The City of Quesnel is hoping to take advantage of access to grant funding to put in two electric vehicle (EV) charging stations at the Visitor Information Centre in 2019.
At its Feb. 5 meeting, council received a letter from Janice Keyes, the senior manager of community energy engagement for the Community Energy Association (CEA), asking if the community would like to be part of an electric vehicle strategy that is being developed for highways 97, 5 and 16.
Six regional districts are collaborating on the Charge North Rural EV Network project, and Keyes says Quesnel has the opportunity to leverage the buying power of 37 local governments across the six regional districts with new provincial grants to get Level 2 charging stations at a fraction of the cost.
“The Highway 16/97/5 EV Network Study was recently branded Charge North and represents six regional districts and 37 municipalities across northern and central B.C. in a move to electrify over 2,780 kilometres of highway from south of Kamloops out to Haida Gwaii,” wrote Keyes. “We are doing great things with Charge North and are in a position to move forward on funding for our full Level 2 network, up to 120 stations, through the CleanBC Community Fund grant.”
This new provincial funding stream offers up to 73 per cent of capital funding, and CEA is working to secure the 27 per cent match funding for the grant and fine-tuning an offer for local governments to contribute between 11 per cent and 23 per cent of the total project costs.
Keyes says the grant application will bundle all costs for the Level 2 network so that it only requires a one-time local government contribution of $2,500 to $5,000 per station, depending on external funding. This money would provide equipment, installation, a five-year warranty program, including operations and maintenance, and would cover the annual networking fees for five years.
CEA is moving forward to secure funding for the Charge North Rural EV Network in March 2019.
“What the Province is essentially offering us is a discounted way to get into the electric vehicle charging station scenario,” city manager Byron Johnson told council. “When you read some of the background information, I think the really important part of this is electric vehicles are clearly the way of the future. The Province is committed to introducing legislation mandating that by 2040, every new car sold in B.C. will be electric. [They say] electric vehicles can drive tourism in small communities, and I think that is the important thing for the City to consider with us is the city of Quesnel does not want to be a bit of a gap in the charging routes for electric vehicles if someone is planning a trip. You want them to be able to stop at the city of Quesnel and charge their vehicle up.”
City staff recommended council apply for up to two charging stations, to be located at the Visitor Information Centre. The funding for the stations would come from the City’s carbon reserve.
After some discussion, council voted to apply.
“Probably the most logical location would be at the Visitor Information Centre, and while someone is there charging their vehicle, obviously they could enjoy the amenities that the park has to offer, as well as go into the Visitor Information Centre and see what is on offer in our fine little city,” said Johnson.
Coun. Tony Goulet thinks there is an opportunity here for the city.
“If we are looking at inviting people into our community, it might be a great opportunity for them to stop here, charge their vehicle, partake in city’s activities and look around the community while their cars are charging,” he said.
However, Goulet did not want to start putting stations “all over,” and he thought two was a great number.
Coun. Martin Runge agreed this is something Quesnel needs to do to be put on the map, and he says it’s a good idea, but he questioned if bringing in two stations would have an impact equivalent to the $10,000 cost.
“I look at this, and 120 stations on this route, a half-hour per car leaves us very few cars being charged on these stations,” he said. “Two stations are really insignificant at the end of the day; a half-hour per car gives us 16 cars at the Visitor Information Centre at the end of the day. I’m just worried that the two stations are good but way too little; they’re just really a token.”
Runge also suggested the City could look at electric vehicles as part of its fleet review, which is currently in progress, and also support the initiative in that way.
Coun. Mitch Vik says there is a well-designed website that articulates where charging stations are located in the Interior, and even if it is just two stations, having those stations would ensure Quesnel was included on that map.
“I think if we look at it in a way where if someone is planning a trip through our territory, if we don’t have charging stations, there is a high likelihood we will be bypassed,” he said. “I think if we have even two to begin with, when one is studying the map of where one can charge a car, Quesnel would not be bypassed. They wouldn’t drive onto Prince George or stop at Williams Lake. So on that principle alone, I would support that.”
Coun. Ron Paull was worried about competing with private charing stations.
“I wouldn’t want to see us go to the point where we’re going to put in a bunch of charging stations to the point where we would be discouraging the private sector from putting in charging stations on their own, because they probably don’t, to my knowledge, qualify for the same level of funding assistance as we do,” he said.
Paull also hoped the City was considering charging people to use the stations so the municipality will see some cost recovery.
Johnson told Paull charging people has not been discussed.
“My understanding of the parameters of this program is the government is funding it because they’re trying to encourage tourism,” he said. “My assumption is given the minimal cost per charge that in order to get tourists into our town and into our Visitor Information Centre, we would be happy to bear that cost.”
Johnson told council the most recent draft of the fleet review he saw did not recommend electric vehicles, and one of the reasons staff suggested the Visitor Information Centre is they would not be competing as much against private business or providing a benefit for people who are not visiting the city.
Acting Mayor Laurey-Anne Roodenburg, who says she is looking at an electric motorcycle that is going to come on the market soon, thinks this is the direction the City needs to go.
“When we look at how we are trying to promote Quesnel, I think this is just another one of those progressive steps that puts us again on the map,” she said. “If we have an opportunity to be given a bit of a little forward push with it costing us less than when we first started talking about this, I think it’s a start. We don’t say ‘no’ to two just because we think we need 102.”