Nanaimo encourages electric car plug-ins

City council voted to encourage the provision of electric vehicle infrastructure through its municipal design guidelines, which will eventually encourage building codes and parking bylaws to allow for facilities that can recharge electric vehicles.

Alexander Jaworski

Alexander Jaworski

Nanaimo has its headlights pointed at the future when it comes to sustainability.

City council voted to encourage the provision of electric vehicle infrastructure through its municipal design guidelines, which will eventually encourage building codes and parking bylaws to enable facilities that can recharge electric vehicles.

The city’s Transportation Advisory Committee, after listening to a presentation from the Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association in May, wants Nanaimo to take advantage of available technology and become a provincial leader.

“From my perspective, I think it’s the future,” said Coun. Jim Kipp, who sits on the committee. “It’s at least part of the future. We’re never going to get out of the dinosaur oil industry, but there are a lot of people that prefer the alternatives and it’s important to provide, or at least make accessible, the technology they need to be sustainable.”

Kipp rides an electric scooter during his daily travels and said it is often difficult to find an outside outlet to power up. For most scooters, a simple 110-volt plug-in is required, but for passenger vehicles, a larger 220-volt plug-in is required.

To provide better access to people with electric vehicles, council will use the zoning bylaw to provide incentive for builders to install EV charging stations.

“Our first aim is multi-unit facilities,” said Kipp. “But anything with high-voltage or high-rate charging – it’s fairly skookum electrical requirement and we can’t demand it yet because it’s not in the building code. The best we can do right now is provide [rebates] or some kind of incentives for builders to provide them and so far builders have been onside.”

Nanaimo’s new zoning bylaw is expected to ensure electric vehicle charging stations will be widely permitted, something Randy Holmquist, owner of Errington-based Canadian Electric Vehicles, said will entice consumers to purchase electric vehicles.

“It’s an awesome move. These cars are coming and it’s like having a gas car with nowhere to fuel up,” said Holmquist. “The nice thing about electric cars is that you can fuel them up at home every night.”

A change in parking bylaws could also provide electric vehicle-dedicated parking spots down the road, as well as places for hybrids and other more sustainable forms of transportation. Municipalities can get around selling electricity, which is not allowed, simply by charging more for an electric vehicle parking spot.

“I’ve been to Vancouver and seen how they do it,” said Kipp. “It’s kinda neat how they have it set up. They have small vehicles, Smart Car parking, hybrid parking and commuter parking and then these electric vehicle parking and plug-ins.”

Nanaimo’s transportation committee plans to work with its counterpart in Surrey, which is at about the same stage in planning for plug-in potential. Both municipalities will look to Vancouver for ideas.

Holmquist’s Canadian Electric Vehicles has already supplied at least one electric vehicle to the City of Surrey, as well as distant countries like Dubai, Australia, New Zealand, Puerto Rico and the U.S.

“We don’t do much on the Island here,” said Holmquist, who has been producing electric vehicles for 21 years. “We’re way behind here in Canada but it’s growing.”

Nanaimo’s Woodgrove Mall is also being proactive on electric vehicles. While showcasing a new Mitsubishi iMiev electric car, Woodgrove announced Tuesday it will install four new parking places reserved for hybrid and electric vehicles in August.

“The time is right to show our appreciation to those customers who have gone the extra mile to be kind to the environment. We share their concerns and think they they deserve rock star parking all year round,” said Jonathan Dallison, Woodgrove’s marketing director.

Vancouver already has a requirement for charging stations in its building bylaw, though it also has control over its broader land-use regulations. Other municipalities, including Nanaimo, are subject to provincial standards.

To further encourage electric vehicle infrastructure in Nanaimo, Kipp said the committee will continue to lobby the provincial government to change the building code to include necessary plug-ins for electric cars.

“It’s a slow process both at the local and provincial level, but it’s an opportunity we must consider now for the future” said Kipp.

To get the ball rolling, the city intends to install two EV charging stations by fall at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre parkade and either Beban Park or the Nanaimo Ice Centre. These stations will be used as a gauge to determine future considerations.