Why electric vehicle charging stations in B.C.'s Interior is still 'the wild west' - InfoNews

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Why electric vehicle charging stations in B.C.'s Interior is still 'the wild west'

The Peachland electric vehicle (EV) charging station is one of the few where usage and costs are tracked.
February 11, 2020 - 8:00 AM

If you’re taking a break as you drive your electric car from Osoyoos to Kamloops, you might want to think about stopping in at Peachland’s free recharge station.

If you wait until you get to Kelowna, you may be facing a $9 fee to fire up your batteries.

“It’s still the wild west in the electric vehicle landscape,” Glen Cheetham, the City of Kamloops’ sustainability services supervisor, told iNFOnews.ca while trying to explain the complexities of just that one City’s approach to encouraging more environmentally sensitive driving.

Kamloops has two municipal charging spots. One’s at the Tournament Capital Centre and the other at the Tourist Kamloops Visitor Centre.

One of them is a Level 2 charger that can take three to four hours to fully charge a vehicle. That’s at the tourist centre, is owned by the City, and the user is not charged for the electricity.

Kelowna has similar Level 2 chargers in the Kelowna Museum parking lot. While drivers are not charged for plugging in, they do pay $1.25 per hour to park, just like everyone else, which covers the cost of electricity.

FortisBC, which supplies electricity to parts of the Okanagan and Kootenay, along with B.C. Hydro, have worked with municipalities to set up charging stations that do cost money.

These are called DC Fast Charge (some call it Level 3) systems that power up vehicles in half an hour and bill drivers $9 for that time.

“The B.C. Utilities Commission provided some enabling regulations so the private sector and governments can charge for the use of those charging stations, but there are a couple of interesting little nuances about it,” Cheetham said. “For instance, you can only charge based on time, not by unit of energy. That has to do with Measurements Canada, I understand, which will not yet accept charging stations as an official meter, so they said you can use time as a proxy.”

That means if a vehicle is left plugged in for an hour while the driver goes off to eat lunch, that could trigger an $18 bill.

Kamloops has one of these DC Fast Charge stations at the Tournament Capital Centre. Kelowna has two Level 3 locations, Rutland Centennial Park and Kelowna Airport. That way, there are charging stations near the three major highways entering Kelowna.

Cheetham was at a recent meeting with B.C. Hydro where concerns were expressed about stations being installed in locations without lighting or away from amenities. Most are located in parking stalls which will not be suitable when larger trucks are converted to electricity. There are lots of bugs to work out in the system.

And most municipalities don’t track the cost of the electricity they’re giving away, not only to their own taxpaying residents but to visitors as well.

Peachland, in a recent report to council, did break down those costs and usage.

It has two Level 2 charging stations that cost about $1,300 a year to operate including about $700 in licensing fees and $600 for electricity. Council chose to eat those costs and continue to offer the service for free for 2020.

Most other charging stations are owned by the power companies with municipalities providing the electricity.

Penticton has three stations and it tracks costs. One Level 3 station is at the 223 Backstreet Boulevard parking lot that B.C. Hydro installed four years ago. In that time, there were 3,219 charging sessions that cost the City $7,713 on electricity.

The City bought two Level 2 chargers and installed them at 313 Ellis Street. They went on line on Aug. 1, 2019. They cost $21,000 to buy and install. The City hopes to get two-thirds of that back as a grant.

Since August, there have been 749 charging sessions costing the City just over $1,000.

This means Penticton will be spending about $4,000 a year for electricity at current usage rates.

Vernon has two Level 2 stations at the Community Services Building where users have to pay parking fees. One Level 3 station at the bus loop is free. The City has no data on usage or costs there.

Whether local taxpayers should be subsidizing the recharge of electric cars is something that’s not being discussed much.

Which is one of the questions Kamloops is going to tackle as it writes its new Electric Vehicle and E-Bike Strategy that was announced at the end of January.

Kelowna, on the other hand, has a budget for more charging stations to be installed this year, despite the fact that private industry, such as some Petro-Canada stations, are starting to install charging stations.

FortisBC, for its part, used federal and provincial grants to pay for 75 per cent of the cost of the 12 stations they set up in their territory last year. They’re hoping for more funding in the future.

“We feel, as a private utility, this is an opportunity to expand our business,” FortisBC corporate communications advisor Nicole Brown said. “We’re not sure yet what is the break even point.”

In other words, at $9 per charge, this could be a profitable option for utilities and private businesses.

Plugshare has a map that shows all public and private charging stations with details about type of plugs and fees.

— This story was updated at 4:15 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020, to clarify locations of Level 3 charge station in Kelowna.


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