Ashcroft will soon be getting two Level 2 electric vehicle (EV) charging stations as part of the Charge North project, a community-led initiative that aims to electrify close to 2,800 kilometres of highway across central and northern B.C.
Charge North is led by six regional districts, in co-ordination with the Community Energy Association. A partnership between provincial and federal governments and 25 local governments and First Nations communities will bring 55 EV charging stations to the northern and central regions of the province.
The EV stations have been a long time coming to Ashcroft. At its regular meeting on Feb. 25, 2019 Ashcroft council considered an invitation to join the Charge North initiative, and how many EV stations they would be prepared to partially fund. At the time, the Village’s share of the cost of each station (including equipment, installation, five years of warranty and networking fees, and project management) was $5,040 out of a total cost of $18,667 per station.
Council voted in favour of participating in the grant application and committed to provide a location for the stations on Village property. Among the locations suggested were the Heritage Park or the museum, and it was also suggested that the public works yard might be suitable for one in due course, as within the next few years the Village will likely be transitioning to EVs.
The stations were contingent on Charge North receiving funding from sources other than the local governments and First Nations involved. In January 2020, Northern Development Initiative Trust (NDIT) committed to providing $192,000 for the project, and last month it was announced that more than $345,000 through the provincial CleanBC Communities Fund and $415,000 through the federal government’s Green Infrastructure Stream of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program would complete the outside funding for the 55 new stations.
Janice Keyes, Senior Manager, Community Energy Engagement for the Community Energy Association — which is managing the project — says that the provincial and federal funding is the “last piece of the funding puzzle” that was needed to actually start putting the charging stations in the ground.
“The $192,000 in matching funding from NDIT was contingent on a bigger pot of money being approved through the CleanBC fund,” she says. “We were required to have different match funding coming in from various sources. It’s great, and we really appreciate that NDIT let us sit on our conditional funding while we waited for this. It’s really exciting to be moving forward.”
Keyes says they now need to put out a Request for Proposal for equipment, an installer, and a network service provider.
“That’s the first step. We need to do some site assessment and planning, and that will probably take us into winter weather, so we’re looking to install the stations in spring/summer 2021. We need to manage people’s expectations and recognize that the construction season could be short, so we’re going to do planning and get contractors in place this fall.
“We’re managing 55 stations across 25 communities, and it’s pretty labour intensive to do as a full network. We need to maximize our dollars, so we’ll be will be doing [the stations] in batches and minimizing travel expenses, etc.”
In a press release announcing the most recent funding, the Province noted that the network of new stations will “create jobs, support local economies, and help meet CleanBC’s goals of a cleaner, stronger province.” Keyes says that the economic benefits of having EV charging stations in a community can be large.
“Plugshare.com [https://www.plugshare.com/] is a worldwide EV charging station mapping and travel planning site, so people will go to the site,type in ‘Ashcroft’, zoom in, and see what fast charging and Level 2 stations are there. They can click on an icon and see pictures, as well as comments from people who used [the station]: ‘Plugged in, checked out the museum, had a great meal at the restaurant next door.’ It’s a valuable site from a promotional aspect, and great from a tourism perspective.
“We want to assume that people will walk to amenities, spend money in your community. People plan their charging around activities they want to do, so they’ll know they want to stop for lunch. We want to give people an opportunity to spend time in locations they’re interested in and use the amenities in the community.”
She adds that some communities are putting chargers in more than one location for local residents to use as well. Level 2 stations will charge a vehicle back to near full capacity in four to six hours, depending on the vehicle and the battery, and Keyes says they work well in conjunction with fast charge stations, where people can get the bulk of their charge in 20 to 30 minutes and then finish at a Level 2 station.
The Charge North project will more than double the number of Level 2 EV charging stations available in participating communities, stretching from Haida Gwaii to Prince George to Logan Lake, across more than 300,000 square kilometres. The participating regional districts, municipalities, and First Nations will contribute more than $275,000 to the project. The average cost on installing a Level 2 station is $15,000, while fast charging stations cost in excess of $100,000 each.
The B.C. government has introduced legislation mandating that by 2040, all new vehicles sold in the province will be a zero-emission vehicle powered by clean electricity.
EV sales in B.C. made up 9 per cent of light-duty vehicle sales in 2019, as well as in the first half of 2020: the highest sales rate in Canada.