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Kingston: The electric city

The City of Kingston is getting ready to turn on 50 new charging stations later this summer. The plug-in points will allow users to get a Level 2 charge for their vehicle in different parts of the city.

On Tuesday, Kingston City Council voted to accept the three-year Municipal Energy Study released in June as the basis for future climate plans. One of the standouts of the study was a the city’s commitment to the electrification of transportation in Kingston.

READ MORE: Kingston to build 29 electric car charging stations

With a budget of $750,000, the city will install 50 charging units in 21 different locations on city property beginning in August, says Paul Maclatchy, environment director for the city.

The majority of the new charging stations will be no-fee Level 2 stations, which can charge a vehicle in three to six hours. There will also be two pay-to-use Level 3 fast-charging stations, which can charge a vehicle as quickly as 30 minutes.

Although the stations are meant to be taxpayer-funded, Maclatchy said the city will hopefully be relying on federal funding to offset the cost.

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According to the city’s Municipal Energy Study, the federal government is investing $16.4 million to increase access to electric vehicle fast-charging units. Maclatchy said that the city has applied for grant-funding from the federal government for the two planned fast-charging stations. He said they will find out some time this summer if Kingston will receive the grant.

WATCH: Are soaring gas prices making electric more attractive?

Are soaring gas prices making electric more attractive?
Are soaring gas prices making electric more attractive?

On top of the city installations, in February 2019, Queen’s University will begin installing 62 new electric charging stations around campus, all developed and funded by the Tesla Destination Charging Program.

Kingston currently has eight privately owned charging stations, five of which are owned by Tesla, which only service Tesla cars. The new Queen’s Tesla charging stations will be available for all makes and models of vehicles and will also be free to use.

There is also one provincially funded fast-charging station on Gardiners Road, part of the Electric Vehicle Chargers Ontario grant program meant to install charging stations across Ontario.

The move to install the large number of charging stations in Kingston is an important step in the city’s commitment to reducing its carbon footprint, says Maclatchy.

“We’ve known for some time the use of gas and diesel amounts to 30 per cent of the city’s carbon footprint.”

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Maclatchy pointed to Kingston’s Climate Action Plan, which set goals in 2014, to reduce emissions by 15 per cent by 2020, and 30 per cent by 2030. The city believes an efficient way to make a dent in its emissions is by promoting electrification of transportation.

The city is partnering with Sustainable Kingston and Plug ‘N Drive, a Toronto-based non-profit organization that promotes electric vehicles, in their electric vehicle strategy.

According to Iris Spitz, office manager at Plug’n Drive, Kingston is ahead of the curve.

“When compared to other university-based municipalities of a similar size, Kingston is tracking well ahead in terms of [electric vehicle] public charging per capita.”

The city had also already taken strides with its commitment to electrifying its public transportation, with the addition of five electric vehicles to its fleet.

There are plans to electrify buses in the future, although Maclatchy said there is no real timeline for that endeavour.

“The capital budget required to do it is pretty large,” said Maclatchy.

For now, the focus of the city’s funding will be on these charging stations, and the hope that their installation will bring more electric cars to the city.

READ MORE: Kingston woman upset after buying an electric car and finding out there isn’t anywhere in the city to charge it

But availability of electric cars is an issue. Only one type of electric car is available for sale in Kingston, the Nissan Leaf.

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Also, demand for the charging stations may be slightly overblown, considering The Ontario Ministry of Transportation recorded only 52 electric cars in Kingston in 2017.

Since 2010, the Ontario provincial government has offered provincial incentives for residents who want to buy electric cars, including rebate programs that lower the cost.

According to Bob Nichols, senior media liaison officer at the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, provincial incentives have supported the purchase of almost 17,000 electric vehicles since July 2010.

It is unclear whether a new provincial government headed by Doug Ford, who has promised to cut provincial spending, will affect these incentives.

READ MORE: Doug Ford determined to scrap Ontario’s cap-and-trade system: spokesman

Nevertheless, Maclatchy is hoping to see the number of electric cars in Kingston jump in 2018, when he says one of the biggest impediments to buying them will be eliminated.

“Range anxiety” refers to the fear that electric cars will not have enough juice to get to where people need them to go. Maclatchy says most drivers in Kingston don’t drive farther than 40 kilometres a day, so the ubiquity of the stations will allow Kingstonians to travel without anxiety.

Another anticipated obstacle is educating the public about the benefits of electric cars.

Not only are electric cars a way of reducing emissions, says Maclatchy, the cost of driving one is much lower than a petroleum-fueled car. Maclatchy says that paying for hydro for electric cars would be the equivalent of paying 20 cents per litre in traditional fuel mileage. There’s also the added benefit of not paying for oil changes or tune ups.

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These are things that the city plans to highlight in concentrated media campaigns, along with Sustainable Kingston and Plug ‘N Drive, when they roll out the stations in August.

Although they have already started to get the word out over social media.