Electric-car drivers face charging fees in new year

The free ride is coming to an end for electric-vehicle owners at public charging stations around the capital region.

And that’s fine for David Grove, president of the 1,000-member Victoria Electric Vehicle Association.

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“It was expected and the cost is reasonable,” Grove said as Victoria and Saanich prepare to levy $1-per-hour charges and time limits to users of its stations around the region early in the new year. “There’s a hope that the revenue will help to build out the charging network quicker and offset some of the costs.”

Saanich will launch the pay-for-power charge on Jan. 4.

The municipality has 75 public EV charging stations. Of those, the district owns and operates 12 Level 2 stations at its four recreation centres, Cedar Hill Golf Course and municipal hall. It plans to build 20 more at municipal facilities, recreation centres and parks.

Victoria will initiate the charging fee on Jan. 1. It unveiled six new Level 2 EV chargers on Broad Street in November that will allow EVs to charge for up to 90 minutes, usually sufficient to drive up to 50 kilometres. This installation is Victoria’s first venture into on-street EV charging. Seven stations are also located in each of the city-owned parkades.

A Victoria spokesman said on Broad Street and in the Johnson Street parkades, EV charging fees will be combined with parking fees and paid for at the EV chargers, using either the Flo mobile app or a prepaid Flo card. There will be no need to pay separately for parking.

At the other city parkades, parking and EV charging fees are paid separately. EV charging is paid at the charger and parking fees are paid at the parking kiosk. Etiquette signs will be in place to advise users of the new fees and how to pay.

The $1-per-hour rate is reasonable, said Grove. It’s higher than charging at home, where he estimates the same time would cost 24 to 36 cents an hour, but he said the revenue should help municipalities expand the network.

“A three-hour charge downtown would give me a 90- to 100-kilometre range,” he said. “Sooke is 50 kilometres, so if you’re shopping downtown at a busy time like Christmas, that would be more than what you need.”

The number of electric vehicles on B.C. roads has more than doubled in the past year, according to the Victoria Electric Vehicle Association. ICBC figures supplied to the association this year show there were 29,385 electric vehicles on the road on March 31, compared with 13,727 licensed EVs a year earlier.

As of March 2020, there were 5,635 licensed EVs on Vancouver Island and the Southern Gulf Islands, compared with 2,842 on April 1, 2019. On the Island, Saanich residents led the way with 1,291 EVs, followed by Oak Bay with 460. Salt Spring Island had the highest ratio of EVs, at 21 per 1,000 residents.

Grove expects those numbers are even higher now as demand continues to grow and EVs are being brought into any new-vehicle-purchase decision.

A Saanich spokeswoman said the payment system is integrated into the stations. As before, users can access the chargers with a Flo account (either through the Flo app on their phone, or a Flo card that can be ordered for $15 through their account). A credit card must now be linked to a Flo account in order to pay for the charging session.

In 2018, the Capital Regional District’s infrastructure planning guide identified a user fee as “best practice” because it spurs turnover, limits charging sessions and encourages home charging. A survey the same year by the CRD indicated two thirds of the 600 respondents supported fees of $1 per hour or more for EV charging.

Time limits in Saanich will be enforced by bylaw officers on a complaint basis. Verification will be supported by the municipality’s EV station web portal, which allows staff to see the length of time a vehicle has been connected (either charging or not charging). Fines will be in place and aligned with similar traffic and parking infractions.

In Victoria, which has daily parking-enforcement personnel, vehicles that are parked in EV charging stalls and are not charging and/or have not paid for charging will be ticketed. That fine is $40, or if paid within 14 days $20, like a regular ­parking ticket. Non-EVs parked in EV charging spaces will be ticketed $175, or if paid within 14 days $125.

dkloster@timescolonist.com

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