The Regional District of Nanaimo is plugging in with 12 electric vehicle charging stations around the region. Their planning grant was provided by the Community Charging Infrastructure Fund and Plug-In BC, which has been supporting a province-wide network of electric vehicle charging stations in 2012-2013.
Electric vehicles (EVs) are not yet common on Vancouver Island," says Barbara Silenieks, Engineering Technologist with the City of Parksville, where two public stations have been installed. "However, the demand for chargers is expected to increase as the public’s confidence in the new technology grows." She adds that 90% of electric vehicle charging is expected to take place at home, public electric vehicle charging stations will play an important role in decreasing the fear of not being able to charge while on the road.
We did a study and look at areas that made sense," says Ting Pan, Sustainability Coordinator with the Regional District of Nanaimo. This included looking at ways to help drivers in electric vehicles travel long distance along the island. Several feasibility reports for station locations were developed by Terratek Energy, a renewable energy company that also installed stations in Parksville, Qualicum, and Coombs junction. Stations are for both public and private sector electric vehicles, with two at the RDN's solid waste facilities for district fleet vehicles.
"Having all 12 stations in the region as part of the network can support people who now own EVs," says Ting. "They are able to travel to our region and connect east to west."
She explains that the range of current EVs is a limiting factor; the Nissan Leaf, for example, is able to travel about 120 km on a single charge on highways. With the distance from Parksville to Tofino a bit longer, it has been difficult in the past to travel across the island. The new station location at Coombs junction, where the Old Island Highway meets Highway 4, will now make it easier for EV drivers to reach the west coast of Vancouver Island. There are also stations in Tofino as well.
One of the public stations in Parksville is located at the Community Park, where thousands of tourists visit annually and where many events occur every summer, making it an ideal location for charging pit-stop. Ting says stations like these can work well for tourism, allowing travellers to spend time in the area while their vehicles charge. The same can be said for businesses, although this is a tougher sell, where the electricity for charging a vehicle is part of the businesses overall consumption. While a full charge consumes roughly $1.50 in electricity, hosts can easily charge a small parking fee to regulate this cost.
"Through my conversations there is definitely that concern over return on investment," says Ting. She adds that private businesses like Woodgrove Centre in Nanaimo, where two stations have been installed, move forward with these installations usually because they see the bigger picture. "They believe in the future and wants to support that," she says. "Rather than try to get financial return on it at this stage."
The City of Parksville's goal is supporting that future vision for further electric vehicles by accommodating the earlier adopters and creating an incentive for those who are thinking about purchasing an electric vehicle/plug in hybrid. "Perhaps residents will consider an electric vehicle as their next vehicle given the number of stations being installed province wide."
Ting adds that drivers are able to check the open source website Plug Share for station locations across BC. "It's really fun to find all the charging stations mapped on it," she says. With the addition of 12 new stations on the map comes further opportunities for island drivers.