Did you know that Saltspring Island has the highest number of electric car owners per capita of anywhere in Canada? In fact, that’s 10 times the national average with 89 electric vehicle owners on Saltspring Island and more to come.
For this reason, Canada’s leading EV advocate and social entrepreneur extraordinaire, Kent Rathwell, made time in his overwhelming schedule to speak this past week to about 100 people who dared to venture out into one of snowiest evenings on Saltspring Island in more than a decade.
Rathwell has been likened to Elon Musk, and rightfully so, as not only does this engineer operate a highly successful emission free company, but four years ago he donated his own time, money and resources to install free EV charging stations from coast-to-coast, making Canada home to the world’s longest green highway with a network of 10,000 km of electric charging stations.
“We set out to eliminate the excuses of people from blaming government, oil companies, automakers and, ultimately, their ancestors for the lack of sustainable transportation,” Rathwell says of the cross-country charging network, adding that “if our ancestors had put charging stations into their houses and businesses 100 years ago, “we would have had sustainable transportation for a century now.”
Considering electric streetcars were the norm in the early 1900s, Rathwell wanted to be sure the electric vehicle movement didn’t go the way of the horse and buggy due to a lack of charging station infrastructure.
Thousands of Rathwell’s Sun Country Highway EV chargers can be found on the entire length of the Trans-Canada Highway. “People thought I was crazy, but I was determined to create the change I knew was possible,” he says.
His determination was solidified with the success of his Saskatchewan-based Sun Country Farms birdseed company. Within one year it had become not only the first zero-emission company in the province, but became the most sustainable birdseed company in the world.
“A lot of people said you can’t have a zero-emission company that is sustainable, so we set up a crushing plant to take off-grade oilseeds and some of our waste products and turn that into 10,000 to 15,000 litres of bio-oil a day, which now powers all of our farmers’ equipment and all of our tractor trailers in our highway fleet,” he explains.
“We’ve proven you can grow it, you can process it, manufacture it, warehouse it and distribute it to retailers with no emissions.”
One of those retailers, Peavey Mart, with 32 stores across Western Canada, installed Sun Country charging stations at its outlets so that EV-owning consumers can buy the bird feed and take it home with no emissions.
“(Peavey) bought into the concept, and in addition they have made their charging stations available 24/7 to anyone travelling by. So they’re not only empowering their customers, they’re empowering strangers. And that is really what this is about. Empowering people to focus their energy on the positive instead of buying into why we can’t do things. That’s why we electrified the entire Trans-Canada Highway. If the longest highway in the world can be electrified, what can’t be?,” attests Rathwell.
Rathwell credits his charged-up supporters for the success of the Sun Country Highway EV charging network.
“The vast majority of the public charging stations are in the parking lots of mom and pop stores and restaurants because they can make quick decisions that large cities, large corporations and large governments can’t. Small Canadian business owners and electric vehicle enthusiasts made it happen. Collectively, anything is possible. Together we can change the world,” Rathwell affirms.