Braving the Cement Trucks to Test Drive Electric

Like the mighty Colorado River, Mount Edward Road in Charlottetown starts out gently and without much fanfare. From its source at St. Peters Road it flows northwest; as it progresses, the road builds up steam and changes character from a modest commercial street to a modest residential street and, finally, once it crosses the bypass, becomes a busy industrial chaos populated by all manner of cement trucks, courier trucks, lumber trucks, and pickup trucks. In these upper regions, as I discovered today, it is kind of the perfect opposite of “bicycle friendly,” sporting only the barest of pockmarked paved shoulders, and driven by drivers from whom bicycles are simply not expected.

I was on Mount Edward Road this afternoon on my way to Pure EV, the city’s nascent used electric vehicle dealership.

It is vehicle registration renewal season for our 2000 Jetta, and I’m doing my due diligence to determine whether our money and effort are better placed in keeping the Jetta on the road or transitioning to an electric vehicle. Being a family of modest means, Mike Kenny’s scheme to import used EVs from Lower Canada and resell them here on PEI is the ideal solution for us, as purchasing new would be beyond our reach.

It seemed wrong to go EV shopping in the Jetta, so I put my bicycle on the bus up to the Charlottetown Mall, rode out the back to the Confederation Trail, on the trail until it emerged on Mount Edward, then along to Sherwood Road and just up past Brown’s VW to Mike’s dealership.

I arrived on a good day, as Mike had two Nissan Leafs, a Kia Soul and a Tesla on the lot. We had a good chat about the challenges and opportunities of EV ownership, and then Mike put me in the drivers seat of the Soul, and then the Leaf, and we went for test drives together.

As I discovered when I drove my friend Trudy’s Chevy Bolt for the first time in May, after about 15 minutes the “E” part of driving an EV recedes into the background, and it’s “just a car.” Achieving this state in the Leaf and the Soul was helpful, as it gave me a chance to compare their fit and finish and their respective user interfaces, as well as their essential driveability. Although my test drives were quick, I’d say the Kia emerged the winner, perhaps because it’s tuned somewhat tighter than the Nissan, so the drive was closer to the tightly-wound Jetta that I’ve been driving for 19 years.

I came to no definitive conclusions as to the way forward, but evidence was added to the pile.

Mike, by the way, welcomes test drives from all and curious; if you are one of those “my next car will be an electric car” people, you will find no better maître d’ at the entrance to this new world than he.

Along the way to Pure EV I stopped at Gallant’s & Co., the weekday outpost of the folks who’ve been selling us our smoked salmon bagels at the Charlottetown Farmers’ Market in recent years. I enjoyed an order of fresh spring rolls and a tomato soup, followed by a solid cappuccino (espresso, north of the bypass: who ever thought!).

The hearty lunch fortified me for navigation up and back on the outer stretches of Mount Edward. I managed to emerge unharmed; I was, however, very happy to cross the bypass and get back on the quiet, peaceful  Confederation Trail for the ride back downtown.