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  • Gayle Baker

ElectricVehicles 101

Thirteen Salt Springers came to ask their questions on a stormy Friday morning. Topics discussed included:

  • Negative impact tourism is having on our island, especially our beaches.

  • Electric Vehicles

  • Upcoming Dementia Friends workshop in the Seniors’ Centre this Wednesday, January 29, at 1;00.

  • Dangerous Thrifty parking lot.

  • Need for a long-term vision for Salt Spring.

The conversation began with an exploration of the creation of Salt Spring’s own “scrap-it” rebate program for those transitioning from fossil fuel-powered to electric vehicles. It was suggested that this program could be administered by Transition Salt Spring’s investment program, TSSEC (Transition Salt Spring Enterprise Co-op). Darryl Martin and Jim Standen will follow-up on this concept.

The possibility of getting a Habitat for Humanity Restore shop on Salt Spring was briefly explored. With an organized system to give Salt Springers used and surplus building and decor supplies, not only could profits be given to support environmentally-focused projects, but re-use of materials on the island could save huge shipping, packaging, and disposal expenditures - both financial as well as environmental. Add to this the potential employment opportunities, and there may be good justification for the efforts it would take to make this happen. (Gayle will follow-up to explore possibilities.)

Much of the conversation at this session centered upon electric vehicles. It was stated by our Salt Spring expert, Jim Standen, that driving an electric vehicle is the easiest thing islanders can do to address our climate crisis.

Others stated that there were many ways one could reduce our footprint - canning our own foods, ride sharing, making the commitment not to fly (one guest and her husband have kept that commitment for 16 years) . . .and the list goes on. While it was agreed that “one size does not fit all” concerning climate actions, it was also agreed that now is a very, very good time to buy a new electric car. The rebates are amazing. When federal and provincial rebates ($6,000 and $3,000) are combined with the potential of getting as much as $6,000 through the “scrap it” program, the incentives are very enticing. (There are rebates for used and plug-in hybrids as well.)

In addition to these incentives, as well as the clear environmental benefits, are the on-going savings of owning an electric vehicle. Jim cited a study comparing operational costs for the same vehicle - one fossil-fuel powered and the other electric. Over 250,000 km, the life expectancy of a vehicle, it was concluded that electric car owners would save a whopping $36,000 in fuel and maintenance costs.

As cost is a huge determinant for many, and batteries are expensive, Jim also told us that he and his group of volunteers are carefully watching the electric vehicles already on Salt Spring for indications of battery life. The 2011 cars are still going strong. With the huge improvements in battery technology in the past few years, it is Jim’s predictions that batteries will be long-lasting, well beyond manufacturers’ generous warranties.

One guest - a Tesla owner - had just returned from a trip to Arizona. He was surprised and pleased by the simplicity of recharging everywhere along his route. He spoke glowingly of the ease of locating recharge stations and plugging in with no waits.

Guests were directed to the EV Group (SSIEV.CA) website for its list of reputable car dealers, selling both new and used vehicles. Those of us without electric cars left knowing that this is a transition we all should seriously consider. (We were also warned of the shortages of electric vehicles in light of the huge demand as well as the delay getting one of Salt Spring’s overworked, overbooked electricians.)

When the need for reduced speed limits on Salt Spring was again advocated, our electric car expert reminded us that, with reduced speed limits in Ganges, small, inexpensive electric golf cart-like vehicles (NEVs - Neighbourhood Electric Vehicles) could become legal. This possibility could have a major positive impact upon aging residents living near Ganges.

For more information about electric vehicles, check out this archived Driftwood article: and watch for other yet-to-be-published articles.

When we were not talking about electric vehicles, the conversation explored concerns about our seeming over-abundance of tourists. The focus of this conversation was their impact upon our beaches. Specifically discussed was the apparent disregard by many tourists for the delicate ecology of our island. Examples were cited of tourists harvesting crabs that are too small as well as collecting huge bucketfuls of shellfish. We were told that when residents have asked them to be mindful of what they are taking, the response has not been polite. One guest was concerned about conflict between Salt Springers and tourists - something no one wants. One suggestion was to post signs at our beaches outlining the rules. Jessica promised to take this concern to the newly-established destination management group, Destination Management and Marketing Organization (DMMO).

Margaret came in to invite us all to a workshop, Dementia Friends, Wednesday at 1:00 at the Seniors’ Centre. This workshop will focus upon making Salt Spring more friendly and accessible to those struggling with dementia.

The danger of the one-way portion of the Thrifty parking lot was discussed. The guest cited multiple near misses as tourists and newcomers drive (too fast) the wrong way in the crowded parking lot just outside Thrifty’s. This guest has written a letter to the Transportation Commission. Although she knows that this lot is privately-owned and managed, she was hoping to get some suggestions about next steps to take to address this before our tourist season begins again.

One guest expressed frustration that our island has no vision. He admonished that, without bold, audacious, and uncompromising commitment to a clearly-defined vision for the next century, we are destined to continue to place temporary bandaids over problems rather than actually solving any of the big issues. Having spent countless hours on our last Official Community Plan (OCP,) he was frustrated that it has “no teeth,” is incomplete, and no one pays any attention to it anyway.

Our last guest requested that ASK Salt Spring organize an interagency public forum, much like one held five years ago. That request was a bit easier - planning has already begun to host a public meeting with our elected officials in April (and again six months later) closely following the distribution of ASK Salt Spring’s semi-annual reports.

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