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VIA Motors receives $80M commitment from Sun Country for extended range electric vehicles; Canadian transcontinental electrification project

15 January 2014

VIA Motors has received an $80-million purchase agreement from Sun Country Highway to electrify hotels and other business as part of a transcontinental electrification project. The privately funded electrification project called Sun Country Highway was launched by founder Kent Rathwell, and has placed more than 1,000 charging stations across Canada to allow electric vehicle owners to travel coast-to-coast with free charging. In addition, it will provide charging for the business’ own electric shuttle vans and trucks in the next phase.

In phase one of the project we electrified hundreds of businesses across the country including placing about 100 chargers at Best Western Hotels. In phase two, we will deploy VIA’s electric trucks and vans and have already placed an $8-million order with a deposit VIA for the first 100 vehicles. We have signed a purchase agreement with VIA committing us to about $80 million of electrified vehicles overall, to meet the demand of the expanding project.

—Kent Ratwell

The Best Western Seven Oaks in Regina, Canada will be the first Best Western hotel to offer electric shuttle van services in North America.

Sun Country Highway created a fast charging network from coast to coast across North America, making nearly 90% of Canadian highways accessible to electric vehicles for free charging. It utilizes a market-driven advertising model similar to offering free Wi-Fi to sell coffee.

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A big government effort may put a few tens of hydrogen stations into one state.  Meanwhile, private money has already put 1,000 charging stations across Canada.

Advantage:  electricity.

We would have to see how many EVs are sold in Canada and how many use the chargers.

I must admit that small e-charging stations are currently much cheaper and easier to install than H2 stations. They are so low cost that no government hand outs are required. Many more will be required for our very cold winters. Having to top every hour or so for slow refills is still a challenge.

However, future low cost transportable electrolysers, compressors and H2 storage tanks will soon become affordable too. FCVs have a clear advantage for winter time long trips with quicker, fewer refills, free cabin heat etc.

A PHEV with an FC range extender instead of the current ICE range extender may be one of the ideal solution.

Is that what Toyota is trying to do?

As I keep noting, if even the 10 kWh/liter iron/salt/air battery makes it to vehicles, that's it for petroleum.  It's also curtains for FCEVs, because it amounts to a self-regenerating metal/air fuel cell without any of the infrastructure issues of H2.  Cramming 200 kWh in 20 liters means 500+ miles of range in a Tesla-class car, far more than most people can stand to drive in a single leg.  With a 120-kW class charger for the stops, an hour's worth of lunch and potty breaks over a day adds another 300 miles of range.  I can drive marathons, and even I would be unable to do such distances without another hour's worth of breaks just to rest—which is another 300+ miles of range if spent on a charger.  Unless you are going off-road, that's the death of the argument against EVs.  FCs become irrelevant.

I think that's exactly what we're going to see:  before more than a few models can show up, they'll be irrelevant.

I hope that E-P is correct and that 5-5-5 batteries or better will be available soon. If not, FCEVs will be further developed and marketed starting in 2015 or so, for light duty and heavy vehicles.

Whenever superior affordable batteries are mass produced, light duty vehicle users may have two choices (BEVs and FCEVs). However, heavy duty trucks and long range buses may have to continue to use FCs for many decades.

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