Progress is being made but at a slower pace than anticipated on a BC Hydro network of electric vehicle charging stations along Hwy 16 from Prince George to the coast and points north and south.
Hydro now has two stations in operation west of Prince George — one of which opened up in the parking lot beside the Lakelander Hotel in Burns Lake last December and another one now open in Prince Rupert close by Mariners Park overlooking the harbour.
These are known as Level 3 chargers, which can charge an electric vehicle up to 80 per cent in less than 30 minutes in many cases.
Smithers is slated to get two of the new chargers, also known as Direct Current Fast Chargers (DCFC). They will be installed at the parking lot on Second Avenue between Main and King Streets where the Town’s existing Level 2 chargers are located, but Hydro’s timeline is vague.
Houston is also on the list for a BC Hydro station and it will be installed in the laneway north of 9th Street, a project that will cost roughly $250,000 but at no charge to the District of Houston.
Installation had been planned for last year but was shelved when the District of Houston council decided not to proceed with the project to place utility lines underground along Hwy 16. That’s because the line to feed the electric vehicle charging station would branch off and also be underground.
With council this year deciding to proceed with the project to place utility lines underground, the electric vehicle charging station installation can now take place.
Overall BC Hydro wants to place Level 3 charging stations at regular intervals along Hwy 16 leading west of Prince George.
Aside from the installations in Smithers and Houston, BC Hydro has tagged Vanderhoof, Fraser Lake, New Hazelton and Kitimat as locations.
Prior to May 1, BC Hydro had not been charging electric vehicle owners to use its chargers, but a rate now approved by the BC Utilities Commission means owners are now paying 21 cents per minute.
BC Hydro official Bob Gammer said that works out to between $6 and $7 per 100 kilometres of charging power from one of its Level 3 chargers.
Also coming to Houston is a Level 2 charger which is to be part of a network called Charge North, collaboration between local governments across the region and into the Cariboo and managed by the Vancouver-based Community Energy Association.
Level 2 chargers are not as fast as Level 3 but are suitable for travellers while having a meal, shopping or undertaking another activity.
The District of Houston has already committed $5,000 as its share of this Level 2 station which is to replace a much older Level 1 near the chamber of commerce office.
“We are just about to put out a request for proposals to choose a vendor for the equipment purchase and installation which should get underway by this fall,” said Janice Keys from the Community Energy Association.
“It has been a long time coming and folks are excited to add these Level 2 stations to the mix with the Level 3s that have been put in over the last 18 months,” she said.
Across the north, Level 2s are to go in at Burns Lake, Granisle, Haida Gwaii, Kitimat, the Nass Valley, Smithers, Stellat’en near Fraser Lake, Stewart, Terrace, Vanderhoof and Hazelton.
The provincial transportation ministry is also installing Level 3 charging stations along Hwy16. It has one at the Boulder Creek Rest Stop just west of Kitwanga and will soon be installing one very close to the Hwy37/Hwy 16 roundabout just east of Terrace in concert with a Level 2 charger.
Unlike BC Hydro, the provincial transportation ministry does not charge those using its stations.
In addition to the above, there are a number of Level 2 and other stations along Hwy16 installed and maintained by various businesses.