© Colin MacLean/Journal Pioneer
The inaugural E-Mazing Race saw about 12 electric vehicles from all over Canada roll into Summerside.
SUMMERSIDE – As he rolled out of the Holland College parking lot on Water Street Friday, Kent Rathwell flashed a victory sign for the cameras.
He certainly had a lot to celebrate.
Last year, his company, Sun Country Highway, completed the longest system of high performance electric vehicle charging stations in the world.
Then on Friday, his company pulled off what they called the longest electric vehicle rally ever.
The event was called the E-mazing Race and it culminated on the Summerside waterfront with a little more than a dozen electric vehicles of every make and model
Rathwell told a crowd at the Holland College Waterfront Campus that it was a sweet sight to see all those cars lined up.
“Wow, the pressure is off now,” he laughed during his remarks to the crowd.
“One of the things we set out to do across Canada in the last year and half was to create the world’s most reliable charging network.
“Even in the electric vehicle realm they said we were crazy, you couldn’t do it, and you couldn’t do it without government money,” he said.
Well, who’s crazy now, he asked.
Rathwell is the president of Sun Country Highway, a company that makes high performance electric vehicle charging stations.
The company has spent the last several years working on installing their charging systems, for free, at various stops along the Trans Canada Highway and succeed in going coast to coast in 2012.
Thanks to their work it is possible for anyone with a modern electric car or truck to go right from St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador to Victoria, British Columbia, without having to worry too much about having to settle for a less efficient, more time consuming, charging option.
The company also recently signed a deal with Summerside to install 40 of their charging systems here in exchange for green credits produced by the city’s wind farm.
The E-mazing Race was all about promoting and testing out their system of charging stations, said Rathwell.
The race was launched mid-August and required that participants, driving electric vehicles, try and sign in at as many Sun Country Highway charging stations as possible before meeting in Summerside Friday.
About 50 people entered into the race but for various reasons, only about a dozen cars made it to the Island.
Rathwell said that the company purposefully kept the event relatively low-key because they felt that had they made a big announcement and given people lots of time to sign up, both they and their charging network would have been overwhelmed.
But with another year of preparation they feel that they and their chargers will be up for a bigger and better event next year. Rathwell confirmed that the E-mazing Race would be returning to Summerisde next year.
“Really this was a test of our network to see what people thought of it – and especially what Americans thought of it, because they don’t have anything like this down there. That’s really where the electric vehicle is the strongest, and yet they don’t have the infrastructure that Canada has now,” he said.
From the dozen or so cars that did show up on the Island, no one drove as many miles as the Rempels.
Danny and Marjorie Rempel are friends of Rathwell’s and drove a sporty looking Tesla Motors Signature S from their home in Steinbach, Manitoba, to Seattle, Washington, for the launch event, and then all the way to P.E.I.
All together they put 10,000 kilometers on the car, which is worth about $140,000.
This was their first time driving an electric car for such an extended period of time.
They said it was a great experience, though it required them to change their mindset regarding cars.
You have to be a bit more careful about your energy source, said Danny, because it it can take a couple of hours to fully charge the car.
“Towards the end of it we were driving very comfortably. We knew exactly how to gauge everything,” he said.
The car can go about 450 kilometers on a charge, he added, and they never worried too much about having to wait a couple of hours for it to charge.
“It’s a totally different experience in that you have the time, while the car is charging, to relax during this time. So you take the time to do things in these communities that you would never ever do otherwise, because you have to get to A to B when you’re on vacation,” he said.
“Now we have a little bit of extra time … you can take the time to smell the roses.”