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Sunshine Coast couple Bolts across Canada

Randy Shore

Piper (left) is travelling across the country with Barb Hetherington and Buddy Boyd in a Chevrolet Bolt. (Postmedia Network)

Piper (left) is travelling across the country with Barb Hetherington and Buddy Boyd in a Chevrolet Bolt. (Postmedia Network)

Buddy Boyd's Chevrolet Bolt is a modern-day electric camel, carrying his family across Canada's expanse from charging oasis to oasis.

"There are a few spots in the Prairies and Northern Ontario that have us a little worried, where it's a long way between chargers," he said.

Gibsons residents Boyd, Barb Hetherington and their 38-kilogram dog Piper are testing the limits of the all-electric Bolt in Saskatchewan right now and so far the road has truly risen to meet them.

As owners of the Gibsons Recycling Depot and directors of Zero Waste Canada, they're well-connected with the sustainability community, some of whom have ponied up cash to finance the trip, while others have provided beds and meals along the way.

Their goal is to drive to Quidi Vidi, N.L. And back, obviously.

"We want to show people that they can do this and that a lower-carbon road trip is possible," said Boyd.

As word spreads — Hetherington is blogging at boltacrosscanada.com — electric-vehicle enthusiasts are coming out of the woodwork to offer them access to still-rare chargers.

"I was kind of terrified that once we left Calgary we were going to be screwed," he laughed. "But it's really working out organically.

"People are calling us and offering these oases," he said. "We just heard from the Electric Vehicle Association of Alberta and they want to meet us at Kal Tire in Swift Current, (Sask.), where there is a charger and some reporters waiting for us."

While there are several thousand charging stations available to EV drivers in Canada, getting from charger to charger remains a tricky business on long hauls, requiring many hours of careful research.

"It's been about a year of planning and trepidation," he said.

After leaving Victoria, they topped up at the Fraser Valley Regional District charger in Chilliwack to ensure they would make Kamloops, and then again at the tourist-information kiosk in Chase to get to the Holiday Inn Express in Golden.

A handful of publicly accessible chargers are Level 3, which provide a full charge in about 30 minutes. Most are Level 2 chargers that can take several hours to overnight, depending on the condition of the battery. For emergencies, Boyd and Hetherington are also carrying a Level 1 charger that plugs into a standard wall socket, but that can take up to 60 hours to provide a full charge.

"We limped into Golden on fumes, so the charge took about eight hours," Boyd said. From Golden they drove all the way to Calgary and then made a few side trips.

Their "Bolt Across Canada" adventure has attracted considerable interest from the media and the EV corporate community at every stop since they left the Trans-Canada Highway's Mile Zero in Victoria on July 1. Representatives from Tesla helped with the sendoff on Canada Day, they did several interviews in Red Deer and charged-up at the local Peavey Mart.

The Bolt has an official range of 383 kilometres, but Boyd is taking care to "train" the battery for longer hauls by keeping their speed down and avoiding use of the air conditioning.

"People are whizzing by us, but we are getting more like 425 or 450 kilometres," he said.

Boyd and Hetherington aren't the first to take an EV across the country, Tesla Across Canada forged that trail last year. Rolf Oetter and Silke Sommerfeld of Saanich made the trip towing a small camper, which reduced their range to about 260 km and their top speed to about 70 km/h.

"Rolf and Silke have been a huge help to us and they blazed that trail," said Boyd. "The first person on the trail has to cut a lot of brush, we are coming in behind and cleaning it up, but it's still kind of a risky thing to be doing."

rshore@postmedia.com