British Columbia’s Expanding EV Infrastructure

By Roy L Hales

Cortes Island is three ferry trips north of Vancouver. There are three hours of driving time. As you also spend a significant amount of time waiting, the trip can take six hours in peak season.   Some people think of Cortes as a throwback to the 1970‘s; others regard it as one of BC’s sustainable hubs. The major industry is tourism. There are around a thousand inhabitants, three hamlets and a number of non-profit organizations. There is also an EV charging station. I am told it has only been used once. This says a great deal about the extent of BC’s expanding EV infrastructure.

Thanks to the Clean Energy Vehicle Infrastructure Deployment Program (CEV), there are more charging stations in BC (475) than in any other Canadian Province.

BC also leads Canada in EV sales per capita (177) for 2013, though more vehicles were sold in Ontario (296) and Quebec (214).

To put this in perspective, Canada’s population (35 million) is slightly less than that of California (38 million) and seven times that of Norway (5 million). Yet there are 33,418 EV’s in California, 14,462 in Norway and only 4,059 in Canada.

Almost a quarter of Canada’s EV’s are in BC. According to a ministry spokesperson, 932 EVs were supported through the CEV program.  There are also an unknown number of vehicles that are either conversions or came from other jurisdictions.  He estimated the actual number of EV’s is probably 950 to 975.

The Western Orientation of Canada’s EV infrastructure is immediately apparent when you look at the charging station map below.

Charging Stations across Canada and the Northern US - Courtesy
Charging Stations across Canada and the Northern US – Courtesy

There are currently 13 DC fast charging stations between Duncan and Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island, and Kamloops in the interior.  The ministry spokesperson said 23 more  will be added during the next 1-2 years.

Ironically, neither of the province’s two largest cities, Vancouver and  Victoria, have one. In Vancouver’s case, this will soon be rectified.

After Mayor Gregor Robertson was elected, in 2008, he launched Vancouver on a campaign to become the greenest city in the world. Now there is reputedly a new tree, or composting container, or  community garden or LED streetlight on every block.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities recognized the city’s Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Pilot Program by giving Vancouver the Transportation award for 2014.

Novex, No Noise Electric Delivery Truck, in Vacouver. Electric delivery vehicle parked next to the Hornby separated bike lane. The curb is designed for easy loading access. - Paul Kreuger photo (cc x 4.0)
Novex, No Noise Electric Delivery Truck, in Vacouver. Electric delivery vehicle parked next to the Hornby separated bike lane. The curb is designed for easy loading access. – Paul Kreuger photo (cc x 4.0)

“Our first goal in transportation is to have 51% of our residents walking, biking or taking transit safely and conveniently in the City of Vancouver. On the private vehicle side, our goal is to have 15% of new car purchases moved over to electric vehicles,” Said Councillor Andrea Reimer.

Vancouver has the biggest municipal electric vehicle fleet in Canada, with 26 Mitsubishi iMiEVS and one Nissan Leaf.

To help create an infrastructure, in 2008 the city’s bylaws were changed so that 20% of parking stalls in apartments and condos, and all stalls in houses, are electric vehicle ready.  A similar provision, for 10% of all mixed use and commercial stalls, was added last year.

There are 50 charging stations in Vancouver and that number will soon be 67.

Greater Vancouver is the hub through which EVs can drive to most of Southern British Columbia.

A Nissan Leaf, operating on 81-mile-per-charge , could drive from Vancouver to Victoria. Travelling up the  east coast of Vancouver Island, it would have to use Level 2 charging stations – with extended waiting periods – north of Duncan. However, the a trail of  charging stations goes as far as North Coast Hostel in Port Hardy.

“As the DC fast charging network expands over this year and next, it will be possible for a Nissan Leaf to travel the full distance (without having extended waiting periods),” the ministry spokesperson said.

The same problem arises heading north or east from Vancouver. There is a trail of Level 2 charging stations stretching northwards to the Sunshine Coast or, on another route, a Fast Charging station in Squamish (after which you are restricted to Level 2 stations).

Charging Stations in SouthWestern BC - Courtesy Plugshare,com
Charging Stations in SouthWestern BC – Courtesy Plugshare,com

Driving eastwards, along the Sun Country Highway using a combination of Fast and slower Charging stations, you can go as far as St Johns, Newfoundland.

(Image at top of page: Big Green Island – Cortes Island, BC, via– Hollyhock Electric Vehicle Charging Station – Courtesy Hollyhock)

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