Trail plugging into electric highway plan

Installing electric car charging stations in downtown Trail is all part of a bigger picture.

Installing electric car charging stations in downtown Trail is not just about providing power to one or two motorists – it’s all part of a bigger picture.

Politicians representing communities from Princeton to Fernie have long advocated to promote the 650-kilometre stretch of Highway 3 as an electric vehicles corridor.

Trail and Grand Forks are the most recent cities to sign on with the Sun Country Highway Municipal Destination program – and that’s good news for Andrew Chewter.

Chewter commutes between Nelson and Teck Trail Operations in his electric vehicle called a Nissan Leaf. He’s passionate and well informed on electric power versus fossil fuel, and writes about the cars, travel plans, and charging stations on his website KootenayEVFamily.ca.

“Commuting every day, I looked at how much gasoline I was going to consume and for a number of different reasons I didn’t want to support purchasing gasoline if I didn’t need to,” said Chewter. “We have so much hydroelectric in the Kootenays, and export our hydroelectric elsewhere, so it’s really neat to be able to drive by the dams everyday – it’s kind of like the 100-mile diet for my car.”

Three units are being shipped to Trail at no cost from Sun Country, which is a Canadian-owned company that promotes the adoption of zero emission transportation.

Using $9,000 from its Climate Action Reserve Fund, the city committed to installing the stations within four weeks of receipt, and must provide power as a no-cost service.

Trail is the second local community to join the eco-friendly incentive. Rossland has been on board since 2013 with two charging stations located in a lot on Washington Street.

“Right now, (with the exception of Rossland) from Nelson to Osoyoos, it’s kind of like the charging wasteland,” said Chewter. “There’s no public infrastructure at this point. So for Trail to be adding them, that helps to fill the gap, for sure.”

With the exception of the Tesla Model S, Chewter says electric cars are meant for use within a city or as a suburban commuter, and not (yet) for long distance travel.

“It’s for things we do on a regular basis, like the daily commute, or going to the ski hill on the weekend or biking (trails) in the evening,” he said. “We are doing these longer trips because we want to try it. But it’s not practical to travel between here and Kelowna at this point. We do save money, but most people aren’t willing to stop for three hours, twice a day to charge their car – only to save maybe $30.”

For those who choose to drive electric over gas, two units for Tesla models and one for conventional (EV-60) vehicles will be installed in the Victoria Street parking lot this fall.

Each unit is considered “Level 2,” meaning a full charge takes up to three hours.

“This fits in with City of Trail climate action goals,” says Trail Mayor Mike Martin. “And the whole idea is to promote Highway 3 as a viable alternative through southern British Columbia,” he added. “And make it attractive for electric vehicle owners to choose this route and come and enjoy the ambience of our country side, as well as residents who drive electric vehicles.”