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There has been a great deal of debate in recent weeks around the City of Vancouver’s introduction of a policy proposal that would see gas stations and parking lots charged $10,000 per year for failing to provide charging stations for electric vehicles.

Limited charging options for electric vehicles remains a significant barrier to EV adoption, according to a 2021 survey of 12,000 Vancouver residents conducted for the city. The proposal by the city is aimed at speeding up the rollout of EV charging stations across the city in the hope of encouraging more people to buy electric vehicles – and to address future demand.

Under such a scenario, businesses would have to make charging stations available in 2025 to avoid an increased annual license fee. City staff estimate the cost to install the required charging stations would be $136,000 for gas stations and $100,000 for parking lots. The proposal suggests businesses could be expected to recoup those costs in seven or eight years, according to staff estimates.

Obviously, the costs that would incurred by businesses is significant, and cited as a major barrier by many business owners in communication with city staff. An online survey of stakeholders, also noted that space constraints, a lack of power and limited demand at certain locations are all issues the city should be considering. Supply chain issues were also cited as a significant concern, with many respondents suggesting they would need more than two years to install chargers.

Regardless of what the end result is, most people would likely agree that a cooperative strategy is the best course of action to determine how and where to facilitate EV charging access to meet current and future demand. It’s also important that the process be strategically focused. After all, simply retrofitting specific sites with chargers isn’t necessarily the solution as they may not offer the best location or may be limited in how they might expand to address the increasing challenge.

In other jurisdictions, we see retailers, grocery stores and restaurant chains installing ultra-fast chargers which allows customers to plug in while running other errands. A look at what is occurring south of the border also provides a glimpse of the coordinated efforts occurring among all levels of government to build out charging infrastructure. The new Joint Office of Energy and Transportation has helped 44 states in the past two months with technical assistance as part of the White House’s $7.5 billion deployment to build a national electric vehicle charging network. It also creates a framework for collaboration among national regional, state, local and tribal governments as well as the private sector on building EV charging stations.

If we are to keep pace with the increasing adoption of clean energy vehicles, we need to build the charging infrastructure to keep pace – but we must do so in a thoughtful, collaborative, and strategic manner that addresses the needs of today but more importantly, anticipates our needs well into the future.

Blair Qualey is President and CEO of the New Car Dealers Association of BC. You can email him at bqualey@newcardealers.ca