Electric vehicle charging stations spark interest

Community launch of the DCFC charging station in Greenwood, B.C., British Columbia’s smallest city. Photo supplied

Electric vehicles (EV) are becoming a more common sight in Sun Peaks with both homeowners and visitors choosing to make the switch.

According to FleetCarma, sales of EVs in Canada in the first half of 2018 were triple the entire amount of EV sales in all of 2017. Nationally EV sales increased 158 per cent between 2017 and 2018.

With this increase Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipality (SPMRM) is joining forces with 37 other communities in six regional districts in an effort to obtain funding for charging stations in the community.

With the help of the Community Energy Association (CEA) the communities have been in discussions for over a year.

Janice Keyes, senior manager for Community Energy Engagement for the CEA, said the program, called Charge North, will build infrastructure across Central and Northern B.C. where travelling by EV is more challenging than in the Lower Mainland where more charging stations are available.

The community led program is being modeled after a previous CEA project, Accelerate Kootenays, a three year initiative which installed more than 50 stations across the Kootenay region in communities such as Revelstoke, Kaslo and Creston.

Keyes said the work is important to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and align with the provincial goal of every new car sold in B.C. being a zero-emissions vehicle by 2040.
The stations, she added, can also provide an economic benefit to communities by putting them on the map for EV tourism.

So far Charge North has completed outreach to local governments, staff, regional districts and other stakeholders as well as completed workshops for government staff on how municipalities can embrace the changes.

Modelling was also completed to learn how much of an impact on energy use the EV network could have including the reduction in GHG emissions.

While in the planning phase the provincial government announced a new funding program, CleanBC, which aligns with the goals of Charge North. The funding will be awarded to capital projects related to green infrastructure, including transportation, with a focus on GHG emission reductions.

An application was submitted at the end of March and Keyes said she expects to hear back within a few months.

Plans include a mix of what are called level two and level three stations. Level two stations can charge most cars’ batteries to 80 per cent in four to six hours of charging, while level three stations are fast chargers which are complete in around 30 minutes.

Level three stations are costly to install but necessary for travellers planning longer trips, Keyes said, so both will be used and placed in strategic locations in communities to encourage drivers to spend money in towns they stop in as there is little money to be made by municipalities or businesses for the use of the stations themselves.

Keyes added most communities are happy not to charge money for charging because of the economic impact from those waiting for their vehicles.

As stations are installed the CEA will arrange education in communities with things like ride and drive events which connect early EV adopters with those considering making the switch and provide education and test drives to those interested.

“The real life local input is important,” she said. “We work in partnership with individual communities and local EV drivers to promote EV options in rural areas.”

She said support from local electric drivers is important and more effective than someone from the Lower Mainland telling rural drivers they should switch, especially with certain misconceptions around the cars’ usefulness in mountainous terrain and inclement weather.
“We want to make it more mainstream and tangible.”

SPMRM chief administrative officer Rob Bremner said they have signed on and committed to two stations. Should funding be approved, he said, they will contribute up to $10,000 from the municipal budget and find a location.

Currently no charging stations are available publicly in Sun Peaks though there are at least four private charging stations.

Sun Peaks homeowner and EV advocate Brock Nanson has been pushing the municipality to install stations since 2015. He said he is supportive of the Charge North plan but would like to see more chargers and is disappointed SPMRM hasn’t installed any yet.

In 2016 Nanson prompted Tesla to offer SPMRM three stations for free with SPMRM paying the cost of installation. He said despite the offer going in front of council, Sun Peaks Resort LLP and Sun Peaks Utilities nothing happened. Nanson said during a 2017 Tourism Sun Peaks AGM Mayor Al Raine told him he would soon be very happy.

“It’s now 2019 and I’ve given up hope for the municipality to walk their green talk,” Nanson wrote to SPIN in an email. “The municipality is very late to the game…especially given the ‘destination’ and ‘rental’ nature of the community. It disappoints me that council is not able to think in future tense.”

He added he books hotels based on where he can charge his Tesla and thinks installing at least two level three stations would provide a good solution. Nanson also pointed out other grant programs from Tesla and elsewhere which are available for level two and three stations.

Bremner responded SPMRM considered working with Tesla to install stations in 2016 but was only to be supplied the components and was responsible for the installation cost.
He said quotes came back expensive and around the same time talks began for CEA program. If Charge North doesn’t receive funding, he said, the municipality will put the $10,000 already committed towards stations.

“One way or another we’ll have an electric charging station or two by the fall.”