One Manitoba family ditches electric truck, another has eight-hour trip prolonged to 30 hours

Two Manitoban residents bit off more than they could chew when purchasing their electric vehicles (EVs) for long-distance travel.

One Manitoba family ditches electric truck, another has eight-hour trip prolonged to 30 hours
Facebook/ Dalbir Bala and Ford Motor Company
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One of the residents ultimately regrets purchasing his electric truck earlier this year after abandoning it for a gas-powered rental during a trip south of the border.

Dalbir Bala of La Salle is the not-so-proud owner of a 2023 Ford F-150 Lightning Lariat. Despite purchasing the vehicle with an extended-range battery, an unsuccessful charge at two Minnesota charging stations forced him to leave it behind for more reliable transportation on July 27.

"It was a nightmare for us," Bala told CBC about his business trip to Wisconsin and Illinois.

The Manitoban bought the truck for $115,000 in January and installed chargers at his home — with an upgraded electrical panel — and trucking firm for an additional $16,000. 

"Electric vehicles, new technology […] I was impressed with it," he said, adding it would save him over a grand in monthly fuel costs. "That made me buy this thing."

However, about 350 kilometres south of Winnipeg, Bala paid $56 to charge his truck's battery in Fargo, North Dakota, from 10% to 90%.

A Ford spokesperson told the state broadcaster in an email that its battery range is 515 kilometres.

"Whether gas or electric, actual driving range varies with conditions such as external environment, vehicle use and maintenance," said Megan Joakim.

Unfortunately, Bala experienced difficulties with the vehicle in Albertville, Minnesota, where the local Level 3 charger cited a 'faulty connection' message in his truck.

The Manitoban attempted to charge his Ford again at the nearest charging station in Elk River, only to face a similar problem with its Level 2 charger. It remains unclear why the vehicle did not successfully charge.

With only 15 kilometres remaining on the battery, Bala ditched the Ford for a gas-powered Toyota 4Runner rental to finish the trip.

"That's when we decided we don't want any more distraction or frustration," he said.

Robbin Nesbit, sales manager for the Wright-Hennepin Cooperative Electric Association, claimed the charger worked the day Bala visited. According to usage records, other people successfully charge their EVs.

AJ Gosselin with ChargePoint said the company had another charger in Elk River, within driving distance from Bala and his family.

Since the incident, Ford said they are "working to improve access to charging for our customers" by adding to a network that Ford says already includes 10,000 fast chargers as part of its BlueOval charging network, along with 12,000 Tesla superchargers and around 4,000 fast chargers at Ford dealers.

On his return to Manitoba, he picked up his truck and told CBC he now uses it only for daily commutes within the city.

"To have a more than $100,000 car to drive in the city […] that was not expected," said Bala.

Another Manitoba resident, Roman Briones, reported last month that a lack of charging stations and infrastructure along northern highways towards Thompson prolonged an eight-hour trip to nearly 30 hours.

"It's a difficult journey because there [are] no charging stations along the way. There's none," he said

Briones had to rent a cabin in Grand Rapids overnight to charge his Tesla at a nearby trucking business.

"They have a [Level 2 charger], so I was able to plug it in, and I didn't have to wait like a week [for it to fully charge]," he said. 

A Level 2 charger typically takes 4 to 10 hours to fully charge an EV, while a Level 3 charger takes half an hour. In contrast, a Level 1 charger takes upwards of 50 hours.

Frustrated with the lack of infrastructure, Briones feels stranded in the north and cannot visit family in Winnipeg unless he takes a flight or bus ride.

"It's a huge hindrance for us," he said. "I'm surrounded by hydro dams … and we can't have [an electric] vehicle in Thompson because you can't drive it to Winnipeg."

According to the Manitoba Electric Vehicle Association, there are over 80 Level 3 chargers and around 180 Level 2 chargers in Manitoba.

In 2020, Manitoba had 681 EVs and one pickup truck registered in Manitoba. The province now has 1,933 EVs and 94 pickup trucks two years later.

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