Electric vehicle charging stations a work in progress

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

The issue of installing electric vehicle (EV) charging stations in Sun Peaks is ongoing. While progress is being made, EV drivers will likely continue to wait until next year before chargers are publicly accessible.

Since 2015, there have been efforts to install EV charging stations in the village.

Currently, Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipality (SPMRM) is collaborating with Charge North, an initiative of Community Energy Association (CEA), to bring about the installation of two chargers as part of a broader EV charging network across B.C.

The two Sun Peaks chargers will be level two stations, which provide a full charge over four to six hours, stated Janice Keyes, senior manager of Community Energy Engagement for the CEA.

Level three stations can charge a car in 30 to 40 minutes, but are more expensive.

“Not something that every local municipality can afford to be putting in,” Keyes said.

She explained Charge North applied for grant assistance on behalf of SPMRM to cover half the installation cost in Sun Peaks.

Rob Bremner, SPMRM chief administrative officer, confirmed SPMRM had committed $10,000 to cover the remaining cost.

While Bremner anticipated the chargers being available in Sun Peaks later this summer, Keyes pointed out the time frame for the project rests on confirmation of funding.

If funding is approved by spring Keyes said they would be ready to start just after.

But, with equipment acquisition, logistics and site assessments to consider, this would realistically mean starting installation in early 2021, she added.

Once the chargers are installed, it will remain at the discretion of the municipality whether users are charged, Keyes said.

Meanwhile, Bremner stated it’s currently unknown whether SPMRM will set a fee for use of the chargers.

He anticipated installation at the new Sun Peaks Centre, which is slated for completion after July 2020, according to the SPMRM website.

Some Sun Peaks hotels provide EV charging facilities for paying guests. But, according to PlugShare—an app which displays the availability of EV charging stations—currently the closest publicly accessible chargers are in Kamloops.

A modern EV can easily make a round trip from Kamloops on a single charge, however owners of older EV models would struggle, said Brock Nanson, a local Tesla driver.

Moreover, loss of battery life can occur if the vehicle sits unused for multiple days, particularly in colder temperatures when battery capacity can be reduced by thirty per cent, Keyes said.

By not yet hosting charging stations that can remedy this, Nanson said he believes Sun Peaks is missing out on a market of EV drivers from the Lower Mainland.

To illustrate his point, he described an incident that occurred in February.

“A woman from the Lower Mainland who had driven up to Sun Peaks in her Tesla Model 3 with her kids, in the dark, made it there and then realized that there was no charging available,” he explained.

The woman found and contacted Nanson online, and he was able to arrange for her vehicle to be charged using another local resident’s private charger.

“That’s an example of somebody who got up there and literally got themselves stuck because the basic infrastructure that exists in many other places isn’t up there,” Nanson said.

Evidently, the process of having EV chargers installed in Sun Peaks remains a work in progress, but the forward momentum of the project should offer some hope to EV drivers.

“It wouldn’t make sense for Sun Peaks to try to run this on their own,” Keyes affirmed. “We’re developing a network and that’s the beauty of working together on this.”

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