B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver is sometimes ribbed about charging his electric car for free at a station at the back of the B.C. legislature.
Weaver was questioning Premier John Horgan Wednesday about the need for more charging infrastructure, and he pointed out a key problem. With the growth of electric vehicle popularity, there are now about 1,500 charging stations in B.C., and most don’t charge money for charging batteries.
“Charging infrastructure remains a barrier for widespread EV adoption, and B.C. Hydro, which has installed a few fast chargers recently, has done so by giving away the electricity for free,” Weaver said. “This has led to large lineups as locals get electricity for free while those who need it and those who want to pay for it have to wait in line.”
Weaver noted that while there are some privately owned charging stations, such as at shopping malls, the majority are public, often at the expense of the province or a local government.
The problem is the historical regulation of electricity sales. To sell power in B.C. you either have to be a registered public utility or get an exemption, which Weaver says is difficult to get.
“Oregon, California, Washington, Ontario, New York and a number of other U.S. states have already exempted EV charging from energy regulations,” Weaver told the legislature. “Resale of electricity is permitted, like a gas station, without prior approval, and prices are set by the market.”
Horgan said the B.C. Utilities Commission has initiated its own review of the situation. He noted that the finance ministry put an additional $10 million into B.C.’s electric car subsidy fund, which had gone through its $27 million budget by September.
The point-of sale program is administered by the New Car Dealers Association of B.C. It provides up to $5,000 for purchase or lease of a new battery electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle or up to $6,000 for a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle.
B.C. has long led the country in adoption of electric vehicles, but they are still a small portion of the traffic on the roads. Electric vehicles were 3.7 per cent of new car sales in June 2018, and between April and June there were 1,400 vehicle incentive applications paid.