Charge! Electric vehicles become reality in B.C.

Edible Canada charging station
A Mitsubishi i-MiEV plugs into the charging station outside the Edible Canada bistro at Granville Island in Vancouver.

Public charging stations in B.C. getting the cars rolling

If you did much driving this past summer, to your favourite campsite, beach, or event, you may have cringed at the cost of filling up your gas tank.

What would you think if you could spend $3 instead of $60?

As plug-in electric vehicles (EVs) enter the B.C. market this fall, expect to see plenty of your neighbours talking about — and driving — the new cars.

BREAKING NEWS: B.C. clean car incentives start December 1

Fill 'er up! The birth of charging stations

The thing about automobiles is that unless they have energy to run, they aren't much use to anyone. And EVs require a plug in for charging.

Luckily, charging locations are starting to pop up around the province.

The city of Vancouver has a few charging stations available now, and plan on having more installed at EasyPark lots throughout the city.

EV charging stationAnd in October the City of Surrey became the first major city in Canada to unveil a publically accessible and free-to-use charging station, an initiative supported by partners BC Hydro and Powertech. Surrey also added a Nissan Leaf plug-in vehicle to its fleet as part of the city's EnergyShift initiative.

At Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island, a third free charging station in that community was opened this past summer. 

At Granville Island in Vancouver, EV owners get exclusive parking next to Edible Canada at the Market in one of two spots nestled alongside the restaurant's patio.

Charging an EV at Edible Canada is also free.

Park, charge & dine

Eric Pateman, founder and president of Edible Canada, said that hosting the EV charging stations is a good fit for his company.

"The mandate has always been to be as environmentally sustainable as possible," he explains in a phone conversation.

Edible Canada operates according to green philosophies, such as eating locally and acting sustainably. Having EV parking stalls falls right in line with all that.

And for those customers on the patio, it's pleasant to enjoy a meal without having it ruined by exhaust from a gas-powered vehicle.

The charging stations at Edible Canada are from General Electric. They're designed to resemble the pumps we're used to seeing at more traditional filling stations. Using them is much simpler, though, and is not a whole lot different than plugging in a toaster.

EVs grabbing attention

There's great curiosity about the charging stations, and even more about the vehicles themselves. When Powertech parked a Mitsubishi i-MiEV in one of the two spots at Edible Canada, nearly everyone passing by stopped to take a look.

"The number of clients we've had coming in who are excited about the EVs is astounding," says Pateman. He expects that his customers will almost certainly be among the first adopters of the new vehicles.

For now, the two parking spots are usually readily available. But that situation is soon to change. Pateman said that there have already been a number of Edible Canada customers parking in the spots.

"I'm amazed at how many people we've had plugging in already," he says.

Pateman says many of his suppliers "are at the forefront of sustainability", and one woman plans on getting a new Tesla Model S sedan when they become available next fall.

A variety of other EVs will be available to B.C. drivers this fall (see sidebar).

Powertech's role

Powertech Labs Inc., a subsidiary of BC Hydro,  provides engineering and technical services for EV infrastructure.

They were responsible for installing the charging stations at Edible Canada, and have been working with municipalities, including Vancouver and Surrey, to make EVs a viable option in B.C. communities.

Electric vehicles are coming. And if they can convert a confirmed "petrolhead", imagine what the future has in store for the rest of us.