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Canada: Turning on a new Leaf

Pat Shellard loves showing off his Nissan Leaf electric vehicle. He also uses it to make a bit of an environmental statements; his license plate reads BYE OIL.

Driving an electric vehicle has brought out Pat Shellard’s inner drag racer. Because there’s nothing that puts a bigger grin on his face than pressing his Nissan Leaf’s accelerator and beating a young kid in a souped up Acura from a standing start after a red light.

“The look of disbelief on his face when he pulled alongside was pretty special,” says Shellard, an investment advisor at Vancity.

That instant acceleration was one of the unexpected surprises when Shellard got his Leaf last October, the fourth one delivered in British Columbia. With one gear and only three moving parts compared to a gas engine’s typical 500 components, plus no lag waiting for sparks to combust the fuel, the sedate maroon hatchback is more like a Ferrari red racer off the mark. Merging onto the highway, the Leaf blends into the flow of traffic in a heartbeat. It charges up the Holdom hill from Broadway with nary a stutter.

Not that Shellard envisions himself as some sort of eco Michael Schumacher. He is a family man after all. Which was his main motivation for getting his name on the waiting list shortly after the Leaf was unveiled and then enduring a year-long delay in delivery after the plant in Japan where they’re built was damaged by the earthquake and tsunami last March.

“I want my sons to respect the environment,” says Shellard of his decision to take the next step from his previous vehicle, a hybrid. “They’re always telling their friends about it, how their car doesn’t have a gas tank.”

That detail also happens to make Shellard smile every time he passes a filling station as gas prices inflate beyond $1.44 a litre.


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