Electric vehicle charging stations are cropping up like dandelions in spring in the Tri-Cities as the EVs become an integral part of the driving landscape.
And as B.C. becomes a heavy adopter of EVs, more charging stations are likely to appear — many of them installed by cities, with the investment made by taxpayers but paid back by users.
“I see this as the way of the future,” said Jozsef Dioszeghy, Coquitlam’s general manager engineering and public works.
This week, Coquitlam council approved the expenditure of $200,000 for the purchase of six dual-port, level 2 charging stations.
But while the initial investment will give EV owners more options for charging, they won’t get the service for free. Users will pay $1 per hour for the first two hours followed by $5 for each additional hour after that.
The idea is to encourage turnover and for fees to pay back the city's initial investment over seven to 10 years, Dioszeghy said.
Coquitlam is ramping up its EV infrastructure as more drivers are expected to purchase the vehicles to avoid paying for gas and to reduce carbon emissions. There are currently 18,000 EVs in B.C., with 350,000 expected on the roads by 2030, according to BC Hydro.
But for Tri-City residents to get fully aboard the electric bandwagon, they’ll need places to charge their vehicles, especially if they live in a condo or townhouse complex and there's no place to hook up close to home.
Private and government-funded options are still coming on stream: In Port Moody, Port Coquitlam and Coquitlam, roughly 20 charging stations can be found at car dealers, banks, Coquitlam Centre, which charges for use at the same rate as the city of Coquitlam, and some parks and fast-food outlets.
For example, there’s an electric charging station at Colony Farm Regional Park, according to PlugShare.com, where among the users is a driver named TheKiltedGinger who powers up his Chevrolet Volt Gen2 at the community garden every five days.
Port Coquitlam, meanwhile, has roughed in the potential for a number of spots in the parkade at the renovated community centre, according to a city spokesperson, and will be looking at technologies and options closer to the opening date of the parkade in late 2021.
But the leader in the Tri-Cities for EV charging is Port Moody. It was an early adopter of the technology and recently increased the number of stations from five to 12. As well, it upgraded existing stations located at city facilities, and networked them with ChargePoint, which allows users to get live data from the station, according to spokesperson.
Natasha Vander Wal told The Tri-City News in an email that, with ChargePoint, users can see if the station is busy and station operators can track electricity consumption and see if the stations are working properly.
“This information will also be used to help the city determine if more charging stations are needed,” Vander Wal said.
In PoMo, users can charge their car for free.
Coquitlam has one charging station at city hall, but, as of July 4, the charger at city hall will have two ports for cars and expects to soon have another level 2 station with two ports at the Poirier Sport and Leisure Complex for the public to use. The remaining stations should be up later this year, after a company is chosen to do the work.
Dioszeghy said the city is playing a bit of catch-up but is moving now as residents have indicated a need for them.
“Certainly we do hear from our residents… they don’t have access and [in some case] the strata doesn’t allow them to install them. They have been approaching Coquitlam, [saying] ‘when are you going to do this?’”
Dioszeghy said future locations are being developed for the remaining chargers but one is likely to be in a parking space in the City Centre area, with the remainder at city facilities, such as pools, libraries and rec centres.
He said the private sector will have to step up to provide to more options for car users but, in the meantime, governments have to have a role to play in providing the infrastructure to meet demand and make driving an EV possible.
“We don’t have enough experience with it. Some other cities do it for free, others are charging more than what we do. We are going to keep a very close eye on it.”
The city of Vancouver is looking to address the issue of inadequate charging facilities in condos and rental apartments by looking at a variety of neighbourhood solutions, where accessible plug in chargers are available in neighbourhood hubs.