The B.C. government is providing a $10-million pot of money to provide rebates for the installation of fast-charging stations in apartment and condo buildings.
On Tuesday, Minister of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation Bruce Ralston said that once a recipient is approved, the money could be used to hire electrical engineers or contractors to plan, complete electrical upgrades and install chargers.
The rebates, also available for workplaces, will cover up to 50 per cent of installation costs to a maximum of $2,000 per charger.
Access to provincial funding can be stacked with other federal and municipal rebates, but the total amount cannot exceed the cost of installing chargers, Ralston said.
Tony Gioventu, executive director of B.C.'s Condominium Home Owners Association (CHOA), welcomes the news as another step toward the full electrification of private parking garages.
“Our focus has really been trying to get the whole building hooked up,” says Gioventu. “Single stations serving one or two at a time doesn’t solve the problem.”
To get started, the province is offering up to five hours of free support services to plan the installation of fast chargers. Gioventu says that's equivalent to roughly five hours with a consultation, a good starting place to figure out what needs to happen to wire a building's parkade.
But with roughly a million British Columbians living in a strata community, Gioventu says the real force behind electrifying multi-unit apartments has been young owners pushing for change.
“There’s been a real sea change in the culture of these communities,” he says. “A lot of these buildings are easily converted. It’s just time-consuming and needs the approval of the owners, and there is some cost. But it becomes a big selling point for the building.”
The problem, he says, is that grants come and go.
That could change. Before it was re-elected to form a federal government last month, the Liberal Party of Canada promised it would put $700 million toward 50,000 new public charging stations across Canada; another $100 million was earmarked for charging stations in buildings, according to the party's platform. But those commitments have yet to be echoed in minister mandate letters.
However the promises shake out for British Columbia, the province is in a relatively strong position to make the leap to electric.
By the end of 2020, B.C. had over 2,500 public charging stations, including more than 480 fast-charging stations. Per capita, that's ahead of its neighbours in Washington state, and when compared to Alberta, no metric brings the prairie province close to B.C.'s electric vehicle charging network, according to Natural Resources Canada.
“We’ve got a bit of a head start,” says Mark Zacharias, a special advisor with Clean Energy Canada, a program out of Simon Fraser University working to accelerate Canada’s clean energy transition. “First, the incentives are driving that. Second, we have a population in B.C. that cares about climate change.”
The announcement comes a day after the province laid out a revised plan to meet emission reduction targets and fight climate change over the next decade.
By 2024, the B.C. government said it will ensure “geographic coverage” of fast-charger sites across B.C.; by 2030, it plans to deploy another 10,000 EV charging stations across the province, according to the CleanBC Roadmap to 2030.
At the rate chargers are being installed in strata buildings, Gioventu says that will "definitely happen," and will likely occur even earlier.
But Zacharias points out that the roadmap offers no funding commitments to make the province's plans a reality.
“The current incentives as they exist right now are not yet ready to scale up to 10,000 public stations,” Zacharias tells Glacier Media. “We’ll see what that funding looks like in Budget 2022.”
B.C. EMERGES AS ELECTRIC VEHICLE HOTSPOT
Under the EV charger rebate program, B.C. residents living in single-family detached homes, duplexes and townhouses can also get a rebate of up to 50 per cent to cover the cost and installation of a charger. The rebate cannot exceed $350.
Provincial officials say they are currently reworking rebate programs for the purchase of electric vehicles so they better target people who need them most. Someone looking to buy an electric vehicle in B.C. currently has access to $3,000 in provincial rebates and up to $5,000 in federal rebates on the purchase of a new vehicle.
Electric vehicle sales in B.C. accounted for almost 10 per cent of car sales in 2020, the highest rate per capita in North America, according to BC Hydro.
A survey conducted by the electric utility in July found roughly two-thirds of British Columbians are considering buying an EV over the next several years; meanwhile, a majority are looking to purchase one in the next year or two.
Most potential EV owners told BC Hydro they want to make the switch to save money on gas and protect the environment. Electric vehicles are projected to save owners 80 per cent in annual fuel costs and roughly $100 in maintenance costs. And experts say making the switch from a gas-powered vehicle to electric will lower your lifestyle carbon footprint more than almost any other daily activity.
That's all expected to lead to long waitlists for certain EV models, predicted BC Hydro. Meanwhile, a microchip and lithium battery shortage is already squeezing global supply.
Of course, not every B.C. resident needs a car — something the province is banking on as it looks to lower overall greenhouse gas emissions.
As part of the provincial path to address the climate crisis, the average British Columbian is expected to change their habits over the coming decades. The plan aims for a 25 per cent reduction in vehicle travel by 2030 compared to 2020, as well as a boost in the number of trips by foot, bicycle and transit, climbing 30 per cent by 2030 and 50 per cent by mid-century.
The roadmap offers no plans to connect rural communities through public transportation.