For drivers with electric vehicles, the decision by municipal council to provide free power at the three charging stations is welcome news.
On Monday, council chose to provide free power at the stations, at least for a six-month trial period.
This is in line with the direction taken in many but not all other B.C. communities where charging stations are provided as a free service.
The cost of charging is low, at an estimated cost to the municipality of $2.28 to charge a Nissan Leaf and less for other electric vehicles.
While the charging stations have technology in place to allow charging motorists for the power they use, the nearby 120-volt plugs to charge scooters, electric bikes and golf carts are not set up to bill the users. Adding a metering system to these outlets would require 10,000 people using the service before the cost of metering system was paid. The cost hardly seems sensible at present
In addition, one must consider the time it takes to charge an electric car. While the vehicle is charging, the owner is in the downtown area, likely stopping at local businesses and spending money here while waiting.
Still, when municipal spending is carefully scrutinized and when a significant number of Summerlanders want to see reductions to municipal spending, the decision to provide charging stations for free may be criticized on principle.
Furthermore, free power could be seen as a subsidy for electric vehicle owners, since drivers of gasoline or diesel vehicles must pay for the fuel they consume.
In the next few years, as electric vehicles become more popular, the electrical demand may become great enough that it is no longer workable for the municipality to provide free power at the charging stations.
At that point, the billing method must be revisited.