Electric car travel could soon be expanded in the Kootenay region

Creating a reliable travel network for electric vehicle travelers is the goal of Accelerate Kootenays, a community-driven collaborative strategy aimed at building a clean transportation network. They're asking the City of Revelstoke to consider purchasing a charging station for electric vehicles.

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A Tesla Model X electric car en route to the slopes. Photo: Wallup

Visit any major city in Canada and you’ll spot lots of electric vehicles on the roads, with more being added to the vehicle mix every day. But up here in the Columbia region, they are few and far between. They’re rare enough that some Revelstoke residents still rubberneck when they see a Tesla driving by.

Why aren’t there more electric vehicles in town? The answer is simple: not enough juice.

Electric car travel in the Kootenay region could soon become more reliable. A collaborative aimed at expanding electric vehicle travel in the Kootenays is hoping to get the City of Revelstoke on board with its plan.

Trish Dehnel with the Community Energy Association gave a presentation to city council about an initiative called Accelerate Kootenays at their May 23 meeting. Accelerate Kootenays is a community-driven collaborative strategy aimed at building a clean transportation network.

“It is a two year, $1.5 million initiative of the regional districts of East Kootenay, Central Kootenay and Kootenay Boundary with support from Columbia Basin Trust, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Province of BC, FortisBC, BC Hydro, and Powertech Labs,” reads a statement on Accelerate Kootenays website.

Council heard that the Kootenays are an electric charging station desert, meaning we’re missing out on opportunities created by electric vehicles. Image: Accelerate Kootenays

Dehnel said that currently there are several barriers to making electric vehicle travel in the Kootenays a reality. These include lack of: charging infrastructure, consumer awareness and understanding, and availability of electric vehicles locally.

“Getting more electric cars on Kootenay roads is the goal,” said Dehnel, who noted that currently there are only 10 electric vehicles in the Kootenays. She also spoke about attracting additional tourism for communities such as Revelstoke if more charging stations were available.

Currently, there are some charging stations in town. There are stations at the Best Western, at the Tourism Information Centre, and at a local campground. However, not all of them work with all vehicles, and some require that those using them to be customers at the business they are located at.

As part of the proposed plan, the city is being asked to consider purchasing a charging station. Total cost for the station is $8,000 but the city would only need to invest $1,000 of the purchase price. Yearly maintenance costs after that would be minimal but could be recouped through collecting fees for using the charging station.

Both Councillor Connie Brothers and chief administrative officer Allan Chabot asked about the reliability of electric vehicles on highways during the winter months.

“What happens to the operating range in the winter?” said Chabot. “The reality is we are experiencing a greater number of highway closures. What is the ability of the vehicle to stay warm and still run?”

Dehnel said keeping an electric vehicle warm could drain battery life, and that this is part of the reason Accelerate Kootenays would like to see an electric charging station in Rogers Pass.

“We want a safe network,” she said.

Council referred the matter to city staff for further consideration prior to making any decision.  A video about Accelerate Kootenays winter travel via electric car can be viewed here. 

Correction:

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the amount the City of Revelstoke is being asked to contribute towards a level two electric vehicle charger. The city is only being asked to invest $1,000 of the $8,000 total. The Community Energy Association also clarified that annual costs are minimal, but it is recommended allotting $300 per year for any electrical issues that may arise.