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City looks to replace electric car charge stations

Fort St. John council voted Monday to spend up to $12,000 to replace two dead charging stations for electric vehicles.
Ernie Freeman of Earth Friendly Solutions gives an electric car demonstration at a charging station outside Fort St. John city hall in September 2016.

Fort St. John council voted Monday to spend up to $12,000 to replace two dead charging stations for electric vehicles.

Council voted to take part in the Charge North program, with the remaining 50% of the costs to come from a grant application to the Northern Development Initiative Trust.

"This is part of walking the walk when we say we are B.C.'s energy capital," said Mayor Lori Ackerman.

The city has had three charging stations for public use for the last five years: one each at the Pomeroy Sport Centre and public works shop, both of which are no longer working, while the third at city hall is also at the end of its service life.

The stations saw little use in their first four years, but saw a significant increase last summer, said city manager Dianne Hunter.

"Oftentimes when you’d come to city hall, you’d see a car parked at the charge station," Hunter said. "If it fails there will be no public, city-owned charge station in town."

The Charge North program is co-funding the installation of 47 Level 2 charging stations as part of a push to build a wider network across northern and central B.C.

A station takes four to six hours to charge a vehicle, and under the program, municipalities have to pay for half the cost of each, or $6,000.

Moira Green, the city's general manager for community services, told council there are only two major users of the stations in town, and that their replacement would connect the city to the beginnings of a provincial network.

That left at least one councillor incredulous. "So these here are for two people in town who use them?" said Coun. Trevor Bolin.

Green said they could be used by anyone with an electric vehicle, and could help promote tourism.

"One of the main challenges for someone owning an electric vehicle is their ability to make long-distance trips," said Green, noting one local motorist who needs a full day to drive to Prince George.

"Because there are no high-speed charging stations, he ends up having to spend a lot of time stopped so that he can recharge his vehicle so he can continue on his trip."

The city would be responsible for the cost of maintenance and repair of the stations, and the electricity bill.

Ackerman said the city could take the next year to determine those costs and find a way for residents to contribute to the electricity being used.

Charge North is also working with BC Hydro and the Ministry of Transportation to install seven Level 3 stations on Highway 16 and 97N, at a cost of $100,000 each. Those stations take 30 minutes to charge a vehicle.

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