Kelowna becomes a stop on electric highway

The city's first electric car charge station opened for business Friday, outside the Best Western Hotel.

Kelowna was once noted for having some of the highest per-capita greenhouse gas emissions in B.C., but today it’s an integral link on the west coast electric highway.

The city’s first  electric car charge station opened for business Friday, outside the Best Western Hotel.

Now any electric car driving visitor to the hotel can have a free jolt.

“It’s another way of meeting our customers’ demands and our sustainability goals,” said Rosemary Paterson, the hotel’s general manager.

The charge station is pretty unobtrusive, and clearly isn’t meant to take a bite out of gas stations’ business, but it is a relevant link on a pathway across western Canada, said Kent Rathwell the founder of Sun Country Highway, when he stopped at the Kelowna charge station.

His Saskatoon, Sask. company  has been working with private sector partners, like the Best Western, to install the stations in the wake of the B.C. government creating $2.74 million community charging infrastructure fund.

Announced this year, the province’s goal is to see more than 500 charging stations in B.C. by the end of next March, and Rathwell expects to see electric possibilities go a lot further, by year’s end.

“The mission of our company is to implement electric car infrastructure across the country in a year,” he said.

So far, an electric car could get from the far end of Vancouver Island, to Saskatoon, if its driver planned their path well.

That said, there aren’t a lot of electric cars on the road just yet. Electric vehicles, such as the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt, are already on sale at local dealerships —and Sun Country also sells the electric pickup called the V-truck—but there are few on the roads.

Rathwell, however, has a bit of a build-it-and-they-will-come attitude toward the issue.

He believes establishing charging stations will help foster demand.

After all, once the initial investment is made, electric is the cheapest way forward.

“If people want to help themselves financially, they’ll look at this,” he said.

A full charge is still pretty much free at most places, but once dollars start getting attached Rathwell said it could  ring in at anywhere between $1 and $4. It’s slightly more time consuming than a traditional fill, however, as it takes from 20 minutes to three hours from start to finish.

It takes Rathwell eight charges to get from Saskatoon to Vancouver Island.

Kelowna Capital News