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  • Gayle Baker

My Car and Bike Run on Rain!

March 26

ASK Salt Spring welcomed Jim Standen, Salt Spring’s passionate and energetic electric vehicle (EV) expert, as well as lead of Transition Salt Spring’s Electric Vehicle Working Group. If you want to learn more about this successful group, you may want to check out its website: (www.ssiev.ca).

If you want to know anything about electric vehicles, Jim is your man. This was clearly illustrated by the information-filled and fascinating discussion in this ASK Salt Spring gathering.

After our Territorial Acknowledgment, our learning about electric cars began. In general, we learned a lot about the reasons behind the rapid growth in electric car ownership, what one might want to know if considering an electric car, and everything that we wanted to know about charging stations.

The Rapid Growth in Electric Car Ownership:

We began by asking if it was myth or truth that Salt Spring boasts the highest per capita EV ownership in North America.

It is true - verified! BC has the highest ownership of EVs in North America: (https://vancouverisland.ctvnews.ca/b-c-has-highest-per-capita-ev-sales-in-north-america-province-1.4707309 And, to the distress of the extremely-active and cheerfully-competitive Victoria EV Group, Salt Spring is the clear BC winner, with significantly-more EVs than anywhere else in BC.

Emissions: That settled, we learned why EV ownership is expanding so rapidly. . . . It is widely-agreed that driving an electric car is the easiest way that each of us can significantly-reduce our personal emissions. And, these emissions are a really big deal, some lasting in the universe for over 1,000 years. (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/jan/16/greenhouse-gases-remain-air). With the rapidly-growing number of EV owners (currently estimated at between 300-400), it is clear that Salt Springers are increasingly-committed to this significant emissions reduction.

Economics: We learned from Jim that even if you are not that keenly-focused on reducing Salt Spring’s emissions, EVs make so much sense economically, and even more sense as gas prices continue to rise. One’s cost of driving an EV is significantly less than that of a gas vehicle, adding up to whopping savings year after year. For a more detailed analysis of cost estimates for BC EV owners, you may want to read: (https://www.2degreesinstitute.org/reports/comparing_fuel_and_maintenance_costs_of_electric_and_gas_powered_vehicles_in_canada.pdf

And, while EV tend to be more expensive, rebates available are enticing. For new cars, these include a $5,000 federal rebate and a $3,000 rebate from the province. When the possibility of getting an additional $6,000 for your old gas vehicle in the Scrap-it program, acquiring a new electric car is very financially attractive.

(Before counting on $6,000 for your old gas vehicle, Jim cautioned us that these Scrap-it rebates are often snapped up as soon as offered. If set on getting this $6,000 as well, one may need to wait until there is a new release of these rebates.)

While the $1,500 rebate for used cars is not nearly as attractive, Jim reminded us that there are many inexpensive used EVs available on Salt Spring. While their range may not be as good for long-distance travel, these used vehicles are perfect for all those Salt Spring-based errands.

Jim suggested that, if we wanted a used EV, beginning the search with a clear understanding of what we want is very helpful as different EVs address different needs and usage. He spoke highly of Motorize (https://motorize.ca), an EV-only used car option whose sales professionals know about all makes and models of EVs on the market. He suggested contacting them with clearly-defined needs - including price - and being patient for the EV that exactly fits your needs. When Jim did this, he waited nine months, but he got exactly what he wanted at the price he required.

Safety: According to Jim, electric cars are the safest cars made. While each make and model varies, they all share the low centre of gravity due to the evenly-distributed batteries, making them almost impossible to roll. Jim selected a Tesla Model 3 because it is the safest car on the market, with a whopping five-foot front crush zone. Having bought it sight unseen, he did remind us though, that we each have different preferences and that some may not like the somewhat-awkward (for some of us seniors) entry into this sports car.

Simply Fun: And, such a joy to drive! According to Jim, EVs are the most responsive and fun cars to drive - with the possible exception of a Honda Fit, Salt Spring’s other favourite vehicle. This fun is also luxuriantly guilt-free! As a gas-powered vehicle-driver, do you ever feel a frisson of guilt making that extra trip to Ganges or simply aimlessly driving around our lovely island? A EV-owning participant told us that this guilt was now gone, and he luxuriated in simply driving for fun, know that he is not polluting and that it is only costing him a few pennies for his outing.

