Evolution powers over speed bumps for electric cars
Andre Labonte has always been a problem solver.
So, when the president of Evolution Motors was continually asked by prospective buyers of the dealership’s electric vehicles where they were going to charge the cars, he decided to address the issue in-house.
Mr Labonte worked with an electrical engineering company – and now purchasers of a vehicle from Evolution receive a fully installed, 240-volt, three-kilowatt electric charger on a wall mount at their house or apartment as part of the purchase price of a vehicle.
Installation includes running a plug from the home to the charger.
Mr Labonte said two to three charges a month should cost between $55 and $80 in additional electricity charges.
Of including a charger in the price of a vehicle, he said: “That takes away a lot of anxiety that people have.”
Since launching the dealership, Mr Labonte has learnt that there are three “speed bumps” as people consider the transition from gas-powered vehicles to electric.
In addition to the availability of chargers, prospective buyers need to be comfortable with electric vehicles’ price and range.
Mr Labonte said: “There is an education process. People worry that they will run out of juice going to St David’s or Somerset.
“Then they realise the car is still at 95 per cent charge, and they’ve been driving it all day.”
Evolution began on Addendum Lane in Pembroke, but now operates from Front Street, between Queen and Burnaby Streets.
It is the first all-electric dealership in Bermuda to sell vehicles in a range of classes.
The Chinese-manufactured E-class Levdeo and B-class Zuojun were the first brands to be offered for sale. Vehicles have been on the road since January 2021.
Pandemic-related supply chain issues meant that Evolution wasn’t able to bring the 2022 MG ZS SUV to the island – but Mr Labonte is gearing up for a busy summer.
A shipment of the 2023 MG sport utility vehicles is expected to arrive around the end of July; 17 are already spoken for, one is a test drive vehicle, so just two will be available for sale.
Fourteen buyers have been on a waitlist, while three MGs were purchased this month after Mr Labonte was interviewed on radio.
The H-class vehicles boast a 131-kilowatt electric motor, have a range of 440 kilometres on a full charge, and carry a price tag of $45,000.
Gary Blackwell, a director of the company, helps out part-time, but Mr Labonte is the only full-time employee at Evolution for the moment.
He said: “Once those cars arrive, we will probably be hiring.”
A B-class Panda test vehicle, made by the Chinese manufacturer Helmarv, will be on-island in a couple of months to pass muster with the Transport Control Department.
Mr Labonte said: “It’s essentially an electric [Kia] Picanto. We will order some, if there is interest.”
The vehicles, which have a 34 kilowatt electric motor and have a range of 220 kilometres, will carry a price tag of $20,000.
Evolution plans to bring in a Chinese-manufactured Cenntro Electric Group light van with a $20,000 price tag in the third quarter of the year, and is currently testing both an electric scooter and motorcycle from manufacturers Horwin.
They are also made in China, come with a two-battery pack, and will cost $4,750 if they test out. They would also be here at the end of July.
Test drives of vehicles can be arranged on the Evolution Motors website.
Mr Labonte is a technologist with a master’s degree in leading innovation and change from England’s York St John University.
He and his late wife, Lynn, created Evolution due to their passion for the environment, and their concerns around global warming and climate change.
Mr Labonte said: “I always thought Bermuda was the perfect place for the vehicles because of its size. Literally, there should be no range anxiety.
“Lynn and I started the company to help people transition from gas to electric.”
He added: “If we follow the curve currently happening around the world, by 2030, 85 per cent of all cars sold in Bermuda will be electric.”
Ms Labonte passed away on July 28, 2021 after a battle with cancer. Mr Labonte said: “I am continuing this on in her name.”