A northern Quebec driving school is helping expand the reach of electric cars in the province, by installing an electric car charger in Chisasibi and adding an electric car to its fleet.
École de Conduite Taauchiiwaatin - Driving School accessed provincial funding for electric vehicles and in August, the first electric car charger was installed in the Cree community, located some 1,700 kilometres north of Montreal.
The equipment was driven all the way to Chisasibi from Montreal, by a 100 per cent electric vehicle. It's thought to be the first time an electric vehicle has made this trip.
"It's something new and we're excited about it," said Raymond Menarick, who owns and operates the driving school with his partner Marie-Josée Parent.
We're excited about it. - Raymond Menarick, co-owner Taauchiiwaatin
"We're happy to try," said Parent, adding she expects the technology will just continue to improve and be more accessible to people in the north.
"It's kind of cool to drive an electric car around the community."
The Chisasibi charger was installed as part of a Quebec government pilot project called "e-roule", which aims to help driving schools across the province electrify.
The government helps cover the cost of the charger, modifications needed on the vehicles so they can be used by a driving school, and other costs.
Jean Gariépy, director of development in electrification for Bectrol, the company that delivered the charger to Chisasibi, was part of the team that made the 3,200 kilometre round trip between Drummondville and Chisasibi and back again. He shared video capsules of the journey on social media, where he talks about his experience discovering Northern Quebec.
Bectrol has also installed a charger at kilometre 381 along the Billy Diamond Highway, so travellers can charge up en route. Recharging takes several hours and travellers must stay overnight at km 381.
Quebec announced last November, it plans to ban the sale of all new gas-powered vehicles in Quebec as of 2035. In June, the federal government said all new cars and light-duty trucks sold in Canada must be zero-emission vehicles by 2035.
Menarick said it's clear that electric vehicles are the way of the future.
"We think it's the way to go," he said.
Taauchiiwaatin Driving School offers driving lessons in the Cree communities of Wemindji, Nemaska and Eastmain, and has students coming from Waskaganish and Whapmagoostui.
Menarick said they are expecting to receive their electric vehicle sometime this fall and he hopes to eventually be able to travel to other Cree communities by electric vehicle to offer driving courses.