It’s been almost one year since Mayor Gregor Robertson and deputy city manager Sadhu Johnston unveiled the city’s first two public charging stations for plug-in electric vehicles.
That occurred last June in a city hall parking lot on West 10th Avenue where the mayor predicted Vancouver would eventually become an electric car hotspot.
The city now has 20 public charging stations in parkades and around town, including locations at Granville Island, Coal Harbour and the former Olympic Village. But are people using the stations?
Some context was needed before Johnston offered an answer: According to the city’s data, there are only 100 electric cars being driven in the Lower Mainland.
So to his answer…
“Yeah, they are being used,” said Johnston, noting car sharing co-op Modo added an electric vehicle last year.
While Johnston didn’t provide data to say how many times motorists plugged in or how much revenue was collected—they cost at least $1 an hour for a charge—he pointed to an environmental measurement. “We’ve displaced about 3.2 tonnes of carbon in the past 10 months,” he said. “Alone, it’s not going to solve our carbon challenges. But we really think there’s a significant opportunity to address the carbon challenges that we have here in Vancouver and in the Lower Mainland with an integrated system that enables people to use electric vehicles.”
For that opportunity to flourish, Johnston said the city is facing a “chicken and the egg” scenario when it comes to adding more stations or waiting for the electric car market to pick up. “You’ve got to grow the whole system incrementally,” he said.
The price of most electric vehicles, with many selling at a base price of $30,000, is a factor in why more motorists aren’t buying the zero emission cars.
The provincial government has recognized the cost of the vehicles and is offering rebates of up to $5,000 for an electric car purchased in B.C.
Despite the limited sales in the Lower Mainland, the city announced in February that its goal is to increase the number of charging stations to 67 by the end of 2013. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities [FCM] invested $350,000 in the expansion project. The provincial government contributed $261,000, B.C. Hydro gave $119,000 and the city kicked in $70,000.
The project will look at installing stations in parks and in condominiums. The city requires all new single-family homes and off-street bicycle storage rooms to have dedicated electric plug-in outlets.
“We’re still really in the early stages of this,” Johnston said. “Other cities like Chicago and others have gone out and spent $10 or $15 million just putting out a lot of stations. We’re at the point where we’re building partnerships [with B.C. Hydro, the FCM] and doing pilots to figure out what’s going to work best for Vancouver.”
Added Johnston: “And we want to grow the system as the cars are available. We don’t want to put out thousands of these charge stations with only 100 cars in the Lower Mainland.”
The city has four electric vehicles in its fleet, including the Mitsubishi i-Miev, and has an order for 40 more. Canada Post and Novex Couriers are among some of the local businesses that use electric vehicles.
Gas, meanwhile, reached the $1.50-a-litre mark last Friday.