Time to Recharge B.C.'s Clean Vehicle Program?

Bye Oil License PlateLate last week, the government of British Columbia announced the location of the first of a series of 13 electric-vehicle fast-charging stations for communities around the province. This is good news; B.C. needs to take action on clean, low carbon transportation. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that many of the charging stations will be installed before funding for the  program expires.

In November 2011, the province committed more than $7 million in funding for the BC Clean Energy Vehicle Program that has been paying for hundreds of public-charging stations, and for chargers in apartment building and condo garages, and providing incentives for new-vehicle purchasers.

But according to the Vancouver Electric Vehicles Association, the funding is set to  fall back to Finance Department coffers on March 31, leaving the program stranded and only partially completed.

“Some of the charging stations have been put in place, but  most have not been installed,” said John Stonier, a spokesperson for the association, which promotes battery-powered vehicles in the region. “They announce [the new chargers] less than 12 weeks before the funding cuts out. How are they going to get all this done within 11 weeks?”

The direct-current charge points, promised last week for 13 communities around the province, will juice up a Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi iMiev, or similar vehicle in roughly half an hour. They’re intended to make EVs a more attractive option for those who may wish to or need to travel longer distances. According to Stonier, the vehicles are already an attractive option, because the economics just make sense.

“Compared to a conventional vehicle, an electric vehicle uses one-sixth the energy, requires one-sixth the maintenance  and depreciates at one-third the rate,” Stonier says.

Here’s British Columbia Environment Minister Terry Lake at last week’s announcement, explaining why the province is ideally suited for a broader electric vehicles rollout:

As noted in our 2012 paper, Towards A Clean Energy Accordwe expect most of Canada’s vehicles will eventually be powered by either electricity or non-polluting biofuels, and supportive policy will not only drive more customers into electric vehicles, but also encourage industry investment in green transportation research and development.

The province should continue with its leadership and consider renewing  the B.C. Clean Energy Vehicle program in its forthcoming budget. Doing so will help send the right signals to the marketplace and get the charging infrastructure in place that will help accelerate this transition.

Here’s Minister Lake again, explaining how the program fits into the “bigger picture” of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and accelerating the shift to a clean-energy economy:

Investments like these help kick-start clean technology deployment and adoption, and once they are scaled up and connected to innovative financing policies—such as expanded and increased carbon tax, and perhaps a vehicle levy—can move us closer to a clean energy economy.

At the Vancouver launch of the new charging networks, Minister Lake cited the province’s carbon tax as an example of climate leadership.

“We’ve been great leaders but we are only now starting to see real followers,” he said of the policy. “Alberta has a carbon tax, although not as strong as we’d like to see, Washington and Oregon are talking about a carbon tax, Australia has a carbon tax. B.C’s leadership is well-known, what we are hoping to see is some ‘followship’ so we can make the next leap forward.”

British Columbia must take decisive action to meet its legislated greenhouse gas reduction target of cutting carbon pollution 33 percent below 2007 levels by the end of this decade.

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