Canada, gas-free trek

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Can you imagine a day where gas pumps are obsolete as typewriters and VCRs are today?

Kent Rathwell can.

The president of Sun Country Highway is helping pave the way for electronic vehicles to enter the mainstream. The Saskatoon-based company has installed charging stations along a 16,000-kilometre corridor from coast to coast, making the Trans-Canada the world's longest green highway.

"I do believe the future is in green transportation," he said. "I think other technologies will be coming along, too."

Electronic vehicles have only been in Canada since the beginning of 2012 and already there are 4,000 on the roads. Like any new technology, it's expensive to start with, but the prices are coming down. You can buy an e-car for less than $30,000 and in provinces such as B.C. and Quebec, you can get rebates of up to $8,500. Such an incentive is not available in Manitoba.

Sun Country has partnered up with hotels, malls and various retailers to help build the charging network. One of the benefits of an electric car, Rathwell said, is drivers can recharge them while they're shopping or having a cup of coffee and they won't have to brave the elements.

To prove it's possible to travel across Canada without jumping to a single gas pump, the green highway is being used in a contest called the Emazing Race, where drivers can earn points for stopping at various charging stations along the way to Prince Edward Island.

Rathwell will be in Winnipeg today to attend MEVA Fest, an event put on by the Manitoba Electric Vehicle Association.

There are a couple of different charging levels for electronic cars. The lowest would take about 10 hours to completely charge a vehicle's battery, the next would take three to five hours and the highest would take just 30 minutes. It's also possible to switch your drained battery for a new one in less time than it would take to put a new propane tank on your barbecue.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 14, 2013 A12

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