Monday, April 15, 2024
April 15, 2024

Editorial: Electric switch

Salt Spring Island is electrifying.

 Looking back at the year’s stories, we are confidently ready to stop calling electric vehicles (EVs) “the future” of anything, simply because they are already here. 

Electric bicycles have become more common on Salt Spring than wandering livestock. And it is surely news to no one that there are hundreds of privately owned EVs registered on the island, with more added each year. 

But in 2023 it seems we finally moved the discussion beyond the benighted “a Tesla in every garage” retro-futurism into a reality recognizing it is our “public” vehicles that should be running fossil-fuel-free.  

The Gulf Islands School District (SD64) began electrification of its bus fleet this year, with the island’s first all-electric, diesel-free school bus delivering its first batch of students to school on the very first week in January. And BC Transit’s transition to an all-electric fleet is underway, with $400 million already earmarked for the first 115 buses and their charging stations.  

Salt Spring is prepping its infrastructure to manage electric buses, and both school and transit buses will see double use, as BC Hydro has already begun a pilot project for vehicle-to-grid transmission that will enable electricity to be pushed back to the grid from the batteries of EVs. A few buses can provide enough emergency power to heat dozens of homes and maintain a local grid for hours. 

Capital Regional District (CRD) staff are now driving electric work trucks around the island, as an aging fossil-fuelled fleet is gradually being phased out. The new fire hall is poised to be built alongside Salt Spring’s first Level 3 EV fast chargers, and we just learned of a CRD project to add 14 more Level-2 chargers to almost 20 already on-island. 

Harbour Air’s CEO flew the company’s first all-electric floatplane from Richmond to Ganges Harbour this year. While it was at its core a demonstration — and there are a lot of technical and regulatory hurdles for commercial electric flights to overcome — it gave us more than a glimpse into that future. 

And while it will be some time before we see new all-electric ferries serving Salt Spring, the hybrid-electric Island Class boats will be here — a matching set of two — by 2027, dashing between Vesuvius and Crofton as an interim step while charging infrastructure big enough can be put in place.  

However one feels about EVs, their integration into our lives has already happened. Thankfully, it’s finally “public” transport’s turn. 

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  1. EVs are great! No more line-ups at the Co-op … LOL. I still have to fill up my boat … but there will be no one there! I hope Elon Musk will make EVs cheaper for all Salt Springers .. A Ride Share program for people who can’t afford the $100,000 price tag would be great! I am happy with my e-bike but I would never buy an EV.

  2. Yes, it’s all happening, if a little slower than one would like sometimes.

    But this good news extends to the solar generation we’ve seen develop on island to complement the electric transportation. At 134.5kW, IWAV’s Croftonbrook has the largest single project in the Gulf Islands and that too will be powering local kms when the electrician wires up the chargers already on site!


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