Standing next to the electric vehicle (EV) charging station near Commonwealth Pool, Coun. Judy Brownoff says this is the time to increase the number of charging stations as the number of EVs in Saanich rises in the future. Wolf Depner/News Staff

Saanich to power up number of charging stations for electric vehicles

Saanich has formally asked staff to develop an approach that requires developers to include electric vehicle (EV) charging stations in new development. Staff will also explore ways to retrofit electric vehicle charging infrastructure in existing buildings in support of a community-wide electric vehicle strategy.

Council approved this move following a recommendation from planning, transportation and economic development committee chaired by Coun. Judy Brownoff.

Saanich has seen seen an increase in EVs, and must prepare their numbers to rise, said Brownoff.

“We have challenged developers around plug ins for electric vehicles,” she said. “We know that the electrical room must have enough space to install any equipment necessary.”

As Saanich moves forward with its Climate Action Plan and goal of using 100 per cent renewable forms of energy by 2050, cutting greenhouse gases (GHGs) responsible for climate change by 80 per cent along the way, the time to act is now, said Brownoff, adding many jurisdiction have already moved forward with various measures.

Coun. Colin Plant, who drives an electric vehicle himself, agreed. EV charging infrastructure has gone from a “nice-to-have” to a “must-have,” especially when it comes to multi-unit developments, said Plant, who predicted developers would regret not including this infrastructure in the near future.

Saanich currently lacks a policy that requires developers of new developments to include such stations, or retrofit existing ones. This said, a small but steady growing number of new developments have included such stations, and council last December linked a development permit for a rental apartment near Rutledge Park with the installation of four parking stalls for electric vehicles.

The public heard Monday that staff due to report back sometime in 2018 will review various mechanisms, including the possibility of a bylaw.

Council’s motion represents a step towards increasing the number of private charging stations to complement existing public facilities against the backdrop of “range anxiety” — the fear drivers of EVs experience from knowing that the perceived or actual lack of charging stations may leave them stranded.

While likely overstated — 95 per cent of all car trips in the urban areas of B.C. are less than 30 kilometres in length, so well within the range of a typical electric car — this feeling nonetheless appears among the most cited arguments against the purchase of EVs, perhaps only second to higher prices and fewer vehicle options, according to a City of Victoria report.

The literature distinguishes between three types of charging EVs: Level 1 (charging using an ordinary household outlet supplying 120 Volt energy) Level 2 (using a specialized charging station supplying 240 Volt energy) and “fast-charging” that can “fuel up” electric vehicle batteries in less than an hour.

Depending on the vehicle, Level 1 charging may take anywhere between 13 and 71 hours, while Level 2 charging may take anywhere between three and 11.5 hours. Fast-charging stations can complete a charge within less than an hour, but also cost significantly more than Level 2 chargers.

In 2013, the District of Saanich installed 12 Level 2 charging stations with two stations at each of the following locations: Municipal Hall, Commonwealth Place, Cedar Hill Recreation Centre, Cedar Hill Golf Course, Pearkes Recreation Centre, and Gordon Head Recreation Centre. A number of other businesses and organizations also offer charging stations.

Saanich is also the site of the region’s first fast-charging station at Uptown first announced in 2013. The station opened in March 2015, and belongs to a larger network of charging stations between California and British Columbia.

Overall, the Greater Victoria area has over 100 EV charging stations, according to the Victoria and Region Community Green Map.

If Saanich were to adopt some measure asking developers to include EV charging stations, it would likely send a signal to the rest of the region. Victoria has not yet revised its bylaws asking new multi-residential and commercial buildings to install charging stations, according to a 2014 staff report.

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