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Okanagan College gears up for electric cars on campus

Interest is growing now that Okanagan College is about to become a hub for sustainable travel throughout the valley with the installation of electric car charging stations available at each of its campuses.

“I think it’s very innovative and progressive of the College to be doing this,” said Megan Wood, who stopped to check on the installation when she dropped her friend Maria Marsh off for class.

Marsh, who is taking her Environmental Studies diploma at the Kelowna campus, agreed.

“I think not having a car is probably the best option, but if you are going to drive, I think having an electric car is definitely the right direction to go.”

Allan Becker, who works in Facilities Management at the College and is performing the installations, said he’s been surprised how much interest the new charging stations are generating.

“I’ve had about half a dozen people come by and ask about them,” he said. “There seems to be a lot of interest out there.”

A total of 10 charging stations are being installed between now and March 31, with four at the Kelowna campus, and two at each of the campuses in Penticton, Vernon and Salmon Arm, said Okanagan College Energy Specialist Rob St. Onge. The charging stations will be available to the public at the same rate as visitor parking fees.

“It’s our responsibility as a College to foster a culture of sustainable transportation,” St. Onge said. “Installing these charging stations is just one of the things we’re doing to encourage people to think differently about transportation.”

Okanagan College was one of the first colleges in B.C. to sign up for the initiative, which is part of the B.C. Ministry of Environment’s $2.7-million Community Charging Infrastructure (CCI) Fund and administered by the Fraser Basin Council. The aim is to have 570 charging stations installed province-wide.

Through the program, the province pays up to $4,000 per station with the College investing the remainder of the cost – at approximately $1,000 per unit.

Once in place, students, staff and members of the public will have plug-in access to the charging stations, which are all conveniently located at the campus entrances. It typically takes four hours for a full-charge, but batteries can be partially recharged for shorter time periods without any loss to battery power.

St. Onge said while use of electric and hybrid vehicles contribute to the overall strategy to reduce the College’s carbon footprint, the most effective options are still to use public transit, cycle or car-pool.

“What we’re doing here is not only investing in clean energy for the future, but by having these charge stations, we’re encouraging people to really question their transportation choices, and consider what they might want to do differently,” he said.

The College also promotes sustainability by providing designated parking for hybrid vehicles and car pool spaces for both students and staff.

Some of the most popular electric cars on the road today are the Prius Hybrid, Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Volt, with single battery travel ranging from 18-km to 169-km.

According to the Ministry of Environment, battery-powered electric vehicles can cost as little as $300 per year in electricity bills compare to upward of $1,500 to fuel a gas-powered car.