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Mayor advocates EV charging stations in “fossil fuel town”

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Tara Jeffrey

Sarnia’s mayor is calling on Sarnia-Lambton up its game so it doesn’t fall behind as Canada shifts to electric vehicles.

“We really need to get a grasp on this,” Mike Bradley said about the lack of charging infrastructure for EV owners.

In a letter to county council last week, Bradley called for a task force to address the issue and apply for federal Zero Emission Vehicle funding, $280-million program to encourage charging stations.

“Cities, counties and region that do not move forward on electric vehicle chargers will be left behind economically, socially, and will have a profound impact on people visiting and tourism,” Bradley said.

Individual community efforts have had inconsistent results, he noted. What’s needed is a countywide approach involving SLEP (Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership), Lambton College, Western-Sarnia Lambton Research Park, Bluewater Power and the private sector, to see what opportunities exist as the EV market grows.

It’s not even clear how many EV charging stations are currently available. Lambton County operates 13 public stations, and the electrical usage has grown annually, except in 2020 during the pandemic’s onset.

Last year, the 13 stations recorded 456 connections, or ‘plug-ins,’ ranging from a high of 165 at Lambton Public Health to zero at Oil City.

According to chargehub.com, which tracks EV charging stations in the U.S. and Canada, a handful of stations are located sporadically across Sarnia, at different charging levels: Level 2 for 208 to 240-volt, Level 3 for 400 to 900-volt, DC Fast Charge and Supercharging.

“The city has had a couple of attempts, which hadn’t worked out too well,” Bradley said.

An underused charging station installed in the Charlotte Street parking lot as a 2017 pilot project was pulled three years later.

The mayor said he’s encountered pushback for advocating electric vehicle infrastructure in a “fossil fuel town.”

“I’m doing it because we are a fossil fuel town,” he said. “We’re changing and evolving, and the reality is…we need to position ourselves so that, five or 10 years from now — if we don’t have that infrastructure, who would come here?”

Sarnia council recently backed Bradley’s request for a staff report on the possibility of requiring electric plug-ins in new housing, including condos and apartments.

“We have to move with the times,” Coun. Mike Stark agreed. “And realize that electric cars are going to be here, they’re going to be a function of our environment… so we need to get on with it.”

 

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