By Joseph Tohill
For the past 10 years, the city of Vancouver has worked hard to establish itself as a green hub on the West Coast. It boasts a bustling green economy, alternative transportation networks, and LEED certified civic buildings. But for a city that prides itself on its green values, it has until recently been surprisingly devoid of electric vehicles and EV infrastructure.
Such a glaring gap in its sustainable image had left many Vancouverites asking why the city, that devotes considerable resources to promoting the green economy, would be so weak when it comes to electric vehicles. After all, Vancouver features a dense urban core, mixed use developments, and many of its residents are environmentally conscious. It would seem an optimal place to invest heavily in EVs.
In a sudden reversal of the trend, the present city council has decided to make EV ownership a priority in Vancouver.
The city has increased its EV fleet from 3 to 16, with the purchase of 13 new Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric vehicles. Another 17 EVs are slated for purchase in 2013. Mayor Gregor Robertson hopes Vancouver will boast the greenest municipal vehicle fleet in the country in less than a year.
EV Charging Stations in Vancouver
But of course, all of this emphasis on EV ownership will mean nothing without the requisite infrastructure. EV charging stations are still a rare sight in Vancouver, although they have been springing up in increasing numbers over the past year.
Surprisingly, the commercial sector has been leading the charge in Vancouver’s EV infrastructure.
Several parkades in the downtown core feature charging stations, and the large Ikea complex in the suburb of Richmond features an array of charging stations (Ikea has plans to construct EV charging stations at all its retail outlets).
Meanwhile, the city owns only 6 charging stations, 3 of which are located directly outside of city hall. The city has big plans to increase the number of EV charging stations, however, with 67 planned for later this year and 2013.
Although there are only 40 EVs registered in the city of Vancouver, it will be interesting to see how this number increases with improved accessibility to charging stations.
Why Vancouver is Ideal for EVs
In a lot of ways, Vancouver is an ideal city to host EVs.
Due to its geography, Vancouver is densely packed around its urban core. The mountains to the North and Fraser River to the South force new urban space to develop vertically. Furthermore, Vancouver’s planning department has been pursuing mixed use developments for several decades, meaning people often live close to where the work.
As a result of its geography and city plan, driving distances for city dwellers are relatively short. Consequently, “range anxiety” would be less of an issue for Vancouver’s urban inhabitants that both live and work within Vancouver’s municipal boundaries.
Finally, the vast majority of Vancouver’s electricity is generated via hydro-power. This means that the electricity EVs in Vancouver use to juice up is relatively clean.
Although Vancouver’s EV economy is still in its early stages, the city’s recent EV investments could turn it into one of the greenest transportation hubs in the country.
Joseph Tohill is a freelance writer and online communications specialist for organizations in the sustainability sector. He has a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of British Columbia and spent most of his academic career studying sustainable urban development; namely the interdisciplinary relationship between built form and natural environment.