A sign points to the parking lot where the electric vehicle (EV) charge station is located, in Burns Lake. (Blair McBride photo)

A sign points to the parking lot where the electric vehicle (EV) charge station is located, in Burns Lake. (Blair McBride photo)

Burns Lake’s EV charge station used only 20 times since 2013

Passersby can be forgiven if they thought they saw a tumbleweed blow across Burns Lake’s electric vehicle (EV) charge station.

Since it was installed in 2013, “our charge point account shows it has been used 20 times”, Sheryl Worthing, CAO of the Village of Burns Lake told Lakes District News.

“We have no way of tracking if it is used by residents or people passing through Burns Lake,” she added.

The station’s slow use rate is a reflection of the lower number of EV drivers in northern British Columbia than in the south.

Only 7 per cent of car dealerships in northern B.C. sell EVs, compared to 43 per cent on Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast, and 54 per cent on the Lower Mainland, according to a report released last month by Clean Energy Canada.

The distribution of more than 1,000 of the province’s charge stations similarly favours the south over the north: a map on the website PlugInBC shows there are only about two dozen stations from Williams Lake north to Prince George, and west to Kitimat.

However, unlike most stations in B.C. which charge vehicles for free – at the expense of a local government or the province – users of the village’s station must pay $2 per hour.

That might be a step in the right direction, after Green Party leader Andrew Weaver pointed out in the legislature three weeks ago that the lack of private investment into EV charging infrastructure is slowing wider adoption of the technology.

“The free model is rapidly becoming unsustainable as more and more British Columbians move towards EVs,” he said, citing long lineups as an example of the system’s inefficiency.

Premier John Horgan responded by saying the B.C. Utilities Commission has begun a review to find more cost effective ways of charging EVs.

So far there has been only one mechanical issue with the charge station in Burns Lake, but the maintenance cost was paid through the warranty and not by the Village, Worthing said.

The station was built through a $30,000 grant from Lakes District Maintenance, B.C. Hydro, Plug In B.C. and the Climate Action Revenue Incentive Program.

B.C. is a leading province for EV adoption, but the zero-emission automobiles represented only 1.1 per cent of vehicle sales across Canada in 2017.

– With files from Tom Fletcher