BARRHEAD – It was a good idea, but in the end, the ongoing cost of maintaining two Level 3 electric vehicle (EV) charging stations was deemed too high.
Town of Barrhead councillors unanimously came to that conclusion during their June 14 meeting, voting to pull the plug on the initiative despite having successfully secured close to $200,000 in grant money that would have covered the bulk of the construction costs.
The only remaining infrastructure costs would have approximately $13,500 to run Phase 3 electricity to the stations.
A Level 3 charging station is the quickest of all the current charging station types, allowing up to three vehicles to charge up to 80 per cent of their battery capacity in 30 minutes.
The grant came from an approximate $3.4 million fund from the federal Natural Resources Canada’s Zero-Emission Vehicle Infrastructure Program (ZEVIP). The fund is administered by the Municipal Climate Change Action Centre (MCCAC) and is open to municipalities on a first-come-first-served basis.
The MCCAC is a partnership between the province, Alberta Municipalities (AM) and the Rural Municipalities of Alberta. Its purpose is to help Alberta municipalities, school authorities, and other community organizations lower their carbon footprint by advancing actions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lower energy costs.
The agenda package noted Fortis Alberta stated that the municipality would be responsible for the electricity costs, estimated to be from $1,500 to $2,000 per month. It is worth mentioning that the municipality would be charged at Fortis' higher commercial electricity rates.
Coun. Dausen Kluin asked if they decided against going forward would the municipality have another opportunity similar grants if they decided to install an electric vehicle charger in the future.
"Maybe in five or 10 years when there are more electric vehicles," he said.
Parks and recreation director Shallon Touet, who applied for the original grant, replied that the odds were good.
"The MCCAC is always coming up with new grant programs, so if we turn this one down, there is always a chance we can apply for something else in the future," he said.
Touet added that he recently received information on wireless EV charging stations that are getting traction in Europe and are starting to be installed in select regions in North America.
"We could have installed these stations, but in a few years, they might become obsolete as everyone is going wireless," he said.
Coun. Rod Klumph asked if administration had investigated how many electric vehicles there are in the area that might take advantage of the chargers.
Coun. Ty Assaf, who works at Stephani Motors, noted their EV station does not get a lot of use, adding he knows of only one Tesla driver who uses it.
"In the last year, I have seen it used three times," he said, adding he did not see a way the town could recoup its costs. "It's a great idea, but the infrastructure is not there. Can you imagine if every single vehicle had to be charged every evening? We would have blackouts."
Assaf also suggested the chargers would also be the target of vandals.
Council first discussed the potential of installing municipally-owned electric vehicle chargers in June 2020 after receiving an invitation to participate in the Northwest Alberta Vehicle Charging Network.
Town of Edson mayor Kevin Zahara made the invitation as part of a form letter sent to several of the region's municipalities, including the Town of Athabasca, the Town of Whitecourt, Woodlands County, the Town of Westlock and both Barrhead municipalities.
At the time, both Barrhead municipalities accepted the letter as information. McKenzie, at the June 9 council meeting, said they declined the invitation because they were working on a plan of their own.
It is worth noting that the Northwest Alberta Vehicle Charging Network never came to fruition.