Public outlets outpace electric car purchases

But increase in infrastructure may be necessary to encourage the purchase and use of electric cars

Twelve electric charging units are available for use at Abbotsford Senior Secondary School.

Twelve electric charging units are available for use at Abbotsford Senior Secondary School.

Four electric cars were registered in Abbotsford as of Dec. 31, 2012, according to ICBC – but the city has far more places than that to charge them.

According to www.plugshare.com, a website that helps electric car owners find places to plug in, there are charging stations at Highstreet Shopping Centre, the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV), Tim Horton’s on Sumas Way, Abbotsford Nissan, the UFV Flight School, and Abbotsford Senior Secondary School – each operated by the associated location.

But the number of charging stations must increase before many people will consider the switch to electric cars, according to Dr. Denver Nixon, a post-doctoral fellow in the department of geography at the University of the Fraser Valley. Nixon, who has studied a psychological perspective of transportation, said a lack of available chargers can discourage people from considering electric cars due to anxiety of being caught with no place to recharge. He said this can lead to people opting to using gas-fuelled vehicles, or relying on hybrid vehicles.

The newly rebuilt Abbotsford Senior Secondary School has a total of 12 charging stations available on-site – four at the school entrance, four at the Abbotsford Arts Centre entrance, and four near the Abbotsford Community Library entrance.

The charging units were included in the construction costs for the new school and funded by the ministry of education. The stations were required for the school to meet the Gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standard.

Dave Stephen, manager of communications for the Abbotsford School District, said the school has had minimal requests to have the charging stations activated – to date there have only been two during school hours.

But despite the location’s preparations for an influx of electric vehicles, the spots remain unoccupied – at least for electric cars.

Despite the parking spots being clearly marked for electric vehicles only, Stephen said there has been one complaint by the driver of an electric car who wanted to access a charging unit and couldn’t because gas-powered cars had taken the spaces.

But all across the province, the amount of places to plug in has been increasing. Tim Hortons has put six charging stations in locations across B.C., including the one in Abbotsford, which were supported by B.C.’s Community Charging Infrastructure Fund (CCIF).

In 2012, the government announced a $2.74-million contribution to the CCIF, which will build 570 charging stations across the province. In January, the province announced $1.3 million to install 13 fast-charging stations, which can charge a vehicle in under an hour.

Though Nixon said he understands some are opposed to their tax dollars funding charging stations, he said at this point in time, it is probably most effective for the government to fund stations.

“Simply because there are risks in the long-term, in terms of the investment and the capital… compared to how much money would be made on the electricity sold.”

Nixon added that many of the benefits of electric cars are captured by the general public, such as the decrease in air pollution, adding that subsidies exist for issues created by petroleum-based transportation.

“If those people decried subsidizations in general, in that sense, they would lose all the subsidization to clean up oil spills and to subsidize drilling and tax breaks for oil companies,” he said.

Across the province, there are 285 electric vehicles registered with ICBC, 149 are privately owned and 139 are commercially owned.