EARTH DAY: Charge stations for electric vehicles giving Vancouver businesses a jolt

Lifestyle, lifestyle, lifestyle.

It could be the mantra of electric car owners. Whether theyre eschewing carbon-emitting fossil fuels, or love the technological wizardry of the new designs, their choice of car is often an extension of what they believe in.

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Location, location, location.

Until recently, one of the barriers to buying an electric car was where you could plug it in. Fears of running out of juice on the Lions Gate Bridge or forgetting to plug the car in at night were enough to scare people away, or settle for a hybrid. But now, with electric car stations popping up across the city which has made plug-in stalls a requirement for new condo buildings people will plot out their route based on where they can top up the cars battery.

Marketing, marketing, marketing.

Regular car drivers might not begrudge standing by a gas pump in some out-of-the-way location as they fill up, but electric car owners are all about lifestyle, remember? How much more conducive to a Vancouverites food-centric lifestyle to be able to plug in while having lunch. A restaurant that offers a plug-in station becomes their destination.

Lifestyle + location + marketing = Eric Pateman, owner of Edible Canada.

It ties in with what we are as a business but in a fun way, he says at his Granville Island restaurant while his Fisker charges at the station right beside his new patio space. (He says the car is amazing 1,000 pounds of torque every time.)

Edible Canada is all about sustainability purchasing and eating food thats grown as locally as possible with the least impact on the environment. Interested in green technologies, as a businessman hes also all about partnerships.

Last year he wanted to put in a patio at Edible Canada. Creating the space meant the loss of eight public parking spots. So he made a proposal, which the city accepted: hed put in two electric car charging stations in exchange for being able to put the patio where the six other parking spots used to be.

Then he talked to Fisker. (Fiskers are sold at The BMW Store at Burrard and W. 5th.) Granville Island is reportedly the second busiest destination for visitors in Canada, falling short only of Niagara Falls. If Fisker let him drive one of their electric cars, hed park it at Granville Island, giving it incredible exposure. (The etiquette among electric car owners is that you park at the charging station only while youre charging. That means the Fisker is sometimes parked in front of Edible Canada, sometimes elsewhere at the market.)

Then he teamed up with Power Tech on the two charging units. (Theyve just been replaced to adapt to smartphone technology that will notify the cars owner when the charge is done.) The chargers prominent location is a good selling tool for Power Tech, too.

Some businesses are tempted to tuck the charging station in an out-of-the-way place. Wrong, says Pateman. You need to market yourself as a place where electric car owners can charge up while visiting your establishment.

You cant just put it the charge station and not talk about it, says Pateman, who has a background in marketing. As a business, its our job to tell stories. Put it in a high profile location.

This is a great story to tell.

Vancouvers dream of becoming the greenest city in the world includes a goal that by 2020, 15 per cent of all new cars sold are electric.

New to electric cars? Get up to speed with the Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association, VEVA.bc.ca

Theres an electric car drivers club on Meet Up. In March they joined one of Metro Vancouvers Sustainability Community Breakfasts to talk about charging up Vancouver. In April they gathered at the Spanish Bank beach park for coffee and cars. Theres talk of an electric car rally. MeetUp.com/edrivevancouver.

The ChargePoint app delivers the worlds largest online network of EV charging stations in more than a 14 countries. For drivers, ChargePoint provides state-of-the-art features including the ability to locate, reserve and navigate to unoccupied charging stations, view your charging status and receive notifications when your car is fully charged. ChargePoint.com

The LiveSmart BC Residential Charging Point Rebate Program has also been extended for a year. It provides rebates of up to $500 per unit for eligible residential electric charging stations.

The province has extended its offer to give BC residents up to $5,000 off the pre-tax sticker price for qualifying new battery electric, fuel-cell electric, plug-in hybrid electric and compressed natural gas vehicles. The deal, which was supposed to end in March, will continue for another year.

For home owners, too

The city has told condo developers that at least 20 per cent of parking stalls in new buildings must have charging facilities. New one- and two-family homes have a cable raceway that runs from the buildings electricity panel directly to the garage.

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