Already friends since high school, and through decades working for the same B.C. corporation in different parts of the province, Vernon’s Randy Kazemir and Aaron Menzies decided to put their friendship to the test.
One, they became business partners.
Two, they took a 5,500 kilometre round-trip road trip to Princeton, Minn., an hour north of Minneapolis, home of their potential new business venture, e-ride industries’ electric vehicle.
“We went there to do some training, pick up a demo model and learn about the industry. That was the biggest test of our business relationship: 5,500 kilometres in six days,” laughed Kazemir, 55. “The first criteria for having a business partner is trust, and we have that. In spades. That piece of the puzzle was taken care of right away.”
The pair returned to Vernon from Princeton as the exclusive Canadian dealer for e-ride, which manufactures and sells electric vehicles for light commercial, industrial and housing complex uses. They operate under the name A&R e-ride Canada Electric Vehicles.
It was Menzies, 54, who started doing research and stumbled upon an under-utilized classification of the B.C. Motor Vehicle Act: the low-speed vehicle. Menzies’ research showed one of the biggest players in low-speed or commercial electric vehicle use worldwide was e-ride industries of Princeton. He contacted Kazemir to be his partner in the venture and the pair, after training, were given the exclusive dealership rights for Canada.
“The vehicles are purpose-built and our website lists all of the potential uses,” said Menzies. “In the U.S., universities, colleges, airports, mines, refineries, automakers and municipalities use the vehicles as maintenance vehicles.”
There are two versions available for purchase: the EXVPatriot2 or EXVPatriot4, the number representing the number of doors for the vehicle. They are street-legal in 22 municipalities around the province, including Vernon, but they are not highway-legal. Top speed is 40 kilometres/per hour, which keeps it in the low-speed category.
Orders can be custom-made.
“The customer knows what he needs it for, so he builds a vehicle that will make the job easier for what he’s doing,” said Kazemir. “If he needs a racking system for ladders, he can put one on. There’s options from tool boxes to solar panels – which also help with charging the vehicle if driving in sunshine. There’s a huge array of options to custom-build the vehicle for whatever someone needs it to do.”
The vehicle operates on either flooded lead-acid or lithium batteries. You can plug it into a simple wall outlet overnight (the higher the amperage, the faster the charging) and it will be fully charged for use in the morning. You can also get an adapter to use at a charging station within the city.
Menzies cited a winery as an example where one of his vehicles would be perfect for use.
“Let’s say a winery has a big fossil fuel-burning van to tour around customers, and a tractor in the field, again, burning fossil fuel, and there’s cargo space,” he said. “Our vehicles use zero gas, there are zero emissions, the solar panels are constantly charging the battery, so we’ve eliminated gas and maintenance costs.”
“It’s sustainable energy which ties in with most organizations’ sustainability initiatives and will save them money,” added Kazemir. “It’s an investment in the vehicle but over time there will be no fuel costs, no maintenance costs. You’re saving big money by having these.”
One municipality the pair have been speaking with said if they converted even some of their current fleet of small- to full-size pick-up trucks to the electric vehicle, they would save half a million dollars a year on fuel alone.
That’s something the two men would leave to see their hometown do.
“It would be nice if Vernon made the first purchase as a trial run,” said Kazemir, adding he hoped to contact Mayor Victor Cumming to give him a test ride in the vehicle. “We’re not expecting them to buy 20 and slap them into their fleet. We understand they have to have vehicles to go on the highway or to the dump. But maybe grab one or two and give it a test.
“There are restrictions but for the vast majority of use only within town, why wouldn’t you buy one? When you’re looking at saving costs and helping the environment, it’s a no-brainer.”
Reaction to the electric vehicle has been popular. As Menzies and Kazemir were giving a reporter a tour in the vehicle, several other vehicles honked their horns in approval.
“People literally pull us over and ask, ‘where do you get those things? Is it really electric?” said Menzies.
The costs of the vehicles run between $27,000 and $32,000, as well as what options are put on. All business is done online.