The electric vehicle charging station in Burns Lake has been free to use since June 26. Before that it cost $2 per hour to charge. (Blair McBride photo)

EV charger use steady since it became free to use

July usage of the electric vehicle (EV) charge station has been steady since the charger became free to use on June 26.

Two drivers used 27.2 kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy on July 4 and 6, as Sheryl Worthing, Chief Administrative Officer with the Village of Burns Lake told Lakes District News.

The total accumulated kWh to date for 2019 has been about 140, and the July 4 and 6 usage increased it by about 25 accumulated kWh, a village report showed.

A decision was made to do away with the $2 per hour charge fee at the village council’s June 25 meeting.

Scrapping the fee would cost the village less than $100 per year, based on the 2019 usage patterns.

Worthing explained to the council that EV drivers coming into Burns Lake expect to use the charger at no cost because they’re free to use everywhere else.

It was agreed that allowing free usage of the charger “gets us on the map” and might dispel the negative image of Burns Lake’s charge station.

Commenters on PlugShare, a website with global maps of charge stations have mentioned over the past several years that the Burns Lake charger often didn’t work properly and complained about the charge fee.

Up to November of last year, the charger had only been used 20 times since 2013. And a council report stated that only $62.07 in revenue had been collected from the charger in that time, with the device not even being operational for a few years.

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

The report also noted that “the provision of the Level 2 charging station for free will support the business community in Burns Lake. It is likely that electric car owners are not stopping in Burns Lake because they can stop at numerous other communities and charge up for free.”

Councillor Kevin White said that in the future he thinks that fees for most chargers will return because “at this point they’re trying to encourage us to drive [EVs]. As soon as they get enough of them on the road the price will go up.”

The provision of free charging comes as the provincial government has responded to the growing popularity of EVs by supporting measures to make them more affordable.

The Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources announced last month it would add another $26.5 million to its Clean Energy Vehicle (CEV) for BC rebate program in an effort to make EVs more affordable.

“On May 1, 2019, the federal government implemented a $5,000 CEV rebate in addition to any provincial rebates in the market, which resulted in unprecedented CEV sales across the province,” the Ministry said in a June 26 news release.

“The provincial rebate will be reduced to $3,000 for battery, fuel-cell, and longer-range plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and to $1,500 for shorter-range plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, effective June 22, 2019.”

The village’s charger is due to be replaced after the council agreed in February to contribute $5,000 towards a Community Energy Association grant for a new charging device.

READ MORE: Electric vehicle charge station might be replaced

It is not yet known when the replacement charger will arrive.

The village also hopes to receive a new, Level 3 fast charging device in 2020 after it pledged in April to enter into an agreement with BC Hydro.

RELATED: Burns Lake might get fast electric car charger in 2020

The deal would come at no cost to the village.

One Level 3 machine costs $200,000 and under the agreement BC Hydro would contribute $50,000 and the rest would come from federal grants.

Despite developments encouraging the EV trend in British Columbia, the north lags behind the south in usage and infrastructure.

EV ownership in northern B.C. is relatively low and only 7 per cent of dealerships in the region sell the vehicles, according to a report released last October by Clean Energy Canada.

In contrast to the south, 43 per cent of dealerships on Vancouver Island and on the Sunshine Coast sell EVs, and 54 per cent on the Lower Mainland.

The PlugShare map of the province shows that there are far more EV charge stations on the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island compared to the north.

Blair McBride
Multimedia reporter
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