Power ups prove popular

It wasn’t a long line up, but it was a line, and Ryan Schmidt was happy to see it.

While Township staff were working to paint markings around the community’s first free fast charging station for electrical cars, two Nissan Leafs turned up.

Both electrical cars wanted turns charging up their batteries at the Langley Events Centre.

The line up happened on April 25. A week later, the charger was officially opened, but it has already been drawing people from out of town – both of those waiting for the April charge were from Vancouver.

The charging stations are part of a slowly expanding provincial strategy to give people with electric cars access to more areas.

A year ago, Langley Township installed three public charging stations for electric cars.

At the time, it had no idea if anyone would drive up and plug in. Now it has hard numbers showing that there are drivers around Langley using the system.

“They’re being used, which was my biggest fear,” said Schmidt, manager of energy and solid waste for the Township.

In total, there are three locations around the Township with Level Two electric vehicle charges. The stations are located at the Township Civic Facility on 66th Avenue, at the W.C. Blair Rec Centre in Murrayville, and at the Walnut Grove Community Centre.

Over the last year, they have been used to provide more than 500 charges.

That’s the equivalent of removing more than 1,200 kg in carbon emissions, had those cars been powered by gasoline. 

When the stations were announced in early 2013, it was unknown how many people lived in Langley and used electrical vehicles. 

One of the reasons for installing the chargers was to defeat that chicken-and-egg problem. Perhaps there weren’t many electrical cars because range anxiety – fear of running out of juice – was preventing people from buying or using electrical cars.

“You no longer have to worry about getting stuck out and about without a charge,” said Schmidt.

The DC fast charger was funded by the province’s $14.3 million Clean Energy Vehicle Program, an initiative to support the transition to cleaner transportation options within B.C. It was installed and will be maintained by BC Hydro at no cost to the Township.

Township Mayor Jack Froese focused on local users when he spoke at the recent official opening.

“Visitors stopping in for a workout, using the walking track, catching a game, or playing in the playground with their kids now have the opportunity to fit in a quick top-up or even a full charge, in less than half an hour,” Froese said. 

Schmidt said it will draw out-of-towners, too.

While the Township can keep track of how much power is used and how many people are using their stations, they don’t know who those users are.

There are a few anecdotes, said Schmidt. He noted that at Walnut Grove, there was at least one resident who seemed to have been dropping off his car in the community centre parking lot overnight, picking it up in the morning after it had finished charging.

The Township has been picking up the tab for the slow-charging stations, which take about 90 minutes to top up an electric car’s batteries.

In the future, they will move to some kind of fee for charging, once demand has increased. So far there’s no schedule in place for that, Schmidt said.

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