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Electric car fast-charge stations pave 'green highway'

Powertech Labs Project Engineer Sean Allan, left, helps Cloverdale resident and electric car owner Jim McGowan plug in his Nissan Leaf at the new high speed charging station at the Surrey Museum. - Evan Seal / Surrey Leader
Powertech Labs Project Engineer Sean Allan, left, helps Cloverdale resident and electric car owner Jim McGowan plug in his Nissan Leaf at the new high speed charging station at the Surrey Museum.
— image credit: Evan Seal / Surrey Leader

A new fast-charging station for electric cars unveiled in Surrey Monday is the first to become operational in the Lower Mainland and forms part of the northern leg of a green highway stretching south to California.

The Surrey Museum station at Highway 10 east of 176 Street in Cloverdale is one of 13 direct current fast-charge stations being built in southern B.C. to offer electric car users more places to quickly juice up the battery.

There are already hundreds of publicly usable standard charge (Level 2) stations but the DC Fast Charge sites need only 20 to 30 minutes for an 80 per cent charge, rather than four to eight hours.

Officials say supercharge sites are key to combatting the "range anxiety" of being stranded with a dead battery that deters some people from buying all-electric cars.

"Providing a strategically-located network of 13 fast chargers throughout the province will allow more travel options for current electric vehicle owners, and will help encourage even higher electric vehicle adoption rates," Environment Minister Mary Polak said.

Fast charge stations have already opened in Kamloops, Nanaimo, Duncan Squamish and Merritt.

Seven more – in Vancouver (Telus World of Science), Langley Township (Langley Events Centre on 200 Street), North Vancouver (Lower Lonsdale), North Vancouver District, Whistler, Saanich and Hope – are set to open by March under the $1.3-million program.

Fast-charge stations are more plentiful in U.S. states along the coast, but some are proprietary – reserved only for Tesla cars, for example – while the BC Hydro-led chargers here accommodate a wide range of electric vehicles.

More than 450 Level 2 chargers – the ones that take several hours but are considered ideal for commuters – have been installed across B.C. under the province's $14.3 million Clean Energy Vehicle Program.

It also funds rebates of up to $5,000 for new vehicles that are run on battery electric, fuel cell electric, plug-in hybrid or compressed natural gas systems, as well as rebates of up to $500 for residential charging points.

Both rebate programs are set to expire March 31.

Like the site in Surrey, other fast-charge stations are being built in partnership with BC Hydro and local cities.

“Providing access to this technology is essential to moving consumers away from fossil fuel reliance in favour of sustainable clean energy alternatives," Surrey Coun. Bruce Hayne said.

It's unclear if drivers may eventually have to pay to use the fast-charge stations, but Hayne said the Surrey station will be free of charge "for the forseeable future."

The Surrey Museum station will be the first available charge point north of the U.S. border for electric-powered American motorists heading into Canada.

There are only about 700 electric vehicles in B.C. but thousands more are expected to arrive in the years ahead, albeit at a slower pace than previously thought.

For a map of locations of available plug-in sites in Metro Vancouver see pluginbc.ca or plugshare.com.

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