Naysayers of the electronic vehicle revolution insist the new technology cannot function in Arctic winters.

A man and his Tesla just proved them all wrong.

“It all boiled down to having friends,” said Johnathan Zoes, or Johnnie Zoes Man as he calls himself. “I told Jane, my wife, I would arrive making this film in a Tesla, because it is the future.

“I had to find people who would be inspired by either my story or simply the fact the Tesla trying to go to the Arctic Ocean, which it just did.”

Zoes Man is the third person to successfully drive an electric vehicle to the Arctic ocean and the second to do it in a mass produced one, but the first to ever drive a Tesla in the -40 C wind chills of an Arctic winter.

“I’m the second one,” he said. “He cheated though, he came up during the summer.”

An aspiring film maker who lived in the North for many years, Zoes Man decide to make the road trip from New York state to Tuktoyaktuk while documenting and revisiting key events in his life.

Deciding he wanted to test the technology out himself, he leased a Tesla electronic vehicle and began making his way through Canada.

Covering the southern part of the country was easy, as charging stations are becoming quite common. Once he reached Dawson Creek in Northern British Columbia he was able to keep his vehicle charged by way of RV Parks. Yukon territory has been aggressively building rapid charging stations, far faster than Yukoners have been buying EVs, so once he passed Whitehorse Zoes Man said he had most of the charging stations to himself.

Going further North, he began to have to rely on the kindness of strangers to plug in, but fortunately for him that’s the North’s greatest resource.

“When I reached Profit River, I called the local indigenous council and told then what I was up to,” he said. “They let me use the maintenance building for the night.

“I’ve been relying on 50 amp outlets.”

Eventually making his way to Dawson City, Zoes Man said he was ‘adopted’ by a plumber who let him use his place as a home base to figure out how to cross the Dempster, which has no gas station for over 300 kilometres.

No gas stations — but several maintenance buildings. Zoes Man quickly befriended the road crews of the Dempster, who allowed him to overnight at their garages. Because the garages aren’t rapid charging stations, it took two days, but Zoes Man was able to drive to Eagle Plains without issue.

Once in Eagle Plains, he had to get creative. Stan’s garage was able to give him a charge but was full, so he had to leave the vehicle outdoors on top of the mountain. The first charge wasn’t good enough to both heat the vehicle and make the jump to Fort McPherson, so he had to get a second charge. But once the road opened, he was off.

In Fort McPherson, he was able to get another charge from LJ’s Contracting, then he held up in Inuvik before heading to Tuktoyaktuk, where he was able to jury rig a charging station to get himself up and down the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktyuk Highway.

“I’ve gotten here on the strength of dreams,” he said. “I thought I was just going to die a grumpy old man, looking at a world going in a negative direction and no hope for us as a species.

“But I know now we can do so much better than this. The people I’m meeting are wonderful and the possibilities of the future are amazing.”

Now back in Dawson City, Zoes Man is hard at work on his documentary.

Zoes Man added he’s hoping to make another journey back up the Dempster before spring break up in April.

“I said to Jane down in New York, ‘I love you’ but you may have to come up here,” he said. “I can’t imagine that I can go back. What I’m finding here is so wonderful, especially the openness and caring of the people.

“If the whole world adopted this way of living with each other, the whole world would be perfect.”

Using an app provided by Tesla connected to his vehicle, he estimates he saved $463 in fuel expenses over his 31 day trip to Inuvik. His only costs were paying his hosts for food and electric charges. To cover the same distance with gasoline would have cost him $701. Another benefit of the EV is so long as it has a charge, he can keep the heater and vehicle running as long as he needs. Other than in Eagle Plains, he actually spent most of his nights sleeping in the warmth of his car.

Having made the journey without even the proper infrastructure for his vehicle in place, Zoes Man said he’s completely sold on EV technology.

“The world hasn’t seen anything like this since Thomas Edison or Nicola Tesla,” he said. “These guys come up with amazing ways to make things work.

“And the technology will just get better and better.”

Eric Bowling

Breaking News Reporter and Digital Editor for NNSL, Eric operates out of Inuvik in the Beaufort Delta. He's four years into his Northern adventure and is eager to learn more about life in the Arctic Circle....

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  1. I am the cheater who did it in summer.
    My hat is off to the man who did it in winter.
    Neither off us could have done it without the help and the kindness of the people of the north.
    We did it in mass production vehicles, it can not be compared to a single trip in a purpose built experimental car. Also my hat is off to that team as well.

  2. I plug our vehicle in from December to February due to the cold. That doubles the electrical bill. Can’t imagine having to plug a vehicle in 12 months of the year. Tit for tat I still am not sold on the electric revolution and have absolutely no interest in living in the 15 minute city.

  3. I have driven 200,000 km on my EV and it is pure nonsense to think the current battery technology is mature enough for cold Canadian winters. The range drops up to 50%. Charging my EV at fast chargers is more expensive than filling my second car tank with gas.

  4. Eric, you may want to tell Mr.Zoe Man to get his facts straight. I am glad someone else mentioned Marcelo and his XOF1 in the comments. I saw it Inuvik back in the winter of 2010. If anyone cheated was Mr.Man. Mr.Da luz drove his electric car in the winter, crossed the ice road and only charged using sunlight. Mr.Da Luz is a true EV pioneer, he earned our respect and admiration for his achievements here in the NWT. Search CBC “under the Arctic Sun”. Great coverage of Mr.Daluz crossing of the ice road.

  5. Marcelo da Luz with his XOF1 solar electric car, reached the Arctic for the first time in 2008, the second time in 2009. The third time in 2010 crossing the Ice road between Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk.

    Give credit where credit is due

  6. Saved a bit of money not counting premium in price over a ice, NO unless your time is worth nothing .. I know a guy who peddaled to tge Arctic.. guess bicycles are viable according to this logic…

  7. A tip of my cap to Mr. Zoes Man! I drove my. Rand new Tesla Model Y from Vancouver to Whitehorse, YT in July 2020. It was the height of the COVID pandemic, so many restaurants and RV campgrounds were closed. It was also before the Yukon government installed any of their community charging stations, so after I left Fort St. John, BC, it was all 110 v / 15 amp block heater outlets and a 3 day layover at Northern Rockies Lodge in Muncho Lake, but I made it. Then I lobbied the Yukon government to install fast chargers in every community, which took them 2-3 years to complete. Great road trip!