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Tourist towns need EV charging stations to keep visitors coming

About a year ago, Jenelle and I drove from Victoria, on the south end of Vancouver Island, to Port Hardy, near the north end. We took a gasoline-powered car. We weren’t sure whether public charging stations would be readily available for her electric vehicle, a Chevy Bolt.

We did pay attention to charging station availability. If we took the same trip again, we’d be totally comfortable in the EV. In downtown Port Hardy, there was a 50-kilowatt Level 3 charger. That’s a fairly fast charger that can charge the Bolt up from zero to full in about 80 minutes. Public Level 3 chargers were even more widely available further south on the island. Level 2 chargers, which can fill the Bolt up overnight, weren’t at every hotel yet, but it wasn’t hard to find places that offered them.

Charging costs were reasonable. Charging for 80 minutes in Port Hardy would cost about US$20. Charging the Bolt for the entire trip would have cost less than $100. The actual gasoline cost was about $225.

The drive from Campbell River to Port Hardy is about 150 miles, easily in range. However, if we had forgotten to charge overnight in Campbell River, it wouldn’t have been a problem. There are chargers in Woss and Port McNeill.

We weren’t thinking about stopping at Woss, but we did, because I wanted to see the EV charger advertised on the highway sign just before the Woss exit.

Woss is 80 miles north of Campbell River. It is still a logging community, but its economy has declined to a point that it no longer has an elementary school. It’s trying to transition to tourism, but, for now, the population is only about 200. Nevertheless, it has an EV charger, just across from the store.

Anyone stranded in Woss for half an hour for charging will probably spend some money at the store. It’s not much of a stretch to think that the store needs that charger to be there. The gas price at which people start buying electric over gasoline cars purely because they can save money, before environmental considerations even enter the picture, is about US$4.50 a gallon. Vancouver Island gas prices are above that.

For now, people will still stop in Woss for fuel. As electric vehicles become more and more common, fewer and fewer people would have any reason to stop in Woss if it didn’t have that charger.

As EVs become more common, widespread Level 2 (slow) and some degree of Level 3 (fast) charger availability is going to be essential to the ability of small, out of the way communities like Woss and La Conner to maintain tourism. It’s easy to drive an EV to La Conner if you know you can plug it in while you’re spending the day shopping here and go all the way back to Portland without stopping to charge. It’s even easier to make a side trip to La Conner en route to Anacortes or Bellingham or Canada if you know there’s a Level 3 charger that can top you up here, so you can be on your way in the time it takes to have a cup of coffee and look at a couple of galleries.


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