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Confederation Building parking lot in St. john's turns into electric car showroom

Premier Dwight Ball stands with Jon Seary of Drive Electric NL Wednesday at the Confederation Building during the viewing of electric cars.
Premier Dwight Ball stands with Jon Seary of Drive Electric NL Wednesday at the Confederation Building during the viewing of electric cars. - Andrew Waterman/The Telegram

House of Assembly debates new charging network for Newfoundland and Labrador

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Just hours before the House of Assembly debated putting more — and faster — charging stations for electric vehicles across the island, a group of about 20 people walked around the Confederation Building parking lot, sizing up different models.

While standing next to Jon Seary of the non-profit group Drive Electric NL, Premier Dwight Ball presented the prototype of a new license plate with green numbers and letters for electric vehicles.

“That’s one of the things, is that you create awareness for electric vehicles in the province,” Ball said.

Premier Dwight Ball (left) and Jon Seary of Drive Electric NL take a close look at an electric car Wednesday at the Confederation Building. - Andrew Waterman/The Telegram
 Premier Dwight Ball (left) and Jon Seary of Drive Electric NL take a close look at an electric car Wednesday at the Confederation Building. - Andrew Waterman/The Telegram

Seary called on the premier to put 50 fast chargers — which replenish one-quarter of the average new electric vehicle’s battery in 10 minutes — across the province. He says the fear of running out of battery power when driving long distances is one of the bigger obstacles standing in the way of people who want to switch from gas to electric.

“It’s got to happen and you’ve got only a few more opportunities to get the federal funding,” Seary said. “So, let’s do it.”

Ball said the government will look at implementing 14 new chargers across the province.

“We know we’ve got some ground to cover and we’d like to do that with electric vehicles,” Ball said.

MHA Perry Trimper put forward the private member's resolution that set the debate in motion. He says the idea behind displaying the electric vehicles was to address the public’s curiosity about them.

“There will be a lot of awareness from today and I’m expecting good support in the House,” Trimper said.

The cost of electric cars has come down in recent years and upkeep is substantially lower, Trimper said, adding that it is no longer the case that they are a luxury item, with some vehicles costing in the $30,000 range.

“This one was $54,000. This is my own car,” Trimper said. “In the last four years it’s cost me about $300 to operate.”

Electric vehicles were on display Wednesday at the Confederation Building.
Electric vehicles were on display Wednesday at the Confederation Building.

The distance an electric vehicle can travel before needing to be recharged has reached 400 kilometres for newer models. This is approximately the distance between St. John’s and Lewisporte, or between Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Cartwright.

While the province does have charging stations in place, Trimper says Newfoundland and Labrador is currently the only province without fast chargers.

“Now (other provinces) have the accessibility you would have with an internal combustion engine,” Trimper says.

With plans to double oil production by 2030, Trimper says the message this sends to the public shouldn’t be confusing. He says our offshore oil is extracted in a cleaner fashion than much of the world and it accounts for 35 per cent of our total revenue.

“Until the entire world gets off the oil and gas habit, it’s important for the fiscal challenges we have to proceed on oil and gas development but at the same time introduce smart, wise ways to use electricity,” he said. “It’s a parallel. You can’t do one completely without the other, but I do see a weening period.”

Joshua Green attended the event and says he sees the push for electric vehicles as a movement.

“It’s this big technology shift that’s coming (and) a lot of people don’t appreciate that it’s coming,” he said.

Green says events like this are what is needed to educate people on the topic.

“When it comes and when people understand the technology, when people understand how great the economics (are) from a cost point of view and then you add on the environmental benefit of it … it will be a big shift really quickly.”

Twitter: @andrewlwaterman


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