Northern charge network needs to grow

NEXT time you are at the Skeena Mall, take a walk through the parking lot areas on either side of the entry road.

  • Jul. 10, 2013 7:00 a.m.

NEXT time you are at the Skeena Mall, take a walk through the parking lot areas on either side of the entry road.

There, attached to two light standards, are two medium-size steel boxes. Signs on top of the boxes contain the letters ‘EV’, short for electric vehicle.

These charging stations for electric vehicles, joining one at Northwest Community College,  are the local beachhead for what green technology advocates hope is an incentive for people to consider buying electric-gas hybrids or all-electric vehicles.

The charging stations, all three offer two 240-volt plug ins each, aren’t cheap and were installed thanks to a provincial subsidy paying a maximum $4,000 for each plug-in.

For Northwest Community College, that meant an $8,000 payment from the provincial government’s $2.7 million Plug In BC program as well as $16,000 for the Skeena Mall from the same progam.

Amber Hansen from the Skeena Mall said the charging stations here are part of a larger effort by owners Bosa Properties of Vancouver to concentrate on environmentally-friendly initiatives as part of new projects or when doing extensive renovations.

“Bosa takes a lot of pride in providing in these kinds of facilities,” she said.

Northwest Community College official Debra Wall expressed much the same about the charging station at its Terrace campus.

“This fits in with our carbon abatement plan overall,” said Wall of college efforts to reduce its footprint.

As well, the charging station helps the college earn carbon credits which defray the amount of money it has to pay a provincial agency based on the carbon output.

There’s no charge to use the mall or college stations, a condition of receiving the provincial subsidy.

But a key is needed from a mall employee to open the mall’s plug-in boxes at the mall and a credit card with a magnetic strip will free up one of the college’s charge plugs.

The 240-volt plugs can fully charge a car’s battery in four hours, faster than a standard 120-volt plug’s 12-hour charge rating.

If there is ever to be broad acceptance of electric vehicles, potential buyers need the comfort of knowing they can plug-in wherever they do.

When the plug-in program was first announced in 2011, the province said it wanted 570 such stations installed across B.C.

By the end of May, the deadline to have stations installed, just 452 were up and running.

In the northwest, there are two public stations in Kitimat, one in Houston and one in Burns Lake, making extensive highway travel, at least for the owner of an all-electric vehicle, a chancy affair.