What does resilient, equitable, and low-carbon travel look like on Vancouver Island in the future?

What does resilient, equitable and low-carbon travel look like on Vancouver Island in the future? And how do we get there?

The District’s Climate Action & Natural Environment Coordinator joined folks from around BC in a two-day E-Mobility Visioning workshop hosted by the Community Energy Association to answer those questions! The lively discussions inspired us to envision a total shift to low-carbon active & electric transport and challenged us to define key project concepts for our respective regions to get there.

Why focus on travel & transportation?

Transportation accounts for 37% of all greenhouse gas emissions in BC. It’s the largest-emitting sector and the fastest growing. Passenger transport from our own vehicles and heavy-duty truck & rail freight make up the majority of these emissions, including here in Central Saanich. It’s clear that reaching our District targets of carbon neutrality and 100% renewable energy by 2050 means significant changes to the way we move ourselves and our stuff. Due to the fact that 95% of BC’s electricity is generated from renewable energy (mostly hydropower), electrification of passenger and freight transport is a practical, efficient, and cost-effective component of our shift to zero-emission transportation systems. Happily, BC has the highest EV sales per capita of any jurisdiction in North America, and the federal government’s announcement at end of June that 100% of passenger car & trucks sales must be zero-emission by 2035 will only increase the pace of adoption.

What can we take away from the E-Mobility Visioning Workshop for Vancouver Island?

Those of us from Vancouver Island had the chance to develop key themes for our e-mobility future. Together, we identified connected communities with integrated transportation, broad electrification, and a focus on renewable energy as central to our pathway and were tasked with writing headlines from 2040 that celebrated these visions. Some of our favourites were “10-Year Celebration for Island’s Electric Train, with final station unveiled in Port Hardy” and “Last gas station converted to an electric mobility hub”. Taking into account reductions in air & noise pollution, how about: “Due to shift to electric transportation, Vancouver Island biodiversity is regenerating”. Using these themes as guideposts, we went on to identify ambitious yet realistic projects advance the vision:

  1. Full built-out EV and e-bike charging infrastructure network: A key step to advance e-mobility is inspiring confidence & peace of mind through supportive infrastructure. This includes multi-modal hubs & connections, accessible public charging, and innovative new ideas like e-bike rentals at campgrounds or tourist destinations.
  2. Zero-emission vehicle delivery zones: Use of smaller EVs & electric cargo bikes to deliver goods to city centers, helping prioritize pedestrians, active transport & local business in urban cores.
  3. Regional e-bike and recreational sea-side tourism route: Wouldn’t this be a great way to enjoy the coast of the Peninsula and southern island? No parking stress, less air & noise pollution in our shoreline communities and ecosystems, and fewer cars on the roads for short trips.

Related to #1 above, the CRD recently presented their Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Roadmap to the Board (p. 47 – 96). The roadmap indicates that 770 new public Level 2 charging ports and 132 new DCFC ports will be required by 2030 to accelerate adoption and support EV user needs. The District’s Climate Action & Natural Environment Coordinator participated in the related workshops.

What is the District doing to support & advance e-mobility?

Here in Central Saanich, we’ve taken solid steps to build a strategic foundation for our e-mobility future. Our Climate Leadership Plan targets 100% conversion to zero-emission vehicles by 2050 (and an interim target of 25% by 2030!), and we have dedicated one of the five priority action areas in the plan to Transportation and Land Use to help us get there. In Fall 2020, we adopted our first District-wide EV & E-Bike Strategy, which emphasizes sustainable transportation & electrified transit and includes over 30 actions related to public & private charging networks, EVs in our community and District fleet, education, and advocacy. Our Plan also aims for 50% of all trips made by active transport by 2050 and, just this month, our Active Transportation Plan was adopted by Council after almost two years of public and stakeholder consultations!

And we’re already well on our way in implementing these plans! Just a few weeks after adopting the EV & E-Bike Strategy, we completed a key action by implementing EV & e-bike ready requirements for all new construction in the District. This will help ensure that residents can charge at home & employees and customers have access to charging while at work or shopping. In June 2021, we broke ground on the new Saanichton Village Bike n’ Ride, a community project led by the Saanichton Village Association with generous support from local businesses, residents, and the District. The sheltered Bike n’ Ride will feature bike racks, an e-bike charging port, a bike repair station, seating & solar lighting, and is set to be completed by August. The District already manages several public charging stations – including at the Cultural Centre and Municipal Hall – with plans to install more over the next year. This is to keep pace with the growing number of EVs in the region, with data from ICBC showing that 2% of all vehicles registered in the District in 2020 were EVs and a further 2% were hybrid vehicles. In our own fleet, we have acquired a half dozen EVs and an e-bike for use by our Public Works team for water metering.

What resources & rebates are available for e-bikes and EVs?

If you’re considering purchasing an EV or e-bike, take advantage of the many rebates available! In April 2021, after years of community and municipal advocacy, the province announced that e-bikes are now exempt from PST. This will likely save you hundreds of dollars on your purchase! E-bikes are a great way to tackle longer commutes, travel in rural areas, and leave the car at home for quick grocery trips and local chores. If you’re ready to scrap a vehicle, you can receive a rebate of $1,050 towards the purchase of an e-bike through the Scrap-It program. Lastly, the province’s program providing $1,700 for businesses purchasing a cargo e-bike is still on! Learn more about the Specialty Use Vehicle Incentive (SUVI), which also provides rebates on electric motorcycles, utility trucks, buses and more.

The CleanBC Go Electric rebates helps to make EVs more affordable, providing $3,000 for the purchase or lease of a new battery electric, long-range plug-in hybrid electric, or hydrogen fuel cell vehicle and $1,500 for a shorter-range plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. When you stack on the rebates from the federal iZEV program, you could see a total rebate of up to $8,000! There are also rebates available to help with installing a Level 2 charging station in a single-family home (up to $350) or in your condo or apartment (up to $2,000). For the latter, PlugIn BC’s EV Charging Station Advisors are here to help with five free hours of advice for employers, residents of multi-unit residential buildings and strata councils.

Check out the series of EV factsheets & videos created by the CRD, City of Victoria and District of Saanich through their EV awareness campaign. And of course, PlugShare can help you find the closest EV charging station when you’re out and about! Available online and as a free app for iSO and Android.

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