VICTORIA -- If you drive an electric vehicle (EV) in Greater Victoria, the free ride will be coming to an end as user fees are coming to some vehicle charging stations next year.

Starting in January 2021, the City of Victoria and the District of Saanich will charge $1 per hour to use municipally owned EV charging stations. It’s a move that is supported by a group that represents more than 1,000 electric car owners in the Capital Region.

“If we are driving a vehicle on the road we need to pay for our transportation,” said Victoria Electric Vehicle Association president David Grove. “With electric vehicles, the maintenance costs are very low, so to pay for a bit for fuel – I think is a reasonable ask.”

The City of Victoria will add the new charging fee on Jan. 1, 2021. Staff say the fee at city-owned public stations will allow it to support future investments into electric vehicle charging infrastructure. The funds generated will also support other efforts including participation in the “top-up” grants for EV retrofits in multi-unit residential buildings as part of the CleanBC Home Charging program.

“By making it a user pay, those extra funds presumably can go to towards building out more infrastructure at an accelerated rate,” said Grove. “Even this year with COVID we have seen a rapid rise in the sale of EV’s.”

According to the Victoria Electric Vehicle Association, the number of EV’s on British Columbia roads has doubled in the past year. Grove says he expects the number to rise as more people are considering an electric vehicle when making a car purchase.

“There was a notion to incentivize the uptake in zero emission vehicles [with free charging stations] but I think the dollar an hour fee is a good idea,” said Grove. “In society we need to share the costs around and I don’t personally feel that I need free electricity.”

Saanich will implement the new charging fee beginning Jan. 4, 2020. Staff with the district say the charging fee will cover the cost of electricity and the costs required to maintain the public stations. The municipality will also add 20 new EV charging stations to the existing 75 currently in use. The new charging stations will be located at recreation centres and parks in Saanich.

“With the added chargers it will mean better access,” said Grove. “If you are living in Sooke and you drive 50 kilometres into town and you plug in and you pay a little bit you can feel comfortable getting home again.”

Grove says the $1 per hour fee is the price that owners will be required to pay for the convenience of charging away from home. He says it will mean an additional cost of less that five cents per kilometre for the average EV driver.

“I think a dollar an hour is more than reasonable,” said Grove. “Our electricity is produced here in British Columbia so when you spend a dollar you’re buying a local energy product rather than profits exported out of province.”

Grove says both municipalities implementing a nominal fee for EV charging is a win for owners throughout the region.

“It means its going to build out more accessibility for us all,” said Grove. “There will also be some in-flowing revenues to help maintain these machines so when you do need one it works.”