By Breanne Massey

Pioneer Staff

The growing popularity of electric car charging stations has taken off in B.C., and now the East Kootenay region is looking into developing just such a network with strategic locations.

Megan Lohmann, head of community energy management at the Community Energy Association, is encouraging the Columbia Valley to create efficient travel options for commuters and tourists alike, while offering drivers an alternative to reduce greenhouse gases.

Electric vehicle charging stations and electric vehicles have been increasing in popularity, particularly in the Lower Mainland and all through the corridor down to California, said Ms. Lohmann. Its certainly something thats been much more widely accepted in densely populated areas which are also areas that are traditionally a little bit easier to roll these out in with the population, but also the bigger markets for dealerships to be able to sell more product.

Electric vehicles cost approximately $360 to operate annually as opposed to $3,600 for a gasoline vehicle, according to Dave Carleys Emotive: The Electric Vehicle Experience report.

However, Ms. Lohmann believes theres a push to expand the service of electric car charging stations in the East Kootenay region to boost tourism numbers and to contribute to the PlugShare maps network of existing stations that feature residential chargers; public stations; high power stations; and in-use stations.

Theres certainly a trend that goes to increasing the availability of charging stations, she said. In the Kootenay region, the rationalization for installing stations currently is really more of a tourism reason and thats because typically electric vehicle drivers are checking out online (PlugShare) where the charging stations exist across B.C. so theyre planning trips based on where they can charge their vehicle, which presents a really interesting opportunity for the East Kootenay to draw folks into the area.

The Community Energy Association is eager to help the East Kootenay region develop the characteristics to become a energy efficient region for the benefit of both residents and visitors.

We have a bit of a gap in the East Kootenay, so having the ability to extend a tourists visit into this region is certainly more of a reason now to support drivers locally, said Ms. Lohman. As there is a market transformation in terms of what types of vehicles people are purchasing, the intention is to have a network of electric car charging stations that will be there to support that transition.

Now, the Village of Radium Hot Springs is collecting information about strategic locations and funding to support the purchase of a DC Fast Charging station as an initiative to boost tourism through the Rural Municipality Initiative (RMI) funding.

Radium is a prime location for folks traveling through the Mountain Parks, as there are already stations in Banff and Golden and the distances are within the range of most electric cars, said Clara Reinhardt, Village of Radium Hot Springs mayor. Not only does this initiative fit very well under the tourism banner to bring new visitors to the valley and give them a great visitor experience, it also promotes reduction of greenhouse gases.

The next step in securing the project will be to identify funding to support the project and re-apply to the RMI funding to find out if the electric car charging station could qualify as an initiative under the provincial criteria.

The RMI funding is intended to assist small, tourism-based municipalities to support and increase visitation.

Everything is a bit preliminary, at this point in time,said Mark Read, Village of Radium Hot Springs chief administrative officer. I am investigating costs and potential funding sources. There is a possibility that we will be incorporating a charger as part of our proposed Resort Municipality strategy.

Ms. Lohmann will continue, in the mean time, focusing on the big picture and she is in the process of preparing information for all of the municipalities in the Columbia Valley regarding an electric charging network strategy.

I will go back to them (to present) the strategic locations in each community that will provide co-benefits that means proximity to malls, coffee shops, downtown cores to flag each site as well as mapping out the installation of more stations.

While the Village of Canal Flats and the District of Invermere have accepted information from Ms. Lohmann about the project, the Village of Radium Hot Springs is the only council that has voiced a strong interest in participating in building an electric car charging station network in the valley.

Ms. Lohmann anticipates there will be a rough draft of a strategic plan completed for the East Kootenay region by the summer of 2016.

For a map of electric charging stations, visit