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  • Writer's pictureAsh Habib

Is BC on track to be gas free in 20?

ZEVA, not to be confused with Zeva the Greek girls name, or a brand of nail care products was passed in BC this past week. ZEVA in this context stands for Zero Emission Vehicle Act. The act targets zero emission vehicle sales to hit 10% by 2025, and 100% by 2040. So, quite the ambitious undertaking then.

The 2025 target of 10% seems quite reasonable, given that the latest reports put zero emissions vehicle adoption at 6-7% in 2018. A zero emission vehicle is identified as being 100% electric, hydrogen powered, or a plug in hybrid.

This seems commendable, legislation attempting to actually take action to help better our environmental impact. However, the success of this act lies not in what's written into it, but what's not.

As a blank mandate currently, it doesn't build any supporting structure to actually make this achievement feasible at this time. One of the largest issues with adoption of these vehicle types is a lack of supporting infrastructure in place. It's not exactly common to find a hydrogen pump, and electric stations are still far from what we have built up with gasoline and diesel offerings.

Now, Vancouver is both a tech and wealth hotspot in Canada. So, it's adoption of zero emissions vehicles is higher than most of Canada. So, in general, it wouldn't be crazy to think their infrastructure for these vehicles would be higher than average.

Using the mobile app ChargeHub, I did a search for Tesla compatible charging stations from West Vancouver through Surrey, most of the GVR. At the time of this writing, I counted 26 stations, with a total capacity of 116 spots. Now, obviously, people are going to look at this and say "Why did you just use Tesla?" and "People will charge their cars at home!", and I have answers that will hopefully satiate those among us.

Firstly, using the Tesla compatible chargers as a benchmark. Far and away, Tesla is selling more electric vehicles than any other brand. All of their models produced are compatible on the same charger port as well. Thus, it made sense to use them as a benchmark, just due to raw popularity. This does bring up another point though; currently when you go to a gas station, you don't need a different nozzle depending on what brand of vehicle you drive, because that would be ridiculous.

Yet, that's exactly one of the challenges facing infrastructure; a lack of a universal charging standard. Using technology as an example, there's a reason no one uses firewire ports anymore. Because USB was available basically everywhere, and wasn't dependent on brand. It didn't matter whether you had an IBM, HP, MSI, Asus, etc, you had USB available. Apple often bucked the trend with their connections like Lightning, but because they owned so much of the mobile market, people accepted it eventually. And even that has given way to wireless charging now, of which the Qi standard is the most prevalent.

Secondly, people charging their cars at home is the preferred option. Having a home charger installed allows you to get faster charging at home, and paying the much lower residential electric rates. What this doesn't take into account is how a lot of society lives. In condo/apartment buildings. Not everyone lives in a single family home with a garage where a home charger can be installed. Especially in Vancouver, one of the world's most expensive cities to live.

This also doesn't account for the human in all of us. We make mistakes. A couple of years ago, I was in the middle of a road trip from here in Winnipeg, to Minneapolis with a friend. We were a little over halfway to Minneapolis, about an hour past Fargo, when I looked at my dash and dread hit me. We were so busy talking that I forgot to stop at a gas station in Fargo to fill up.

We weren't running on fumes, but in this part of the country, it's a bit more field than metropolis, so with this in mind, we detoured to the next town with gas on the services sign, and drove about 15 mins out of our way into the town. This was on a Sunday, and the town was like a ghost town, but it did have 2 gas stations. We filled up, and continued on our way, crisis averted, and had a great trip. Something that wouldn't have been possible driving an electric or hydrogen vehicle. I would've had to call and wait for a tow back to Fargo to charge/fill up, likely wasting a day of the trip and being a bit of a dark cloud.

So we've addressed those concerns, back to the infrastructure. As of right now, there's 116 Tesla compatible spots in an area with a population of 2.5 million. And, even with the advances in charging speeds, it still isn't close to the 3-5 minutes of a typical fuel stop. It doesn't take Nikola himself to figure out that this is a perfect storm brewing.

I know it seems like I'm against this regulation, but nothing could be farther from the truth. We need to be promoting acts like this more and more, as corporations will always take the easiest path to profit, and right now, this still isn't it.

So, what do we need to do? Given that BC has given itself 20 years to meet this target, there's a handful of things to look at. The average vehicle on the road is about 11 years old according to the last study I read. Meaning, on average, even if the 20 year mandate is hit, gas vehicles will be on the road for 31 years from now on average. What BC needs to do is start giving consumers a reason to choose these vehicles. Taking away any of the ownership obstacles makes it easier for people to adopt.

The BC government either needs to directly start building a network of charging stations, or start offering subsidies for gas stations to add charging to their existing facilities for one. Automakers need to get together to ratify a charging standard. If people believe they're not giving up anything to adopt a zero emission vehicle, it will make the transition as seamless as possible. If not, there could be a long wait at the charging station. Or you could always buy your car in Alberta...

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