What Do You Need to Know if You are Considering Purchase of an EV?

Jim warned us that driving an electric car is initially quite different. He told us about a new EV owner who drove excitedly off the car lot but soon had to call him to figure out how to turn his car on again. Added to the different techniques needed for basic operation, Jim reminded us that it is confusing for some of us who are used to the noise of gasoline-powered vehicles: electric vehicles simply do not sound like they are running.

Jim also recognized that it is an entirely new learning curve to set up the habits needed to keep one’s EV charged adequately. While we learned that even at zero, some EV have about 25 kms in reserve and most are rarely fully-depleted, being mindful of charging is an important new skill.

Everything You Need to Know About Charging Stations

Jim suggested charging our EVs at home rather than counting on local charging stations. When asked about advocating for a Building Code bylaw requiring external 240v plugs when building new homes, Jim told us that the very political Victoria EV Group is pursuing this proposed code requirement.

We learned that our EV Group has been extremely successful installing 12 free public EV charging stations with 18 charging wands on Salt Spring. These include 14 standard and 4 Tesla destination changers. Jim reported that while some are being used each time he passes them, they are never being fully-used (i.e. unavailable).

Their installation is the result of advocacy and fundraising by Jim’s EV Group. This group of energetic volunteers also maintains the ArtSpring charger. They either do the repairs themselves, or they pay for an electrician and parts. They also provide advice to EV owners on repairs of their chargers. While Jim agreed that most local EV owners get enough of a charge at home, these public chargers are very helpful for emergency top-ups as well as for our visitors.

When asked about charging stations at our ferry terminals, we learned that BC Ferries is submitting a large federal grant for ferry electrification which could also include terminal charging capability. Until then, Jim was asked why his group does not install charging stations at commercial sites near terminals? We learned that, for some businesses, it is not that simple. Although Level II (slow) chargers only cost about $1,000, there are many businesses that do not have any extra electrical capacity to allocate to a charger. We learned that the two ArtSpring charging stations took all the available extra electric power of this relatively-new building.

The proposed Beaver Hall charging station is expected to be very helpful to campers whose electric vehicle will lose a percentage of charge each day they sit unused, possibly stranding these campers without any nearby charging options. But, Beaver Hall does not have enough excess electricity, and additional power will have to be brought to the site.

Level III (fast) chargers are an entirely different challenge. They are far more expensive - often priced at over $30,000. They also require significantly more electricity. For example, even if the two ArtSpring level II. chargers were removed, there would not be enough electricity for one Level III charger.

Despite their power and cost challenges, Jim believes that Salt Spring needs to find a way to offer these Level III chargers. Not only are they extremely helpful for personal use, they are a requisite if our plethora of commercial vehicles are to electrify. Busy throughout the day, our taxis and delivery vehicles could not afford the time it takes to wait at a Level II charger. With available Level III chargers, Jim is convinced that Salt Spring’s commercial EV conversion will be imminent. He described the Uptown Level III charging station in Victoria - a beehive of taxi activity, each stoping briefly to charge up between customers. Despite the expense and logistical challenges, Jim is convinced that the installation of Level III chargers on Salt Spring is a vital climate action initiative that needs to be addressed immediately.

We all thanked Jim for teaching us so much about EVs and for all the work that he and his group is doing to make it so much easier to make the leap to an electric car. While not all of us are there yet - especially those truck-loving participants - we all left inspired and excited by the possibilities, sure that an electric vehicle is in all of our futures.

Please join us Friday, April 16, 11-1 to welcome our elected officials: CRD’s Gary Holman, MP Elizabeth May, MLA Adam Olsen, and Islands Trustee Laura Patrick!

Bring your questions, eagerness to learn, and enthusiasm to participate in a discussion of the issues that matter most to us.

To join:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83173679715?pwd=QnU0dFBJbkEwMkY5T2VYUXFiSmxuZz09

Any question, anytime: ask@asksaltspring.com

Want to see reports from all the ASK Salt Spring gatherings?

asksaltspring.com

Want to help? ASK Salt Spring now has a Save-a-Tape box at Country Grocer.

We would love your receipts! Remember: #15


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