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Councillors approve charging stations

Bob Bruton

By Bob Bruton, Barrie Examiner

Barrie councillors gave initial approval Monday to sign agreements with Tesla Motors Canada to install electric car charging stations – at no capital cost to the city. Tesla photo

Barrie councillors gave initial approval Monday to sign agreements with Tesla Motors Canada to install electric car charging stations – at no capital cost to the city. Tesla photo

Opposition has largely been zapped to Tesla’s plans for electric car chargers in Barrie.

Councillors gave initial approval Monday to sign agreements with Tesla Motors Canada to install electric car charging stations – at no capital cost to the city.

Tesla is offering to pay for 16 Level II stations between Centennial Park and Collier Street Parkade. The charges would be free to drivers – but picked up by the city at an estimated annual hydro cost of $12,000, or $3-$6 per charge.

The Downtown Barrie Business Association (BIA) has offered to help with that cost, although Coun. Bonnie Ainsworth asked about the term.

“I've been asked by the public, members of the public, who's paying for the hydro and why taxpayers should pay for a guy driving a Tesla's fuel,” she said.

“We're taking the BIA up on their offer to sponsor that cost of power so the taxpayers isn't paying, in fact the good merchants of downtown Barrie will be paying,” Mayor Jeff Lehman said.

“But for how long?” Ainsworth said, and Lehman noted it was a fair question.

“I do believe over the longer term the idea was to charge (drivers) for the power anyway,” Lehman said.

Staff will report back, in the fall of 2018, on cost recovery options for the electrical charges themselves.

Coun. Arif Khan asked about the designation of charging spaces for short-term use unless being used for charging, and maximum time limits.

Lehman has similar concerns.

“If we're not designating the spots, how do we ensure that they're not taken up for long-term parking and then nobody can get at the charging station,” he said.

But Rick Pews, the city’s corporate facilities director, said that wasn't the plan.

“Unless we're locking down these sites specifically for charging, which means they could sit empty, then we have an enforcement issue,” he said. “We hadn't planned on leaving them dedicated solely for EV charging. They would be there and I think the majority of people would leave them alone if they didn't need them.

“We hadn't actually considered designating them solely for EV charging.”

Exactly where the stations between Centennial Park and Collier Street Parkade would go depends on a number of factors, and Coun. Doug Shipley asked for a memo on that as well.

“The installed locations will be driven largely by their proximity to available power sources,” Pews said in his Nov. 13 memo. “Installed locations must also consider pedestrian safety and will be away from busy sidewalks or walking paths.

“The latter is important to minimize the possibility of pedestrians tripping over the charging cords.”

Twelve of the stations would work only with Tesla cars, the other four would be generic chargers for any electric vehicle. The stations would cost Tesla $2,500 to $5,000 to install.

Two weeks ago councillors delayed signing agreements with Tesla to get a number of questions answered – mostly about the blend of chargers and interest from other electric car manufacturers.

Pews wrote a memo that answered some of councillors’ previous questions.

The city contacted a number of other electric vehicles manufacturers – General Motors, Honda, Daimler Chrysler and Toyota - to determine their interest in installing chargers.

Only GM responded, saying it doesn’t have a plan to do so and is not currently considering one.

The city also contacted Alectra Utilities, the Electric Vehicle Society of Canada and Electric Mobility Canada; they were unaware of another vehicle manufacturer offering a program similar to Tesla’s.

Craig Stevens, the BIA's managing director, has said EV charging stations are a great opportunity for its businesses. With current charging times ranging from an hour to a couple of hours, EV owners could shop in the downtown while waiting.

Stevens said the Tesla offer is so important that the BIA would consider a sponsorship/partnership to help pay for the operating hydro costs.

Coun. Sergio Morales has said that since this is an infrastructure cost the city would do anyway, negotiating a deal with Tesla that sees it pay for stations, including universal ones, and for construction and electrical infrastructure quoted by staff to be worth approximately $100,000 is also a good deal for taxpayers.

Tesla wants to expand its charging program into municipalities, perhaps to co-incide with the release of its new Model 3. It starts at $35,000 US and has a range of almost 355 kilometres. Delivery takes 12 to 18 months, according to Tesla Canada's website.

Barrie already has electric car charging stations at Park Place, in the south-end, and near the north-end Walmart parking lot, adjacent to Kelsey's Original Roadhouse.

 

bbruton@postmedia.com