When Kent’s two electric vehicle charging stations are finally open to the public this August, it will cost drivers $2 an hour to use them.
“I think this is the way to go, but I do not believe we need to subsidize it,” mayor Sylvia Pranger said during council Monday (April 8).
“It should not be the taxpayer’s job to supplement our driving … I think this should pay its own way.”
The decision came after a report to council on the status of Kent’s two electric chargers, which the district is getting free from BC Hydro.
These Level Two chargers generally take between four and six hours to fully charge an electric vehicle battery, and will be installed in the Agassiz-Harrison Museum parking lot when they arrive in June of this year. They should be available for public use by August.
The staff report also included some possible options for charging fees for the two stations. According to director of development services Darcey Kohuch, most Level Two chargers are offered for free, unless they are located in areas where there is paid parking, like Harrison Hot Springs.
Although there is no paid parking at the Agassiz-Harrison Museum, staff recommended that the district charge $1.50 an hour for the chargers.
One dollar of that charge would cover the BC Hydro costs at today’s rates; the remaining 50 cents would go to cover the annual fee for a network management system that allows the district to charge a user fee.
According to Kohuch, people would need to be using the charging stations four and a half hours every day to completely cover the $820 network fee at 50 cents an hour. It’s unclear if there would be enough usage to totally cover the $820, he said, “but at least it would be a start.”
For councillors Stan Watchorn and Kerstin Schwitchenberg, this was a good way to bring electric vehicles into Kent.
“It’s part of the new mechanism for transportation and I think we need to start to look at it,” Watchorn said, adding that he felt it should be a user-pay model.
The rest of council was more apprehensive about the hourly fees.
“The users should be paying for it and not the taxpayers,” councillor Susan Spaeti said.
Spaeti was in favour with the $1.50 an hour, but Pranger and councillor Duane Post said it should be higher, suggesting a possible $2.50 per hour.
Kohuch said that it was possible to increase the costs after the chargers were installed, but added that he didn’t know what price would make people look elsewhere.
“I don’t know what the tipping point is for people, whether they’d use or not,” he said. “This is all pretty new stuff.”
Schwitchenberg said she felt it should remain at the $1.50 price for the first year, to get a baseline for how people are actually using the stations, and that council should cover the $820 network fee.
In response, Post said “it’ll be clear we’ll be losing money in the first year” at $1.50 an hour.
“I don’t know why we need to supplement those that are most well-off in our community,” he said. “I don’t know how to fix that, I think that’s more of a regional or even a national problem.
“Why doesn’t the makers of those vehicles provide places where they can be fueled? Why do we have to provide that?”
Eventually, Watchorn moved that council provide electric charging at $2 an hour, in order to get a baseline for future years. That motion passed, with Post in opposition.
At that same meeting, council also discussed the grant possibilities for a fast-charging station, which would charge electric vehicles in half an hour, rather than four to six hours.
Two stacking grants would cover up to 75 per cent of the costs of the more than $100,000 charger, but would still leave the district with a $30,000 to $50,000 bill.
Although Watchorn was a staunch advocate of the Level Two charging stations, he said he felt the district could pass on the fast-charging station.
“We get our foot in the door with the Level Two charger,” he said. “We don’t need to be leading the pack on this.”
Schwitchenberg, on the other hand, said “it’s absolutely coming, and I would say why not be one of the first to provide this.”
Post was more inclined to move forward if it could be a partnership between the district and a local gas station. Pranger also spoke in support of that idea, saying that European gas stations provide this service.
Council voted to have staff reach out to the three gas stations in the municipality, to see if they would be interested in partnering on a fast-charging station at their business.