The electric highway is almost complete.
With two charging stations being unveiled in Canal Flats and Radium, and the District of Sparwood planning to unveil their own in the new year—the region is on its way to becoming electric car friendly.
It’s a move that’s applauded by environmentalists and electric car enthusiasts like Carmen Nordli, who owns a Chevy Bolt in Fernie.
However, he’s concerned about the placement of these stations and the convenience.
“Who wants to go to City Hall to charge their vehicle,” he said, unrolling the cord in front of Fernie’s City Hall and plugging it into the side of his vehicle.
He says that the stations would be more readily used if they were in grocery store parking lots and areas more accessible to shops and restaurants.
“They need to change their thinking about charging stations.”
As electric vehicle charging stations continue to be installed in communities around the Kootenays, dealerships are also beginning to shift towards providing electric vehicles to customers.
“I ordered my car eight years ahead of being able to purchase,” said Nordli, who knew he wanted an electric vehicle when he saw the initial advertisements.
He says he and wife adore the vehicle, explaining that there are many myths around electric vehicles which are simply untrue.
He says in the winter, the vehicle interior stays toasty warm, contrary to popular belief.
Also, the vehicle has ample power and handling, which Nordli proved by taking his car for a leisurely jaunt up the snowy Hartley Lake Road, just outside of town.
“It’s such a pleasure to drive,” he said, explaining that he can drive to Kalispell with only using $2.58 in fuel on the back up engine.
“I can drive to and from work every day of the week and it costs me nothing,” said Nordli, explaining that since he has had the car, his hydro bill has gone up by only $5.00.
The provincial government also offers an $11,000 rebate to those who purchase an electric vehicle.
“My thinking is that everyone should have one of these,” he said. “There’s no drawbacks to owning it.”
With early adopters like Nordli raving about his electric vehicle, those interested in purchasing one of their own in the Elk Valley are coming up against some roadblocks.
Dealerships who wish to sell electric vehicles must pass a certain set of regulations and have trained mechanics on staff to service the new technology.
To date, Northstar GM in Cranbrook is one of the only dealerships in the East Kootenay to offer electric vehicles.
“Right now we’re seeing a lot of popularity around the Chevrolet Bolt,” said Meghan Lohmann, Community Energy Manager with the RDEK, who has been managing the efforts to bring charging stations to municipalities in the region. “The biggest issue is the dealerships getting their hands on them.”
She says that electric vehicles are growing in popularity in the Kootenays, as new owners begin to share the message that the vehicles are compatible with the Rocky Mountain environment.
“We’re going to have to get the confidence shifting over to our dealers,” said Lohmann.
She says the fast charging station in Cranbrook, which has been in operation for nearly a year has been used more than Lohmann was expecting.
“We’re seeing increasing usage,” she said, noting that most users are from out of province and they are seeing “a lot more intentional trips based on the infrastructure.”
The District of Sparwood is about to receive their charging station, to be installed beside their municipal offices.
“It sets you up to be a destination for electric cars,” said Mayor Cal McDougall. He says that the Sparwood charging station will be the first available place for electric cars coming into B.C. and the last charging station on the way out to Alberta.
He says this move opens up Highway 3 to electric vehicles and the added stops allow for vehicles with shorter battery life to make long hauls across the province.
“At this point in time they’ll be free,” he said, explaining that the station will have both slow and fast charge options.
While the mayor says that not many local drivers are choosing electric, the station is an opportunity to prepare for the rise of the electric vehicle.
“I think they’re up and coming,” he said.
The Sparwood charging station is set to be installed within the month.