Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Electric Vehicle Charging in Multi-family Projects

On July 9th, the Planning and Environment Committee will consider a report proposing that developers be required to install electric vehicle charging facilities in new multi-family developments. I learnt about this initiative after hearing Jeff Fisher, Associate Executive Director of UDI expressing some development industry's concerns regarding this proposal on CBC's Early Edition. The UDI concerns related to cost, the adequacy of electrical supply, and the uncertain future for electric cars. Frankly, I was surprised by the UDI position, so I decided to review the staff report. You can find it on-line at http://vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/documents/penv3.pdf.
In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that for many years I have been interested in electric vehicles. When I first started working on UniverCity at SFU, I explored the feasibility of purchasing an electric vehicle for the community from Dynasty Motors . However, provincial government restrictions severely restricted its use on provincial highways so we purchased a hybrid vehicle instead. I still drive a hybrid.

So what is UDI objecting to? The staff report proposes that developers be required to install electric car charging facilities in 10% of the underground parking spaces, starting 18 months from now. The initial proposal was for 20%, but was modified based on UDI concerns. The city will also be investigating public charging stations and installations in its Easy Park lots.

While I can appreciate that this will add some costs, and there will be issues related to allocation of parking spaces to those with electric cars, and metering to ensure that those who charge their cars pay for the electricity, I support the city's inititative. After all, this really is a chicken and egg proposition. The number of electric cars will be limited by available charging facilities, and vice versa! Furthermore, by recently agreeing to significantly reduce the required number of parking spaces in multi-family developments, the city has already reduced the cost of building parking for developers. I expect that the additional costs for electric charging facilities will be significantly less than these savings.In researching this post, I was fascinated to see the different electric charging facilities that are now being marketed and installed around the world. It is apparent that this time, the oil companies and major automobile manufacturers will not kill the electric car. It is coming!And as for me, while I wait for my GM Volt electric car, I have to decide whether to trade in my 2008 Prius for the 2010 Prius with its solar electric sun-roof (which can power an airconditioner to cool the car before you enter) and self-parking capability. I mean, ten years ago, who would have predicted that you could find these features on a gas/electric car selling for under $40,000?

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