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Electric cars prove popular at Vancouver auto show

Image of the test drive booth at the 2016 Vancouver International Auto Show
Competition was fierce last week for spots in the line for electric vehicle test drives at the Vancouver International Auto Show.

If you wanted a test drive at the show, you had to line up early

There were more electric vehicles (EVs) on display than ever before at the 2016 Vancouver International Auto Show (VIAS). The annual event, which took over the Vancouver Convention Centre over the Easter weekend, included at least 15 electrics from nine different manufacturers.

Electric Avenue was a new highlight at the show, providing the public with an opportunity to talk to representatives of Clean Energy Vehicles for B.C., Emotive, and Scrap It. Tesla owner Paul Carter, wearing an Emotive t-shirt, was one of the enthusiastic volunteers sharing their experiences as EV drivers.

EV test drive booked up

Once again, the auto show's attendees were given an opportunity to test drive select EVs. Within a couple of hours of the show opening on Thursday, the test drive was fully booked.

One of the vehicles available to drive was the Chevrolet Volt, which the day before was named Canadian Green Car of the Year for 2016. The Volt, with a range of 85 km, is supported by a 1.5-litre gasoline charging system that extends the range to about 600 km.

Other vehicles at the EV test drive were the Kia Soul EV, Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Nissan Leaf, and three Fords: C-Max Energi, Focus EV, and Fusion Energy.

Based on how quickly the lists filled up with interested drivers, the most popular vehicle at the test drive was the BMW i3.

Image of the BMW i3 at the 2016 Vancouver International Auto Show
At the top of the list for test drives was the BMW i3.

EV innovations on display at the Vancouver International Auto Show

The BMW booth was busy with fans checking out the i3 club car, the i8 sports car, and the X5e SUV. A spokesperson explained that the i3 model, which comes with an optional range extending gas engine, is getting a technical upgrade in the form of a new battery, which will increase its range to around 190 km.

And BMW is rolling its electric engine technology to its other vehicles. The 330 and 740 models are being released in "e" versions this year.

Hyundai, meanwhile, debuted its new Ioniq line of electrics, which include a standard hybrid, a plug-in hybrid, and a full electric.

The Prius from Toyota now comes in three distinct models. The Prius V is a larger, upscale vehicle while the Prius C is an entry-level compact. The mid-level Prius has been completely redesigned and is equipped with a new battery.

The interest in EVs is due in part to the renewal of the provincial government rebate, which provides up to $5,000 on qualifying EV purchases through CEV for BC.

Image of a Chevrolet Volt at the 2016 Vancouver International Auto Show
The Chevy Volt has an electric-only range of 85 km, but with a 1.5-litre gasoline charging system,that range is extended to about 600 km.

Importance of EV charging infrastructure

At the official opening of the show, the Government of B.C. announced nearly $1 million to support the installation of more charging stations in B.C., particularly in multi-family dwellings.

And a partnership between the provincial government, BC Hydro, and BMW, will upgrade 10 public DC Fast Charge stations in the Lower Mainland to double chargers.