Use of B.C.’s electric car charging stations doubles in past year

1,300 electric vehicles now on road in B.C. following expansion of public charging locations

An electric car charging station at the Surrey Arts Centre.

More drivers are plugging into B.C.’s public electric vehicle charging stations, according to new statistics.

BC Hydro subsidiary Powertech Labs says the usage of 350 charging stations it tracks has more than doubled in the last year.

It recorded 3,745 charging sessions in August, up from 1,684 in the same month a year earlier.

The data doesn’t cover all stations – another 200 locations aren’t tracked by Powertech.

“From the individual station data so far, the busiest stations appear to be in high-traffic hubs, especially in urban and suburban malls and downtown shopping areas, including those in smaller towns,” said Jim Vanderwal, senior program manager at the Fraser Basin Council.

Vanderwal notes that there are many quieter stations on the network that only see one or two people plugging in each week, but that is to be expected at this early stage.

He said there are now 1,300 electric cars on the road since the first one arrived in B.C. two years ago.

“We expect all stations to see more use by business travellers, tourists and local residents over next few years as the EV (electric vehicle) market expands. Communities and businesses in BC recognized early that charging stations are an important infrastructure investment.”

The Fraser Basin Council and Powertech Labs are participants in Plug in BC, a province-led initiative to lay the groundwork for electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

The province helped public and private sector organizations buy and install EV charging stations across B.C. for public or fleet use in 2012 and 550 Level 2 charging stations have been operational since mid-2013.

Use of the stations will be tracked over the next several years, Vanderwal says. While it’s difficult to predict the growth of electric vehicles in B.C., he says it is useful to keep an eye on the experience south of the border.

B.C.’s position today is similar to Oregon’s in 2012, which at the time had about 1,400 electric vehicles, 700 Level 2 charging stations and 10 fast charging stations. Oregon now has one of the highest per capita electric vehicle sales of all states, and the number of EVs on the road has increased by more than three times since 2012.

Factors for the state’s growth include the extent of the charging network (both Level 2 and fast charging), vehicle incentives and consumer interest in electric vehicles.

Vanderwal added a growing choice of places to charge up is helping increase the comfort level of prospective buyers of electric vehicles.

“We are now seeing an average of over 50 charges per week at our sites,” said Oskar Kwieton, a spokesman for a property management firm that runs several shopping centers in the Lower Mainland that host EV stations, including Brentwood Town Centre and Lougheed Town Centre in Burnaby, Highstreet and Parallel Marketplace in Abbotsford and Jericho Village in Vancouver.

“There has been positive feedback and increasingly strong uptake by customers since we installed the chargers last year.”

This summer also saw electric car maker Tesla open its first supercharger station in B.C. at a shopping centre in Squamish.

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