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EV charging might not remain free in Okotoks

As Town looks to expand network of EV charging stations, it could also seek to recover its electricity costs.
NEWS-EV Charging Stations BWC 0035
A Hyundai electric vehicle uses one of the four new EV chargers at the Arts & Learning Campus on June 19.

The popularity of new electric vehicle charging stations at the Arts & Learning Campus has the Town of Okotoks looking at expanding the network, but also potentially charging for the service. 

Operational since April, the four chargers at the Riverside Drive building have joined two others that have been in use at the nearby Okotoks Municipal Centre for the past five years. All of them allow EV drivers to charge their vehicles for free, but that could change as the Town reviews its approach. 

"Two stations is OK, four is getting there, but if we have, say, 15, then we have to both manage them and get some cost recovery on that,” said Sheri Young, climate change and energy specialist for the Town. 

The chargers installed at the municipal centre were funded by an economic development grant to not only increase the EV network but to also use stations to attract shoppers. Young said they’ve seen 700 individual charging sessions over the last two years, so the location has been successful in drawing people to the town core. 

“EV chargers take a while,” she said. “They’ll get 45 to 50 kilometres in two hours and during that time they can wander down Elizabeth Street, grab a cup of coffee or some lunch, and then be on their way.” 

Because the Town gets a preferred rate, electricity for the two municipal centre chargers amounts to just $300 annually. Young said she doesn’t have a figure on charging sessions at the Arts & Learning Campus, but said the amount of electricity being used is comparable to the municipal centre, which will double the Town’s tab for EV chargers. 

While still manageable, the prospect of further expanding the network has the Town considering amendments to its rates and fees bylaw in order to recover costs. Young said Okotoks is reviewing what other municipalities are charging, having found that fees range anywhere from free to $2.50 per hour. 

“It's one thing to have one or two chargers available for free, but as more and more people start driving EVs, it’s not a matter of attracting business as much as providing a service,” said Young, adding if that’s the case, then cost recovery is in order. 

She said electric vehicle registrations have doubled every year over the past five years so demand continues to increase, evidenced by the rise in the electricity bill for the municipal centre chargers, which had previously come in at just $150 per year. 

Coupled with significant amounts of funding available for local governments to install EV chargers, Young said the time is right for Okotoks to give the issue further study. She said potential new sites, including those on private property, a fee structure and the possibility of installing ultra-fast Level 3 chargers will all be part of the conversation. 

Ted Murphy

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