At the age of 79, Charles Norman decided to take the plunge and buy his very first electric car, opting for a 2020 Tesla Model Y.
Now, after 10 months and around 5,600 kilometres, the retired doctor, now 80, told the Sun earlier this week that he’ll never go back to owning a conventional gas-powered vehicle, since he believes these new electric models are superior in almost every way.
"They’re cleaner, they’re quieter, they’re certainly as fast, if not faster, they’re a lot cheaper, they don’t need servicing, you don’t have to go take the engine apart," he said on Tuesday.
While Norman only recently decided to make this investment, he has been interested in Tesla as a company since its early days.
After all, the Brandon resident is a longtime believer in the Electric Universe theory, which posits electricity is the major driving force in our solar system — an outlook at odds with mainstream scientific thought.
However, this interest in the raw power of electricity eventually inspired Norman to purchase some shares in Tesla, which he later sold — along with his Ford Edge — to purchase the Model Y.
Plus, Norman admits he also wanted to spoil himself a little, since he has mostly avoided other leisurely activities that traditionally define other people’s golden years.
"I’ve never had a cottage. I never had a golf membership. I didn’t get a fancy, fancy house … I never got a speed boat," he said. "So I just always wanted something for me."
While Norman is still learning about all the ins and outs of the car, he said figuring out the electric vehicle’s basic functionality was remarkably easy.
This is because almost all of the Model Y’s auxiliary features are accessible through a single touch-screen computer located next to the steering wheel, which handles everything from navigation to air conditioning to the sound system.
Plus, Norman said that Tesla regularly provides each of their models with remote updates via the internet, improving the software and overall functionality of these vehicles on a near-constant basis.
"They’ll tell you that you’re going to have an upgrade at a certain time and usually you get the warning and it flashes up on the screen," he said. "So they’re doing all sorts of things all the time."
Of course, electric vehicles are still a relatively rare sight in the Westman area, with Norman only aware of a few other Tesla owners within Brandon.
Still, nearby communities have been slowly building up the region’s electric car infrastructure over the last couple of years, with the website plugshare.com identifying approximately 30 charging stations in southwestern Manitoba.
This includes a Tesla Supercharger location in Brandon and a Level 3 DC rapid charger in Dauphin, which were set up in late 2019 and early 2021, respectively.
Despite this improvement, Norman would like to see this kind of infrastructure expanded and streamlined in the future, especially since these charging stations are not universal.
"So the other issue you run into is the type of plug, because there’s no standardization … there’s no one plug for all cars," he said.
That being said, Norman isn’t too worried about being stranded at the side of the road, since the Model Y’s range is roughly 480 kilometres on a single battery charge. However, that range is temperature dependent and can drop to around 320 kilometres during the winter.
But Norman said the car’s navigation system also lends a helping hand during long trips by calculating how much power is required to reach each destination.
"You just have to plan," Norman said. "If I was travelling outside of Brandon, I put the route into my phone … and the car would tell me how much electricity I would need."
Of course, Norman admits the Model Y isn’t perfect. For example, its low centre of gravity makes off-road travel a risky prospect, especially since the car’s battery is located near its undercarriage.
However, Norman is confident that more versatile electric models will make their way to Westman eventually, which will open the floodgates for adoption from city dwellers and rural farmers alike.
"Everything is a learning curve, and as more and more people see them, I think, in the majority of cases, they will become more interested," he said.
"I think over time, you’ll see more and more electric cars."
» Twitter: @KyleDarbyson