Jeff Heuchert, Gazette staff
The city is looking into installing an electric vehicle charging station on a trial basis that would be available 24 hours a day for visitors and resident at no cost.
“I think it’s a great idea and a great move for the city,” Coun. George Brown said at last week’s public works subcommittee meeting, where members unanimously supported the idea, which still requires final consent from council.
The charging unit has been offered to the city by Ideal Supply, which received the equipment from one of its suppliers. Council had advised staff last year to investigate future plug-in locations for the city but had yet to take any action.
If approved, the station would be connected to an online network known as ChargePoint, which provides users with the ability to locate, reserve, and navigate to units with online tools and an app for their smartphone.
The network currently has units in more than a dozen countries, according to its website.
Manager of public works, Lyndon Kowch, said the agreement to operate the station would be for one year and shouldn’t cost the city more than $350. At the end of the term, the city could re-evaluate whether it wants to continue offering the service and in what capacity.
Kowch said plug-in stations are still in their infancy but growing, and suggested if the city were to see demand increase substantially it could decide at a later date to charge users for the electricity.
While the station does have the functionality of billing customers by Visa or by using a ChargePoint card system, Kowch noted nearby municipalities with stations like Waterloo and London have not started charging for the service.
“As charging can take as little as an hour depending on battery size, the fee to charge is minimal and outweighed by the cost to sign up and operate the billing systems,” he added in his report to subcommittee.
At a cost of just over $1,000, the city could also purchase its own unit and advertise the service on its website.
Kowch, however, advised against that approach, noting any city-owned electric vehicles in the future would still require their own charging units.
Any electric transit bus the city hopes to test under its current agreement with Toshiba would also require separate charging units, he added.
The recommendation to council is for the charging station to be placed somewhere along Lakeside Drive near the Festival Theatre. The only other location noted by staff that meets the electrical service requirements and would have a minimal installation cost was the south side of the York Street parking lot.
Other sites would require Festival Hydro to bring in servicing and could cost the city up to $10,000, Kowch said.
After some concern was raised about users possibly abusing the parking space after their vehicle is done charging, subcommittee discussed having a sign posted with a time limit. Kowch also suggested some additional enforcement might be required.