Motivated by the Global Climate Crisis
Akiko Hara, a writer and speech therapist, originally from Japan, has been residing in Vancouver since 1995. Today, she shares her personal experience as the owner of a used 2016 Nissan Leaf.
Once again, I found myself in a frustrating situation. Every charging station for electric vehicles was occupied, leaving me with no option but to endure a 30- to 40-minute wait. To add to my disappointment, the app on my phone had displayed two available chargers just five minutes ago. It seemed that my effort to drive through the pouring rain had been in vain. However, I had no other alternative. With my electric vehicle requiring a charge for tomorrow’s commute, this particular station happened to be the closest one to my residence.
In 2019, when my trusty Hyundai Elantra faced a final verdict at the repair shop, I made a firm decision to embrace an electric vehicle as its replacement. Prior to that moment, I had taken small steps to contribute to the well-being of the planet, like using reusable grocery bags and diligently recycling plastic and paper items. However, I yearned to do more. The unexpected demise of my gas-powered vehicle provided an ideal chance for me to make a substantial change. I eagerly anticipated driving a car that not only eliminated harmful emissions but also ran on clean, sustainable energy sources, free from reliance on fossil fuels.
The absence of an EV charger in my condominium didn’t appear to be a major hurdle. With the provincial government’s backing and the growing prevalence of electric vehicles each year, I held the belief that it was only a matter of time before we would have charging infrastructure in our underground parking facility. In the meantime, I could rely on the convenience of public charging stations that were springing up throughout my neighborhood.
My initial enthusiasm for electric vehicles was tempered by the price range, which exceeded my budget. Undeterred, I decided to explore the option of purchasing a used EV, and to my delight, I discovered a wide selection available in the market. With the help of a loan, I found that I could afford one. After dedicating a month to researching and conducting field studies, I ultimately made the decision to purchase a pre-owned 2016 Nissan Leaf.
I felt a deep sense of happiness as I admired the “coulis red” color and the charmingly nerdy design of its bug-eyed headlights. The quiet and smooth glide of the car on the road brought me immense joy. Knowing that it produced zero emissions provided me with a sense of peace, confirming that I had made the right decision in light of our world’s urgent need to address climate change. I never found myself longing for the roar of an engine or the smell of gasoline; the electric driving experience was truly fulfilling.
The initial year of owning an electric vehicle was fantastic. I took advantage of the availability of public EV chargers, many of which were still free at that point in time. It was during these charging sessions that I had the pleasure of engaging in spontaneous conversations with other EV owners I encountered at the stations.
“Sorry to interrupt, but do you have an estimate of how much longer you’ll be charging?”
“Approximately ten more minutes, no problem.” And with that settled, our conversation would continue, centered mostly around our electric vehicles.
“So, you drive a Nissan Leaf? How has your experience been with it?”
“I absolutely love it.”
By the second year of owning an EV, the search for available charging stations became increasingly frustrating. The growing number of people driving electric vehicles was a positive sign, but it also meant that the charging infrastructure in my neighborhood was constantly occupied, unless I arrived very early in the morning or late at night. The repeated disappointments led me to stop checking the online availability of chargers in advance. Often, the charger that appeared as “available” online would already be occupied by the time I arrived.
In 2021, the strata council put forward a proposal to allocate $5,000 for an assessment of the underground parking facility’s feasibility for installing EV chargers. I was filled with anticipation, hopeful that the proposal would be readily approved.
During the annual general meeting, as the floor opened for questions and comments prior to voting, a few individuals raised their hands. One resident voiced their opposition to spending $5,000 on consulting fees merely for obtaining advice. Several others nodded in agreement. Another resident suggested a potential opportunity to generate revenue by making the chargers accessible to the public. In an effort to avoid appearing self-centered by advocating solely for my personal convenience, I chose to keep my hand down and attentively listened to the various viewpoints expressed.
Right before the chair initiated the voting process, yet another hand rose. The person hesitated momentarily before gathering their thoughts and proceeded to articulate their viewpoint with conviction.
“Electric vehicles come with a hefty price tag,” they stated. “Personally, I cannot afford one. Why should we allocate resources to support a privileged few who can afford expensive cars? Our funds should be utilized for initiatives that benefit the entire community, not just those fortunate enough to own electric vehicles.”
I allowed their perspective to settle within me. It made me reflect on my own assumptions and question whether my optimism regarding widespread support for installing EV chargers in our building was rooted in arrogance.
The proposal was defeated.
That particular night, sleep eluded me. It wasn’t due to my neighbor’s bitter remark, but rather because a realization struck me with force. I had forgotten the very essence behind my decision to purchase an electric vehicle. Regretfully, I had remained silent. The words “greenhouse gas emissions,” “carbon dioxide,” and “climate crisis” swirled chaotically in my mind. Astonishingly, no one had even broached this critical, life-or-death issue that confronts us all.
I should have seized the opportunity to share my personal story. I could have conveyed that my choice to embrace an EV stemmed from a genuine desire to contribute a little more towards safeguarding the environment we share with fellow human beings and countless other species. My support for the strata proposal extended beyond mere personal convenience; it aimed to aid future EV owners and encourage those who hold concerns for our sustainable planet. The fact that our condominium already boasted an effective recycling system was indicative of the care exhibited by many residents. In light of this, a nagging question gnawed at me: Would my spoken words have altered the outcome of the vote?
Fast forward two years, and our condominium still lacks the necessary infrastructure for an EV charger. Obtaining access to public charging stations in Vancouver has progressively become more challenging with each passing month. Despite these obstacles, my affection for my eco-conscious, bug-eyed, coulis-red Leaf remains unwavering, and I have never once regretted my choice to transition to an electric vehicle. Although driving an EV represents just a single facet among numerous strategies to mitigate the ongoing damage inflicted upon our planet, I can’t help but yearn for a simpler and more accessible path towards sustainability.