Charging stations for electric vehicles are lighting up across B.C., and the Community Energy Association (CEA) wants to create a 1,200-km route of stations from Kamloops to Haida Gwaii.
In a presentation for the North Coast Regional District meeting on Dec. 8, CEA executive director Dale Littlejohn said that the communities on Highway 16 have expressed a strong interest in the collaborative project.
“Particularly as the long-distance ones are starting to be produced and more models that are appropriate for certain weather conditions,” Littlejohn said. “We’ve seen some challenges in getting this deployed. The North has not been prioritized by the province of B.C. for electrification. The province is putting most of its funds into the southern network.”
But he said that the project could see a lot of capital in the next 24 months.
Enabling electric vehicles to travel throughout the province, Littlejohn said, would drive tourism and economic development as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transportation costs.
Between the five regional districts of Skeena Queen Charlotte, Kitimat Stikine, Bulkley Nechako, Fraser Fort George and Cariboo, the annual cost of fuel is approximately $680 million — $31 million in the Skeena Queen Charlotte District alone. Meanwhile, electric vehicles cost up to 90 per cent less to run.
The project foresees installing 12 to 16 larger charging stations that would be able to charge an electric vehicle in 15 to 30 minutes. An additional 40 to 80 smaller stations, which take longer to recharge, would also service the route.
CEA is currently completing a similar initiative between three regions in the Kootenays, and developed a plan to connect southern Alberta.
The non-profit organization wants to develop a plan in Northern B.C. between the five regional districts in preparation for federal grants.
“Kamloops is … the northernmost point of that southern network,” Littlejohn said. “If we can connect that southern network up through Prince George, along Highway 16 and out to Haida Gwaii, that’s a game-changer in terms of what’s possible for electric transportation.”
Prince Rupert currently does not have any charging stations, but there are several in Terrace, Kitimat, Telkwa, Houston, Burns Lake and Prince George.
Mayor Lee Brain, who is on the BC Municipal Climate Leadership Council, has worked with Mayor Taylor Bachrach of Smithers and representatives of other regional districts on the proposed network. He thanked Littlejohn for his presentation.
“One of the challenges has been that every community is trying to figure this out by themselves, and it’s a lot of work, staff time, it’s trying to find grants independently. One of the great things about this proposal is that the Community Energy Association and Dale’s team is willing to basically do the heavy lifting for us,” Brain said after the presentation. “For me, personally, I support this.”
Next steps include a resolution and letter of support from the district. The board would also need to commit $9,000 alongside the four other regions for the project to be eligible for a collaborative grant from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. An ongoing collaboration with CEA would help set community priorities, find locations for stations and advise the project.