Gone are the days of waiting for lightning to strike the clock tower on town hall before you’re able to charge the batteries of your all-electric DeLorean.
As an alternative to racing at 80 miles per hour toward high-voltage rigging strung up across main street by eccentric silver-haired geniuses in the dead of night, electric car enthusiasts are opting to plug into commercial outlets, saunter on over to coffee shops and sip on lattes for an hour instead.
And as of mid-March, electro-commuters now have the option of pulling over and powering up in Ladysmith, too.
The town installed two commercial Leviton charging stations mid-March, said John Manson, Ladysmith’s director of infrastructure services, at a total cost of $20,000.
The Town has since recouped 80 per cent of that price tag ($16,000) from the province’s Community Charging Infrastructure (CCI) Fund, Manson said.
The CCI Fund, a $2.74-million program announced by Minister of Environment Terry Lake in April 2012, was created to introduce a total of 570 charging stations to communities throughout the province by the end of March 2013.
While they may not be as fast as lightning, the 30-amp, 240-volt delivery systems —“a dryer plug is basically what it is” — allow car owners to recharge completely depleted batteries in four to six hours, Manson said.
It’s a technology representing a middle ground in the world of electric chargers.
Most new electric cars come equipped with 120-volt charging options installed, Manson said, but this first-tier system requires as long as “20 hours for a charge.”
It’s an effective system for commuters able to plug their cars into standard wall sockets overnight, but it’s inconvenient when you’re away from home and your battery runs dry.
“You have to charge it for an hour before you can move on to the next station” Manson adds.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is a 440-volt direct-current level-three charger capable of recharging a dead power cell in “about a half an hour.”
“It’s serious stuff,” Manson said. “You don’t want to be messing around with that in your backyard. BC Hydro’s providing [440-volt] stations and they’re about $70,000 apiece.”
BC Hydro will install 13 “fast-charge” stations across the province, Manson said, including three stations on Vancouver Island that will be located in Victoria, Duncan and Nanaimo.
“Level 2” technology is what the CCI Fund targets, Manson said, and through that program Ladysmith has added its name to a growing list of communities that are home to charging stations.
While driving down First Avenue Sunday morning before last, Mayor Rob Hutchins said he spotted a blue Nissan LEAF parked at the charging station only days after it had been installed.
Hutchins stopped to speak to the couple who were powering up their car and soon discovered that the self-described “electric car geek” had forwarded the location of Ladysmith’s new station to the hundred-odd contacts in his electric car network.
“It’s pretty exciting to get this technology,” Hutchins added. “I can imagine it was just like when the first gas stations came out 100 years ago.”
Hutchins said the town is considering purchasing an all-electric vehicle when it comes time to replace vehicles in the town’s fleet.