Electric Vehicles are Invading Salt Spring Island

Sun Country Highway
Jim Standen, Coordinator of the Salt Spring Electric Vehicle Show
Jim Standen, Coordinator of the Salt Spring Electric Vehicle Show

How does an island with the population of 10,000 have the highest number of electric cars per capita in Canada? The national average is 0.01%, and Salt Spring Island, BC has nearly 5%, with 49 electric car owners, and that number is growing.

“And it’s not just electric cars”, says Jim Standen, coordinator of the Electric Vehicle Show and member of Transition Salt Spring. “The number of electric cars is growing almost daily, plus there’s been a spike in electric bikes and there is even an electric boat on the island.”

“And that number doesn’t even include hybrid”, notes Janet Clouston, General Manager at the Salt Spring Island Chamber and Visitors Center. “The market is definitely growing quickly, we now have a critical mass on board with EV”.

Janet Clouston, GM Salt Spring Island Chamber and Visitors Centre
Janet Clouston, GM at Salt Spring Island Chamber and Visitors Centre

So where is all this interest in electric vehicles coming from? Some might say that the Salt Spring residents have been moving in this direction since the 70’s. “We have a history of having a vibrant ecological movement,” notes Janet. “In the 70’s, residents pushed to became an Islands Trust Act area, which means we are essentially living in a regional park”.

With a “Preserve and Protect” mandate, the island attracts a certain type of person, one who have ecological conservation on the brain. “We are the riding that elected Elizabeth May, everyone who lives here and moves here wants to live in a sustainable way” adds Janet.

With this growing number of electric vehicles, there needs to be the correct infrastructure to support this. The island boosts the ability to publicly charge nine vehicles at once, with chargers at some key businesses and bed and breakfasts in the community. “We had an EV charger donated by Campus Nissan in Victoria, then Motorize Auto Direct in Sidney matched it,” says Jim. EV enthusiasts are working at getting more EV charging stations at municipal buildings like the pool and library, and are working with Sun Country Highway to install more EV Chargers at businesses.
Salt Spring Etiquette Card - Unplug me

If Salt Spring is hoping to attract more EV cars, how does that affect charging times? Jim has already thought of that. “We have created and distributed Etiquette cards to all EV drivers. If you are heading into a restaurant for lunch, you can place your Etiquette card green side up, allowing you to give permission to let someone unplug you and take the charger out if you’re not in a hurry.” Electric vehicle supporters have created a compassionate way of allowing EV drivers to interact, with a clear set of rules. If the yellow side is up, EV drivers can unplug the car if the charge is complete, but if there is no card at all, “don’t mess with it,” chuckles Jim.
Salt Spring Island Etiquette Card unplug if charge complete

It’s interesting to think about what will happen as more and more EV stations and cars replace traditional vehicles on the island. Transition Salt Spring, a well-organized transition movement focused on shifting the island from oil dependency to local resiliency, thinks there may not be any need for gas stations down the road. “The excitement is accelerating, there is a lot of momentum. Right now we are just focused on promoting electric cars,” states Jim, who wasn’t prepared to speculate on the future removal of gas stations.

The Electric Vehicle Show is Friday July 24 – Saturday July 25, 2015 in Ganges, Salt Spring Island, and will give people an opportunity to check out and maybe even test drive EV cars (like a Nissan Leaf and Kia Soul), talk to residents who own electric vehicles, enjoy some refreshments and enter to win the use of a Smart EV for a weekend. There will also be drones flying around, EV bikes and a tour of a solar voltaic array at the local high school.

The event will be a lot of fun, and will help spur additional support for a cleaner, more oil independent Salt Spring.

For more information about the event, visit http://saltspringmarket.com/salt-spring-island-event/electric-vehicle-show/Electric car show poster Salt Spring Island