The release of the Tesla model 3 recently has captured the attention of many people around the globe. Although the vehicle will not be available for another 18 months, pre-orders for the company’s newest electric car have topped the 400,000 mark in North America.
The fascination for electric vehicles in an era of climate change and unprecedented environmental awareness is very strong in Victoria as well. Manfred Wissemann, the founder and president of the Victoria EV (Electric Vehicle) Club, said the club now has more than 600 members — a number that is steadily increasing as more people adopt the new technology.
“We hope that by the year 2050, it will no longer be possible to even register a gas-powered vehicle in the province of B.C.,” said Wissemann. “I’m excited to be around for the change. It’s long overdue.”
But Wisseman adds it’s important the city and other levels of government work to ensure enough charging stations are made available as the number of electric vehicles steadily increase.
It’s a passion shared by Esquimalt’s Mayor Barb Desjardins, herself an owner of a hybrid vehicle.
“We definitely need more charging stations, and as a municipal government we have some interesting opportunities to be part of the solution,” said Desjardins, adding that Esquimalt council has begun to ask that charging stations be a part of any development plan brought before them.
“Parkview Townhouses are a good example of that approach working well,” she said. “We (council) put it forward to the developer and he bought in. The result is that each of the townhouses is equipped with a charging station.”
Other initiatives have also led to an increase in available charging stations in Victoria.
The province’s $2.7 million Community Charging Infrastructure Fund (CCIF) substantially increased the number of charging stations available to the public resulting in 550 Level 2 charging stations in B.C.
The Capital Regional District reports more than 100 charging stations are available in the region.
“There’s no doubt that we need to look at strategies to create more charging stations,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps. “We have eight stations in our parkades right now but we know that we have to do a lot more. It’s something we want to do to help reduce the carbon footprint of our city and encourage a greener approach to transportation.”
Wissemann said the general public may be confused about why charging stations are required, with many believing electric cars can simply be charged at home.
Although it is possible for owners to simply plug in their electric vehicle at home to “trickle charge” the batteries, Wissemann explained the need for the higher voltage stations are critical.
Standard homes offer 120 volts of alternating current and, although most electric cars can be charged using a simple plug, the charging time is problematic. For example, the Nissan Leaf can take 15 hours to charge from a standard household source.
A Level 2 charging station (drawing 240 volts) can be installed at home for about $800 to $1,000 and drop that charging time to about four hours.
The real solution, said Wissemann, is for more Level 3 charging stations to be established in Victoria.
Those stations draw 480 volts and can charge the average electric car in 30 minutes.
“It’s getting better, but governments have to realize that a tide of electric vehicles will be arriving very soon, and the time to plan ahead is now,” he said, adding other countries like Holland, India, and China have strategies in place to provide charging stations in far greater numbers than has been envisioned here, such as charging units attached to street lamp poles where power supplies already exist.
Mandu Goebl, the general sales manager for Campus Nissan, acknowledged more Level 3 charging stations are needed, but said the situation is already much better than it was in the past.
“As more electric vehicles are sold, there’s been a huge increase in the charging stations already. We see them popping up all over the place…at recreation centres, parking lots, business and all over,” he said.
Goebl adds he has no doubt the marketplace will respond to the need for charging stations. “It’s the way of the future, and as a greater variety of larger vehicles come available as electric, the number of electric cars on the road will explode.”