Stories & Features

Former 'gas pumping expert' falls hard for Tesla electric car

Port Moody's Randy Taylor plugs his Tesla S electric car into a charger at BC Hydro subsidiary Powertech Labs in Surrey.
Port Moody's Randy Taylor plugs his Tesla S electric car into a charger at BC Hydro subsidiary Powertech Labs in Surrey. Taylor and his Tesla are part of this week's BC to Baja, California EV rally.

'I pull in with the Tesla and it's like bees to a flower'

Rob Klovance
For bchydro.com

A few years ago, Randy Taylor and his wife used a gas-guzzling SUV to tow an Airstream trailer on a 29,000-kilometre adventure across North America and back to their Port Moody home.

Then they did it again, taking a different route for another 22,000 kilometres.

"Traveling around that much, we put a lot of gas into vehicles," says Taylor. "I was an expert in pumping gas, sometimes two or three times a day."

Fast forward to 2013 and — inspired by a sustainability-focussed talk at Vancouver's TED X event last November — Taylor is a changed man. He's now the loud and proud owner of a Tesla S electric vehicle he's driving from B.C. to California as part of this week’s BC2BC (B.C. to Baja, California) EV rally.

The rally is designed to let the general public know that electric vehicles aren't just about urban commutes to work and back. From B.C. to Baja, there are enough charging stations in place to allow most EVs — not just the extended range Tesla S and its 400-kilometres-plus range — to go far out of the city and even from province to state to state.

"We've been to Whistler, Seattle and back, and to Banff," he says. "I've already put on more than 7,000 kilometres on the car."

That's a lot of driving, considering that Taylor has only had the Tesla S since March, when he was able to take advantage of the province's $5,000 EV rebate to buy Motor Trend's car of the year.

"I haven't regretted a second of it," he says of the purchase of a car that goes from 0 to 100 kilometres an hour in 5.6 seconds. "It's fabulous. ... We go out for nightly drives around the Lower Mainland, we go out to dinner and spend money at local restaurants and businesses, money that we're not spending on gas."

Charging an electric car, at home and on the road

Because he normally charges up his Tesla at free public charging stations, he estimates his EV-charging costs at home are less than five per cent of his BC Hydro bill.

By comparison, DC fast chargers can give a Tesla S a full charge in about an hour. And while such charging stations were few and far between a few years ago, there are now fast chargers all along the so-called 'West Coast Green Highway' from B.C. to Baja, California.

Last Friday, B.C.'s first DC fast charging station opened up at BC Hydro subsidiary Powertech Labs in Surrey. There are plans for 13 more stations opening up across B.C. in the coming months, making it increasingly more convenient for EV owners to get out of town.

Taylor doesn't expect that he'll be getting most of his Tesla "fue" for free for much longer, however.

"I understand that it [fees for charging] is going to come, and that's fine with me," he says.

Factoring in 'Tesla time'

As Taylor and a few dozen other EV drivers make their way toward California on the BC2BC rally that kicked off Saturday at the Peace Arch border crossing, they'll be attracting plenty of attention. And perhaps none more than Taylor and his dark green Tesla S.

"I pull in with the Tesla and it's like bees to a flower," he says. "I actually carry pamphlets for Tesla because I'm so inundated with questions about the car. We call it Tesla Time."

As a "semi-retired" guy with some spare time on his hands, Taylor is now in the business of spreading the gospel about electric vehicles. He says he'd love to work for Tesla someday, helping make it easier for Canadians to get their hands on the cars, as he's convinced the future is electric.

"A lot of people can't afford a Tesla, but the way I see it, you can't afford not to have some sort of EV," says Taylor. "It just takes looking at things differently."

Rob Klovance is managing editor of bchydro.com.