Scanning Vancouver’s MSM headlines today, I caught this story about Vancouver Chrysler, closing after 20 years. Their currently location at Main and Terminal is slated to become housing as part of the Southeast False Creek redevelopment, and no deal could be reached with Chrysler LLC for a new location. Unfortunate but unsurprising, with global economic uncertainty and a looming reality of peak oil rapidly slowing auto sales.
I bike past this dealership often, and this news struck me as very amusing when you realize what recently opened up just across the street. It’s a little obscure and you could be forgiven for missing it, but it’s the showroom of Vancouver-based Envia Systems, who convert existing gas-powered vehicles to electric or hybrid-electric. As News1130 points out, it earns the title of Canada’s first electric vehicle showroom. CBC recently profiled Envia, and it’s founder Jay Giraud, a former pro snowboarder and owner of a snowboard clothing company.
“Ever since I was a kid I thought cars should be electric,” he says.
A year ago he formed the privately funded Envia and has now partnered with Metro Ford Motors in Port Coquitlam, one of the largest fleet vehicle dealers in Western Canada, to convert gas-powered Fords to electric and hybrid-electric vehicles.
Giraud plans to convert 1,000 Ford vehicles to electric or hybrid models by the end of next year. He has already delivered a test model, a fully electric 2008 Ford Ranger, to Metro Ford and plans to have three more test models done by the end of 2008.
“Our opportunity really lies in converting all the old cars out there. It’s a far larger market than the new auto market,” Giraud says.
He adds that building a new electric or hybrid car produces a significant amount of carbon emissions, but converting an old one will not use as many resources. “This really is the highest level of reusing.”
A conversion is still too expensive for the average consumer at $25,000 or more, but that expense can pay off for commercial or municipal fleets. Over time the costs will come down as battery technologies mature. Envia is in talks to expand into Ontario, California, and Oregon, and hopes to start offering conversions for consumers in late 2009. When the Olympics come to Vancouver in 2010, the major auto manufacturers might have electric cars on the market, but Envia will already be there, three blocks east of the Athlete’s Village.