New charger puts Merritt on electric vehicle grid
Merritt’s new electric vehicle charging station will not only benefit the environment, it will also improve the local economy, said Sun Country Highway representatives in town on Friday.
“The big picture is the economy — we’re trying to boost accessibility to people who wouldn’t usually stop here,” said Regional Director Rob MacGregor, who quit his 30-year job as an Associate Dean at BCIT to join the Sun Country Highway team eight weeks ago.
MacGregor and Sun Country president and founder Kent Rathwell visited Merritt on Friday to charge Rathwell’s sleek, electric powered Tesla Roadster, and to officially unveil the charging station, which is a joint effort with the City of Merritt.
Located in the parking lot adjacent to the Baillie House, the electric charging station was installed two weeks ago at minimal cost to the City and will enable electric vehicle owners to charge up in Merritt at no cost.
Sun Country provided the charger to the City at no cost, after the company identified Merritt as a target zone, and Merritt paid just over $2,300 to install it. Economic Development Manager James Umpherson said the City has applied for a government grant through Plug in BC to cover the cost.
“The people who drive these cars often travel in groups, like motorcyclists,” said MacGregor. “It’s very conceivable that they could do a tour and you could have four to 10 cars sitting in your parking lot. But better than that, they’ll be spending money.”
Placing the charger near the Visitor Information booth at the Baillie House was strategic in bringing visitors to the centre of Merritt, said Umpherson.
While their vehicles are charging, which could take up to an hour or more, visitors have the chance to access the visitor services, eat at restaurants and shop.
This fits with Sun Country’s mandate to create a Canada-wide infrastructure of electric vehicle charging stations near hotels, restaurants, shopping centres and other places where people stop.
Since the beginning of the year, Rathwell’s young company has been installing charging stations across the country with a grand total of 100 Sun Country stations to date, the majority in Western Canada. There are 18 stations on Vancouver Island alone.
“We’ll probably have 1,000 stations in Canada, eventually,” said Rathwell.
Until recently, electric vehicles were slow to take off because the infrastructure was weak and therefore manufacturers were wary about developing the vehicles, said MacGregor. By the same token, people were cautious about developing the infrastructure because the vehicles were few.
“Finally Kent (Rathwell) blinked and said, ‘that’s it, we’re putting them in,’” said MacGregor. “Now consumers are putting pressure on companies to get the cars made.”
Sun Country has been actively approaching municipalities and businesses about installing the charging stations and MacGregor said that municipalities that get on board will put themselves on the map.
A website includes a database of all the Sun Country charging stations and an app is in the works with the same information that people will be able to download on their phones.
Both MacGregor and Rathwell spoke passionately about electric vehicles’ potential to reduce emissions and benefit local economies, as well as the potential to relieve financial pressure on Canadian families.
“It’s amazing what an extra $400 could do for a family,” said Rathwell. “It would take some financial pressure off, which could reduce divorce rates, people would be happier and there would be less abuse.
“Changing the world is not that complicated.”
The closest charging stations to Merritt are located in Kamloops, Kelowna and Hope.