As the number of electric vehicle owners continues to rise in New Brunswick and across the country, so too does the number of drivers stopping to power up their cars along their travels.
And with those stops comes new visitors with an hour or two to kill while they’re waiting – perhaps grabbing a coffee or lunch or doing a bit of shopping or checking out the local sites.
“It attracts people no doubt,” said Marc Spence, an electric vehicle owner from Baie Verte.
Spence, who has had his Nissan Leaf since 2014, said he uses Sackville’s EV charger on occasion when he’s in town and notices it is used on a fairly regular basis. But the real bonus, he said, is that visitors are not just sitting in their vehicles while it’s charging up.
“They’re walking around, having a little lunch, seeing the community,” he said.
Spence said towns don’t get that same uptake when motorists stop to fill up their gas-powered vehicles.
Sackville was among the first wave of communities in New Brunswick to provide the charging service for EV users, installing its charger in the fall of 2014 next to the town’s tourist bureau. At the time, the Level 2 100-amp charging station was among the fastest of its kind on the market and Sackville was joining a growing network across the country, offering motorists the opportunity to plug in and juice up along their route – for free.
Amanda Marlin, executive director of EOS Eco-Energy, a local group that partnered with the town on the EV charger project, said Sackville doesn’t officially track usage of the charging station but there are indications that show it is bringing economic spinoffs to the community.
“I think Sackville is a good place to stop according to anecdotal stories I’ve heard from commuters and people who go to Halifax often,” said Marlin.
Ron Kelly Spurles, Sackville’s manager of tourism and business development, said the tourist bureau staff “informally” takes note of how often the charger is used in the spring and summer months when the visitor information centre is open but doesn’t record specific stats on its usage.
“Their perception is that it is used regularly, and most of the vehicles that use it are from outside of our area,” said Kelly Spurles. “Sometimes people comment on it favorably at the visitor centre, so I would say it is having an overall positive impact on the town.”
The town absorbs the operating costs of the charger, with each fill-up anticipated to be about $1 to $2 per charge.
The charging station is listed on a variety of EV charging station websites and apps, including Plugshare.com, CAA, Sun Country Highway, and more. So it is easily able to piggbyback on a cross-Canada network of EV chargers.
Marlin said Sackville’s location is ideal for travelers, as it is central to the three Maritime provinces.
Use of the charging station was tracked in its first month of operation, said Marlin, and drivers were stopping in from places such as Oregon, Sasketchewan, Ontario, PEI and locally too. It was used 26 times in that first month.
She said it’s hard to determine whether that number has grown over the past five years, because EV drivers now have many more options along their route than they did in 2014.
For example, NB Power and Natural Resources Canada has been expanding on the EV charging network throughout the province over the past couple of years, just recently announcing another seven new fast e-charging sites at various locations, bringing the total to 67 level-2 standard charging stations and 26 level-3 fast-charging stations.
Marlin noted, however, that the number of EV owners is on the rise in Canada so that can only mean good news for communities that have the infrastructure in place to service the vehicles.
According to fleetcarma.com, which compiles data and tracks EV sales each quarter, it was predicted Canada would see more electric vehicle sales in 2018 than the previous three years combined. Nearly 35,000 EVs had been sold in Canada by the end of September, an increase of 158 per cent compared to the same time in 2017.
Across the border, in the town of Amherst, officials there also believe they are benefitting by offering the service. The charger, located behind Amherst’s town hall on Victoria Street, was installed in the spring of 2018 with the belief that EV owners plan their vacations around communities that have charging stations.
“While we do not know the number of vehicles utilizing the EV charger, we are happy to provide the service and have our merchants potentially benefit from any traffic it may draw to the town,” said Jason MacDonald, the town’s deputy CAO/operations director.
He said, for example, the town is aware of several occasions when tourists from Shelburne have used the charger and have supported local merchants during that time.
MacDonald said the EV charger is a part of the town’s overall strategy to attract people to the community and to make Amherst a greener community.
Spence said he anticipates even more Maritimers will be jumping on board over the next couple of years to purchase an EV as the prices come down and a greater range of models become available. More drivers are also becoming more comfortable making the switch with more charging stations available.
“I think it’s a no-brainer. They’re just so efficient, and the new ones are even better,” he said.