EV work trucks, chargers, mowing equipment rolled out in electric effort
The first of two new electric work trucks have landed on the island, according to Parks, Arts, Recreation and Culture (PARC) manager Dan Ovington, who told Salt Spring’s Local Community Commission (LCC) the vehicles would replace both the fleet’s aging gas-powered Chevy and a second truck PARC had been leasing.
The new EVs are part of PARC’s work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by supporting electric transportation options, according to Ovington. Funding for both vehicles had been set aside from the equipment replacement fund, and the trucks themselves ordered a couple of budget cycles ago.
“Obviously, we’ve been on the wait list for the last two years,” said Ovington. “We received one yesterday, and there’s some fine tuning to the second one and it should arrive in the next few weeks.”
In addition to the two new EV trucks, a new charger at the Rainbow Recreation Centre pool has been completed, partly through grant funding, and is fully operational and free of charge for visitors using PARC facilities, recreation programs or services. And late last year, Ovington said, PARC purchased an electric mower to replace another aging machine, for maintaining parks and playing fields.
“Unfortunately, we’ve had some difficulties with that one,” said Ovington. “So it’s been returned to the manufacturer.”
Ovington said PARC was working to source a different mower — still electric — from another manufacturer. A greenhouse gas reduction study was recently completed for the Rainbow Recreation Centre, identifying several ways PARC can lower its emissions there; Ovington said staff are including recommendations from that study both in the five-year capital plan and as part of their equipment replacement program.
PARC’s moves toward electrifying its fleet come as increased demand for electric charging facilities seems to have led to a shift in priorities for BC Hydro, according to LCC member and CRD director Gary Holman — at least in terms of how it views electric vehicle charging on Salt Spring Island. Holman said a meeting set up by the Salt Spring EV Group’s Jim Standen with the provincial utility has led to a “reasonably good possibility” for DC fast chargers on the island, with the first one likely to be sited near current Level-2 chargers at the northwest side of the Country Grocer complex.
“The devil’s in the details,” said Holman, speaking during the LCC’s Sept. 21 meeting. “But just within the space of a couple years, this is a completely new attitude that BC Hydro has toward Salt Spring specifically, but I think also to smaller communities.”
Earlier focus, he said, had been on highway-based solutions for larger metropolitan areas. Just a couple of years ago, according to Holman, BC Hydro had no interest in participating in capital, labour or operating expenses for a fast charger on the island — what would have been, and still is, a “several hundred thousand dollar” investment. But given the adoption rate on Salt Spring — and the push by BC Transit toward electrification of its buses, even in rural areas — attention is turning toward those smaller user bases.
“Salt Spring is on their radar, because we put ourselves on their radar,” said Holman.
Ovington said Growing Community grant funding had been secured to develop conceptual designs for the CRD property on Kanaka Road — not only to support PARC’s maintenance needs, but as a support and charging location for the eventually all-electric BC Transit buses on Salt Spring.
“We were approved for close to $500,000,” said Ovington, with a timeframe of five years.
PARC applied for funds to prepare the site for a future build, including design, clearing the lot and bringing in sewer, water and power. A fabricated steel maintenance facility could also be included with this grant funding, said Ovington — with matching funds from PARC of 25 per cent.
Ovington called the project “very preliminary” as conceptual designs need to be developed first; LCC member Brian Webster said he felt a site tour for the commission would be appropriate, given some public feedback that envisions other uses for the property.
“I think commissioners would find it useful to see it relative to Rainbow Road, and in the context of the activities that go on there that are required for PARC,” said Webster, “to make sure either everybody is comfortable, or everybody is clear on the direction.”
The LCC agreed to schedule a tour before their next meetings in October — an evening town hall meeting planned for 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 12, and a regular meeting commencing at 9 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 19. LCC chair Earl Rook gave a notice of motion indicating that this schedule — evening meetings on the second Thursday of the month and daytime meetings on the third — was likely to become the norm.