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West Kootenay town nixes ‘free’ charging station for EVs

A grant had previously covered the expense at the municipal charging station in Fruitvale
Fruitvale council’s decision to start having EV owners pay for power consumed at the municipal charging station brings up the question of who’s footing the bill elsewhere. In downtown Trail this EV was charging up early Monday morning at one of the free charging stations. Photo: Trail Times

“No one pays for my gas. About time.”

This comment on the Village of Fruitvale’s Facebook page followed town council announcing that charging EVs is no longer “free” at the one municipal charging station housed in the memorial hall lot.

Now, anyone using the village’s 6.2 kW charging station will have to pay $0.05 a minute or $3 per hour.

“Originally, the EV charging station was installed using grant funding, which also covered the cost of electricity consumption,” village administrator Kelli Tuttle told the Trail Times. “The grant funding has ended and the Village of Fruitvale now pays the electricity costs. These costs must be charged to the users consuming the electricity and not to taxpayers.”

Tuttle says the rate of $0.05 per minute or $3/hour is a standard charge used at other similar EV charging stations.

“It covers the cost of the electricity and service fees,” she said.

In Trail, there are two different sets of charging stations in the Victoria Street parking lot.

Near the front side of the lot, closest to the curling rink doors, are three charging stations that were installed in 2015 as part of the Sun Country Highway program, wherein the charging stations were provided to the city at no cost.

Trail administrator Michelle McIsaac says this was done on the condition that the city provide the electrical connection.

There is no charging fee associated with the use of these particular stations; however, people must pay for parking in the lot — or $0.25 per hour — while using them. That said, parking payment is only monitored weekdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., so anytime outside of those hours it’s free to park.

As far as electricity consumption and the associated dollar value for this free charging amenity, McIsaac clarified that the power supply to these stations is not separately metered. Therefore she could not provide a tally of power use or respective costs at those specific sites.

“More recently, Fortis sought the city’s permission to install two fast charging stations at the rear of the parking lot,” she said. “These stations require payment for use, with payment going to Fortis.”

McIsaac speculated that most new installations will be pay for use.

”In earlier years, local governments were encouraged to participate in the supply of charging stations as part of their climate action commitments in order to make the use of electric vehicles more viable for trips of longer duration,” she said.

Further up the hill in Rossland, there are currently four EV charging stations.

Two of those stations are “pay to play,” operated directly by FortisBC. This means all revenue and expenses related to these charging stations is shouldered directly by FortisBC.

A third station, which has two charging “wands” through a third party operator called Flo, is operated and paid for by the city, Mike Kennedy, Rossland’s chief financial officer, told the Times.

“The Flo station … is offered free of charge,” Kennedy explained.

Approximately 12,000 kWh of power was provided last year via the Flo station at a total cost of $1,706 in 2021. For context, Kennedy noted the power bill amounted to $1,487 in 2020 and $1,279 in 2019.

Of the total annual cost, $150 is paid to Flo as a management fee, therefore, on average, $1,500 goes to cover the electricity bill from FortisBC.

“The city has budgeted for $1,500 per year, plus inflation, over the next five years in the 2022-2026 Five Year Financial Plan,” Kennedy noted.

The fourth charging site is a wall plug located in the Rossland public works yard, which is dedicated for juicing up the bylaw officer’s Ford Mach-E Electric Vehicle.

Looking ahead, Kennedy says the city has plans in place for a number of additional EV stations, mostly connected with the Affordable Housing/ City Hall project on Third Avenue.

Plans for the building include installation of two charging stations (four chargers) on the street and an additional two charging stations in the residential parking lot. The Rossland museum has also been exploring the possibility of a charging station in their parking lot as part of their Phase 2 plans for renewal.

“Additionally, in the conversations and engagement sessions around the city’s 2022-2032 Official Community Plan, residents have expressed their interest in seeing an EV charging strategy that considers both public and private stations,” Kennedy said.

Read more: Village of Fruitvale working to reduce carbon footprint

Read more: Trail makes way for two more EV charging stations

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Quick facts from the province:

As of December 2020, 54,469 EVs were on the road in B.C., leading to an estimated 216,000 tonnes in emission reductions per year.

EV owners see immediate savings on fuel costs — about $1,800 every year for the average B.C. driver.

B.C. has one of the largest public charging networks and the first cluster of public hydrogen fuelling stations in Canada. At the end of 2020, there were over 2,500 public charging stations in B.C.

The Zero-Emission Vehicles Act requires automakers to meet increasing annual levels of ZEV sales to reach 10 per cent of new light-duty vehicle sales by 2025, 30 per cent by 2030 and 100 per cent by 2040.

B.C. is well on its way to exceeding the 2025 targets with light-duty EV sales representing 9.4 per cent of all new light-duty vehicle sales in B.C. in 2020.

Sheri Regnier

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