Vancouver gives boost to EVs

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - As it begins a novel experiment to hand more road space to cyclists, Vancouver has signalled a commitment to another form of greener transit: the electric car.

Although its electric-car owners number in the dozens, the city has become the first in North America to require developers to put electric-car plug-ins in a percentage of new condominiums and apartments.

The city vote was unanimous, and supporters say the bold move will draw manufacturers to Vancouver when they look for cities to roll out new electric cars. Nissan and Mitsubishi, both of which produce electric cars, took note of Vancouver's move.

Don Chandler, past president of the Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association, predicted that electric vehicles are the way of the future. Once the infrastructure for charging vehicles is in place, usage will rise, he said.

“It's a no-brainer,” Mr.

Chandler said. “It's kind of a ‘Build it, and they will come’ scenario.

“Would you buy a cellphone if it only worked in 10 per cent of the district? Or would you buy a gas car if there were gas stations in only 10 per cent of the city?”

Councillor Andrea Reimer agreed. “Electric cars are inevitable,” she said. “It's not a wacky idea.”

The city has already passed a bylaw instructing developers to built electric-car outlets in new homes. Under the changes required for condos and apartments, developers must install electric plug-ins in the stalls of 20 per cent of new buildings. The city's next step is a pilot project to install charging stations at city-operated parking lots.

But Mr. Chandler said the priority is home charging.

“You're going to charge up overnight. That's what makes sense. Everyone I know who owns an electric car, myself included, charges up overnight. It's the same as your cellphone.”

The original city plan called for developers to install outlets in 10 per cent of new condominiums and apartments, but council doubled the requirement. The estimated cost is between $500 and $2,000 per parking stall for developers.

The plan was also endorsed by BC Hydro, which has been planning for the advent of electric cars.

“We realize that you can't just have energy conservation,” spokeswoman Simi Heer said. “You have to have kind of a more holistic view on conservation. And this kind of adds to that, and promotes that kind of culture in our province.”

However, Ms. Heer said the utility believes widespread usage of electric cars is still years away.

The Urban Development Institute, which represents developers, opposed the plan, saying it's too soon to predict if electric cars will sweep the continent. The institute asked for voluntary construction of electric outlets until it's seen if the vehicles catch on.

Mr. Chandler, who drives an electric car that he constructed himself, said he gets about 65 kilometres from an overnight charge. But the newer vehicles, he noted, get about 200 kilometres from a full recharging.

Proponents of electric cars say they're an efficient and more environmentally friendly alternative to motor vehicles. However, they're one of a number of alternative technologies to gasoline-powered cars. BC Hydro has estimated that in 15 years, between 10 and 16 per cent of vehicles on provincial roads will be electric.


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