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Of all the Canadian electric-car news that rounds out 2017, the Vancouver suburb of Richmond’s new requirement that 100 percent of apartments and condominiums be ready for plug-in vehicles may be the most significant.

Access to charging in multi-unit residential buildings, or MURBs, has long been acknowledged to be a weak link in the transition to electric transportation. It’s much less likely drivers will adopt plug-in hybrid or battery-electric vehicles if they can’t charge at home.

Electric-car charging stations in Linear City rental building, Los Angeles, with developers

Forward-thinking municipal bodies have sought to address this issue by requiring new apartment buildings to be electric-car ready.

In 2009, the city of Vancouver implemented North America’s first building code to require electric charging circuits in new homes and MURBs.

It strengthened these requirements in 2011 to require that 20 percent of parking stalls in new MURBs be able to provide Level 2 charging. Then in 2013, it required the same of 10 percent of the parking stalls in new commercial buildings.

Earlier this year, San Francisco legislated that new residential, commercial and municipal buildings would need to be able to provide simultaneous Level 2 charging to 20 percent of parking spaces.

A further one in five had to be charging-infrastructure ready, with conduit run to the other parking spaces to minimize the cost of future infrastructure upgrades.

Denver, New Orleans, New York City, Palo Alto, and most recently Atlanta have implemented similar policies.

Now Richmond’s city council has raised the stakes.

On December 18, Richmond Zoning Bylaw 8500, Amendment Bylaw No. 9756 was approved, requiring that all new MURBs feature energized, Level 2 outlets at all residential parking spaces.

Electric-car charging information from BC Hydro, West Coast Green Highway, British Columbia, Canada

Visitor spaces are excluded, and where energy-management systems are deployed, the city’s Director of Engineering can specify a minimum performance standard.

An engineering study of electric load requirements and costs found the new rules would not materially impact overall construction costs.

Not only was installing 240-volt Level 2 infrastructure installation with an energy-management system in newly built apartments cheaper than adding it later, it was actually cost-competitive with providing a standard 120-volt outlet for charging.

As with many cities, Richmond does not have jurisdiction over building codes; Vancouver is the only city in British Columbia with this authority. In an elegant workaround, the requirement for 100 percent Level 2 outlets was written into a municipal zoning bylaw instead.

Smart Electric Drive, University of British Columbia campus, Vancouver [photo: Matthew Klippenstein]

The patient persistence of plug-in electric vehicle advocates cannot be overstated, with the efforts of Don Chandler and Jim Hindson of the Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association meriting particular mention.

Plug-in electric vehicle advocates wanting to approach their own city councils can draw from the model zoning bylaw the determined duo have made available.

Most promising of all?

The city of Port Coquitlam—another Vancouver suburb, best known as the home of Canadian national hero Terry Fox—is considering such a bylaw as well.

Gaining a couple of such wins in quick succession may help normalize the idea of such zoning bylaws as standard practice through the principle of “social proof”—at least among municipal bodies receptive to plug-in electric cars and their benefits.

2017 Chevrolet Volt in Vancouver, BC, Canada

Heavy-duty incentives for heavy-duty vehicles

For its part, the city of Vancouver has released a Request for Expressions of Interest to replace about 100 of the city’s medium- and heavy-duty trucks with electrified versions over the next five years.

Local sightseeing company WestCoast has purchased a BYD electric transit bus, the first of approximately 80 buses the firm plans to electrify within five years.

Still in British Columbia, in November the provincial government renewed funding for its Special-Use Vehicle Incentive, which covers low-speed vehicles, forklifts, medium- and heavy-duty on-road vehicles and support vehicles for ports and airports.

Rebates run as high as $50,000 if the recommended price of the vehicle is $300,000 or more.

The province’s list of eligible vehicles includes the MSRP of every eligible model, which allows for cross-company price comparisons.

That said, pricing is probably flexible, particularly for fleet operators intent on electrifying large numbers of vehicles.

 BYD K9 All-Electric Bus, as tested in Portland OR

The province of Ontario also introduced support for commercial electric vehicles (electrified trucks), and added a pilot for electric school buses as well.

Ontario’s program covers 50 percent of the incremental cost of an e-truck over an equivalent vehicle with a combustion engine, up to $75,000. (Support is also provided for natural gas vehicles and retrofits.)

Rebates have also been made available for fuel-saving devices such as side skirts and boat tails for vehicles that operate at highway speeds.

BYD announced that it will build an assembly plant in Ontario for large electric vehicles, with plans to build up to 900 e-trucks within five years. The province’s longstanding experience with auto plants and its associated policy support for them likely helped here.

While the 900-vehicle goal is modest by automotive standards, heavy trucks are a much smaller market, and the facility has yet to be built. BYD’s e-bus facility in Lancaster, California, can build up to 1,500 fully electric buses per year.

Canadian retail giant Loblaws announced its purchase of a first BYD electric truck in early November, with the aim of electrifying their 400-truck fleet by 2030.

The company later placed reservations for a number of Tesla Semis; both actions are part of its efforts to cut overall carbon emissions 30 percent by that year.

Electra Meccanica SoloElectra Meccanica SoloElectra Meccanica SoloElectra Meccanica Solo

The little car that could (sell big volumes?)

Returning to British Columbia, electric vehicle startup Electra Meccanica announced plans to attend the huge Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas in January.

The company says it has almost $4 billion (USD) in orders, with more than 120,000 reservations as of mid-November for its single-seat Solo commuter cars and a further 39,000 reservations for the two-seat Tofino.

The company signed a manufacturing agreement with Zongshen Industrial Group to build 75,000 vehicles over three years, starting with the Solo in early 2018.

Given these reservation totals, a follow-on agreement would not be unexpected.

Electra Meccanica has also filed for a Nasdaq stock listing (it currently trades in the Over The Counter market), which has recently slowed its reporting of sales figures.


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