Songhees developer switches on to electric cars

Promontory will be able to offer charging stations

Electric vehicles may not yet be top-sellers in the automotive industry, but if and when they are, Bosa Properties will be ready.

The Vancouver developer, which is building the 177-suite Promontory project on the Bayview lands on the Songhees, has opted to install the capability to offer electric-vehicle charging stations in each parking stall in both the Promontory and other Bosa projects on the Lower Mainland.

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"We decided if we were going to do it on one project let's do it in all of them," Daryl Simpson, Bosa's senior vice-president, said Tuesday.

The idea was born when the city of Vancouver required Bosa to make allowances for the "roughing in" of electrical charging stations in one of its projects.

"But roughing in only goes 20 per cent of the way," said Simpson. Once a building is completed, there are legal issues that may preclude a condominium owner from installing such a charging station.

"Strata corporations own the common areas of parkades. If you want to put something like this that you own in a parkade you need easements, access agreements, dedicated Hydro meters so the rest of the building isn't paying for your power and people want to ensure it's warrantied," he said.

Simpson said the solution is to have the potential for charging stations wired into the building as it's coming out of the ground and establishing the BosaVolt charging station as an option when buying a condo in a Bosa development.

So as the parkade is taking shape at the 21-storey Promontory project, the transformer has been upgraded and the necessary wiring is being installed in the infrastructure of the building to allow as many as 177 charging units to be installed.

Bosa will only be installing 10 at the outset. "This is being done so, down the road, if people want to take advantage of the technology, they can," said Simpson. "We are planning for the present and the future with this."

It's difficult to nail down the demand for the technology. A B.C. Hydro presentation at the Plug-In Hybrid and Electric Vehicles Conference in Montreal in 2009 suggested there could be between 25,000 and 32,000 electric vehicles (including plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles) by next year. The estimate also ranged between 350,000 and 1.3 million by 2030.

Staff at the provincial ministry of the environment noted about 200 vehicles have been sold so far through the Clean Energy Vehicle Program, which was launched in December. The program offers point of-sale incentives of up to $5,000 per eligible clean energy vehicle.

This year, Nissan, the most bullish mass-market electric car maker, forecast that by 2020, 10 per cent of all cars sold will be electric. However, according to Reuters, most analysts see pure electric cars accounting for only a single-digit percentage of total sales over the next decade due to the cost and uncertainty around government subsidies for the technology.

In the U.S., General Motors did not meet its 2011 sales targets for Chevy Volts and shut down its production line for five weeks to work off surplus inventory. Nissan, after selling 1,708 Leaf sedans last June, has experienced declining sales. It sold just 370 of the all-electric vehicles in April, down from 579 units in March and 478 in February.

Simpson said one of the reasons the sales of electric vehicles have been slow is infrastructure.

"People don't buy electric cars even though they like the idea of them because of the idea of not having your own dedicated power source and the fear of not being able to leave your garage fully charged each day," he said.

Anyone who wants a charging station will pay $4,900 and will get a dedicated Hydro meter. The bill will be separate from their regular Hydro bill.

"We're expecting take up to be pretty strong," said Simpson.

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