By Andru McCracken

Valemount and McBride both have new Level 3 charging stations.

Grade 5 and 6 students gather around Bob Gammer and Eugene Runtz and an all-electric Chevy Bolt. Gammer said that the drive from Prince George to McBride used $4 worth fuel. /ANDRU MCCRACKEN

BC Hydro’s Bob Gammer made the journey to McBride and Jen Walker-Larsen came to Valemount to open up the communities’ newest infrastructure, and both made the journey in electric vehicles. It signals a new era for electric vehicle (EV) travel in B.C.

The stations are part of a growing network of Level 3 fast charging stations allowing EV drivers to connect with more communities around the province. Fast chargers can charge the average EV battery to 80% in about 30 minutes compared to a level 2 charger that can take 6 or more hours to fully charge an EV.

Walker-Larsen said that by the end of the year they’ll have over 80 fast charging stations in service.

“We are planning to continue work to add stations and improve our network,” she said. “Expanding charging infrastructure is key in ensuring we can meet the growing demand for EV’s in the province.”

In McBride, Gammer reported the trip cost him just $4 from Prince George to McBride. That took Mayor Gene Runtz aback who said the same trip cost him $45 in fuel for his truck. Runtz asked the elementary school students gathered who got the better deal.

Tim Haus, an electric car enthusiast who was present at McBride’s event, said fast chargers can give a modern electric car enough juice in 30 minutes to go 300 km.

At the unveiling in Valemount, CAO Wayne Robinson, Mayor Owen Torgerson and Councillor Pete Pearson wonder at a bevy of coolant containers under the hood of a Chevy Bolt, part of BC Hydro’s electric fleet vehicles, and driven to Valemount from Kamloops. /ANDRU MCCRACKEN

Haus owns a hybrid Chevy Volt, meaning it can run on gasoline as well as a battery. While his car can’t take advantage of the newly installed charger, he’s pleased with the development of the infrastructure. He said taking a half hour break after traveling 300 km is okay.

“It’s a very reasonable way to travel,” said Haus.

Haus said charging is widely misunderstood. While the Level 3 chargers are awesome, cars like his can be charged overnight using any household outlet.

Haus is encouraged by the build-out of these new charging stations and is excited about the charging station that will be built at Mount Robson. “They’re going to have four or five chargers there,” he said. “That’s on the highway from Vancouver to Edmonton, so it’s one of the spots where they focus. It’s a great place to stop and charge because you have something to do, and there is a gas station, coffee shop, and tourist attractions. It’s the same as the playground in Valemount.”

According to Walker-Larsen, electric vehicles are catching on.

“BC has one of the highest EV sales rates in Canada with 20,000 EVs currently on the road and this number is expected to keep growing,” she said.

According to current legislation, by 2040, every car sold in B.C. will be a zero-emission vehicle.