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EDITORIAL: Chargers must pay their way

The free ride for electric vehicle owners should come to an end if the Town is going to expand its network.
NEWS-EV Charging Stations BWC 0035
A Hyundai electric vehicle charges in front of the Arts & Learning Campus on June 19.

It’s clear that if the Town of Okotoks is going to expand its network of electric vehicle chargers, it must do so on a cost recovery basis. 

The chargers at the municipal centre were installed five years ago thanks to an economic development grant: the unspoken arrangement was that drivers would get a free charge in exchange for wandering the commercial core and spending some money at local shops and restaurants. Everyone came out a winner and the Town’s cost to cover the electricity was nominal given the preferred rate it receives. 

Chargers were added at the Arts & Learning Campus this spring and more are potentially on the way, pending funding, the identification of appropriate locations and other factors. This will not only increase the Town’s electricity costs but, more importantly, it’s transitioning the program into one that’s pretty much a straight service for EV drivers, for which it only seems logical that a fee should be attached. 

Charging stations at libraries, recreation centres and other civic buildings don’t come with the same economic spin-offs as those in commercial districts, so if there isn’t going to be some sort of quid pro quo, then it’s reasonable to make EV drivers pay the freight. 

To be fair, the Town has said that recovering costs will definitely be part of the discussion as it considers how to navigate the EV road, and it sounds like the free ride drivers have been enjoying could well be coming to an end in the not-so-distant future. That’s not a slight on electric vehicle drivers, it’s simply an acknowledgment that providing free electricity is not a local government responsibility. 

As electric vehicle sales continue to rise and with plenty of money available from senior governments to install charging stations, it makes sense for the Town to enlarge its network. We’re in support of such an undertaking, but it’s important this expansion isn’t a burden on local taxpayers.