If you drive an electric car in the Boundary, you may no longer get a free recharge in Grand Forks. The city is now looking to charge drivers using the city’s two free public electric vehicle charging stations after determining that a handful of regular local drivers may be the ones benefitting most from the services at City Hall and Gyro Park.
Tourists were the prime targets for the chargers, which were installed in 2015 (City Hall) and 2018 (Gyro Park). By making the charging stations free, the city intended to attract travellers to stop, recharge and spend their time waiting by visiting local stores and restaurants.
“It seems nowadays that may not be happening,” corporate officer Daniel Drexler explained at a May 11 council meeting. “It’s repeatedly the same vehicles charging, which doesn’t indicate necessarily that these are visitors coming through town, but rather residents of the area.”
Regardless of intent, metre data from the two stations indicate that they are being used more and more, and the city is footing the electrical bill.
The City Hall charger, installed in the fall of 2015, has used $637.36 in electricity over its lifetime. The Gyro Park charger, installed in the summer of 2018, has been billed $445.60. In total, free car charging has cost the city $1,082.96 over the project’s lifetime (up to mid-April, 2020).
While councillors were only asked last week to look at starting a public education campaign and the effectiveness of additional signage around the stations, the majority turned quickly to ask for payment as soon as possible.
“I don’t think I want to be paying for everybody’s service,” said Coun. Cathy Korolek when she and her colleagues discussed the issue on May 11. “Why mess around and say that we’re thinking about [charging for it],” she said. “Forget that – let’s just start looking at putting in charges.”
Only Coun. Rod. Zielinski voted against a motion for the city to enter into a fee agreement with the charging company, Flo Network. Zielinski said he wanted to see a policy of intent for why the city operates the stations in the first place and expressed some hesitation with potentially stepping on the toes of private companies like gas stations who may be looking to attract electric vehicle drivers.
Along Highway 3 in the Boundary, there are public charging stations in Midway, Greenwood, Grand Forks and in Christina Lake. The Level 2 charges, such as the two in Grand Forks, are mostly free to use; the higher-power stations in Greenwood and Christina Lake cost $18 per hour but deliver a much quicker recharge.
Drexler said that where drivers are charged for Level 2 outlets, the rate is often between $1 and $2 per hour.