Opinion

Benefits of electric cars are undeniable—and inaccessible to many condo dwellers

Buying an electric car is getting easier for British Columbians.

This is thanks to falling prices, a growing number of used electric vehicles on the market, provincial and federal rebates, and now a requirement in the province for automakers to make more electric vehicles available over the next two decades.

The reality is, electric vehicles practically sell themselves. Who wouldn’t want a car that cuts your carbon footprint and your fuel bill by 80 per cent? Think about that: pay the equivalent of 25 cents a litre and never have to make a trip to fill up.

It sounds simple and affordable: Drive to work, pick up groceries, come home, plug in car, repeat. And for many it is.

That’s why we’re advocating right-to-charge legislation so that more people can switch to electric.

More than 40 per cent of British Columbians live in apartments and townhomes, and many of them have been denied the right to install a charger in their parking spaces.

Reasons vary. In some cases, stratas are concerned with the price of electrical upgrades or responsibility for utility bills. But other refusals feel arbitrary—especially when owners have offered to foot the bill for the upgrade.

Not only is this situation unfair for a significant portion of British Columbians, it’s a logistical hurdle we must overcome to adequately cut pollution in this province. Transportation represents 37 per cent of emissions in B.C. Electrifying vehicles is a critical part of the solution.

The problem is even more complex for renters who, according to a City of Vancouver report, “face a significant barrier to adding home charging if their building is not already equipped with charging infrastructure.”

Why does this matter? After all, there are more and more publicly accessible chargers at shopping malls and community centres. There are over 300 public charging points in the City of Vancouver alone and about 1,700 across the province.

The reality, however, is that most charging (more than 70 per cent) happens at home with a standard outlet that can provide a full days’ range after roughly four hours, generally overnight. Access to reliable home charging can understandably be a major deciding factor for potential electric car buyers.

The good news? There is a proven solution.

The Union of B.C. Municipalities endorsed a resolution that calls on the province to develop right-to-charge rules, similar to those found in Ontario, California and Hawaii. The rules would require stratas and rental buildings to accommodate reasonable requests from residents regarding electric vehicle charging.

The province of B.C. should adopt a similar approach as taken in other leading jurisdictions. The Ontario legislation establishes the timeline, rules and process for requesting and installing charging stations, including under what conditions a request may be rejected. But the fact is, with existing technologies, the vast majority of multi-family buildings can be retrofitted to support charging for their residents.

Vancouver was the first municipality in B.C. to require electric-vehicle-ready parking stalls, joined now by several other municipalities in southwest B.C. that are ensuring all new buildings are ready for charging installations.

But new buildings are easy—and represent only a fraction of buildings in this province. A significant number of buildings that were built before the first electric-vehicle-readiness requirements will still be standing in 2050.

Earlier this year, the province passed a law requiring that all new personal vehicles sold in B.C. will need to be zero-emission by 2040. That is a highly achievable goal, but it requires smart policy—and the ability for every British Columbian to start making the switch. The province’s recently announced $2,000 rebate for charging infrastructure in condos and apartments is a positive move, but one that might see limited uptake without clear rules and regulations around who can charge and who bears the cost.

British Columbians who live in apartments and townhouses shouldn’t be left behind—and the good news is, they don’t need to be.

This post was co-authored by Ian Neville, a climate policy analyst at the City of Vancouver, and originally appeared in the Vancouver Sun