By: Michaela Sullivan-Paul
A new year means a brand-new fleet of vehicles and 2019 is ushering in electric. This year has already introduced the Audi E-Tron, Hyundai Kona EV, electric Mini Cooper, and Kia Niro, to name a few. Manufacturers are now offering anything from modest to luxurious, hybrid to fully-electric, SUV to sedan, making a vehicle for any driver.
In 2013, electric cars could only offer an average of 54.4 miles per charge, leaving customers skeptical of the capacity and practicality of fuel-free transport. 2019’s line of vehicles estimates ranges closer to 241.3 miles per charge. Car salesperson Josh Blanchard explains, “The technology we have today is amazing if you consider where we were 5 or 10 years ago, now it actually makes sense to go electric”. But what happens when the infrastructure hasn’t caught up?
Kelowna currently has 18 charging stations available through the PlugShare program. 7 of these locations are accessible to the public while others are located at car dealerships, hotels, wineries, and campuses are harder to access. This leaves drivers with 6 charging ports in Downtown Kelowna and 8 Tesla chargers located at SuperCharge by Hwy 97 and Leckie Road.
This raises various concerns for Kelowna residents looking to go electric. Given the surge in supply and choices of electric vehicles, a quick increase in EV cars on the roads leads to higher waiting times at the charging stations, far above the average 3-hour waiting times today.
Like many other Kelowna residents, electric car owner Raha Dang doesn’t have a permanent parking spot, which means charging her 2018 Chevy Bolt in Kelowna has been challenging. “The only convenient charging port was at the Best Western. I would leave it there overnight and have my roommate pick me up and drop me off again the next day.” For now, she uses the UBC charging ports while she frequents campus. Once she graduates, she will be left in the same position as other fuel-free drivers without personal charging ports; where to charge today?
Weak infrastructure is not limited to Kelowna but is a serious issue across British Columbia. Raha recalls some of her frustrations planning a Vancouver to Kelowna trip, leaving left her with a 3-hour layover in Hope and another 1-hour stop in Merritt. “I’d probably be stranded if I didn’t find a charging port in time,” she notes, ensuring that “the best way to overcome the fear of getting stuck is to start planning your trip as early as possible.” Raha’s experiences, like many other electric vehicle owners’, highlights the urgency to upgrade infrastructure before the growing number of electric vehicle drivers regret their decision.