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Calls for battery boosts, tows spike as extreme cold hit Saskatchewan

Calls for battery boosts, tows spike as extreme cold leaves Sask.
WATCH: Extreme cold temperatures in Saskatchewan have taken a toll on furnaces, pipes and vehicles.

Office and home furnaces ran overtime this week as temperatures in Saskatchewan dropped — and then dropped some more.

Extreme cold warnings blanketed the entire province at times over the past seven days, leading to an increase in calls for CAA Saskatchewan.

“Our communications centre has received approximately 5,500 calls. Out of those, we know about 75 to 80 per cent were for a battery boost, the remainder being for towing services,” said spokesperson Christine Niemczyk.

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Niemczyk said the average wait time for a response this week was between two to four hours.

With warmer temperatures forecast in Saskatchewan next week, CAA recommended drivers take this time to do vehicle maintenance – everything from checking block heater cords to oil and tires — ahead of the next cold snap.

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“We’ve had to double down on our on-call guys to help with the load after hours, and we’re expecting we’ll have to do that again this weekend just to play catch up,” said  Jason Raymer with Regina Plumbing and Heating.

Additionally, drivers can pick up a battery tender for extra peace of mind.

“It compensates for any electronic draw that’s in the vehicle, and keep the car ready to go all the time. Especially when it’s -40 C,” said Regina Battery Depot’s Terry Potter.

Extreme cold a smoother ride for electric vehicles 

However, the temperatures didn’t do much to slow down electric vehicles in Saskatchewan.

Matthew Pointer said he’s been able to drive his Tesla every day, even passing by others stranded in the cold.

READ MORE: Animal welfare calls triple during brutal Saskatchewan cold spell

“I was passing gasoline cars that wouldn’t start in the morning time. It was just sort of ironic to say that a battery or electric vehicle was passing an internal combustion car,” said Pointer, who has been driving an electric vehicle since October 2018.

Matthew Pointer, who founded the Saskatchewan Electric Vehicle Association, uses an at-home charger for his Tesla.
Matthew Pointer, who founded the Saskatchewan Electric Vehicle Association, uses an at-home charger for his Tesla. Taryn Gibson / Global News

Pointer explained that, like gas-powered vehicles, electric cars also experience a reduction in mileage during the winter.

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He said in extremely cold conditions, electric vehicles can expect about a 40 per cent drop in mileage per charge.

READ MORE: Petro Canada opens first electric vehicle fast charger in Saskatchewan

Aside from that, Pointer’s Tesla doesn’t require extra time for things like engine warm-up.

“The great thing about a car like this is that the battery pack is actually thermally managed, so it takes care of itself,” he said.

Pointer added that electric vehicles can also plug-in like a gas vehicle’s block heater would, warming the battery while charging the car.

Spike in calls for furnace, pipe repairs

As for homes and businesses, the extreme cold took its toll on plumbing and furnaces.

“We’ve been really busy with boiler and furnace calls, rooftop units,” said Raymer.

“We’ve had to double down on our on-call guys to help with the load after hours, and we’re expecting we’ll have to do that again this weekend just to play catch up.”

READ MORE: Home and vehicle fire prevention during winter weather

Raymer said calls for frozen pipes also kept his team busy. He recommended people check in on properties more frequently in the cold, and have someone do so if away for an extended period of time.

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“It is good to be able to check on your house during the day if you can when it is this cold, so you’re not coming back to a surprise at the end of the day and then having to pay overtime rate,” he said.