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City ponders plug-in ports for electric vehicles

VANCOUVER - The City of Vancouver hopes that taking a 'build it and they will come' approach to new developments will help pave the way for electric vehicles.

Vancouver will consider making it mandatory for developers to build a minimum percentage of electric vehicle plug-in outlets in the parking lots of newly constructed multi-family buildings. The move, seen by the city's sustainability staff as a North American first, is aimed at eliminating some of the basic infrastructure barriers that stand in the way of plug-in electric technology going mainstream.

The city's proposal, which council will discuss this week, would require charging ports in 10 per cent of parking stalls in new multi-family developments. The outlets would be 240V - similar to those used by household dryers or ovens -­ and charge four times faster than standard 110V outlets. John Stonier of the Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association thinks plug-in technology will hit the mainstream within five years.

"This is the future," he said. "Whether they are electric bikes, or the few electric cars on the road or the plug-ins that are coming big time in the next five years." He likes the city's direction, but thinks it should mandate that all parking spots in new buildings have plug-in power. "If you're building a building to last 50 years, it's ridiculous to put in only enough plugs to last you five," said Stonier, who says the cost of retrofitting parking stalls with outlets will be much more expensive than building them in from the beginning.

But some in the development industry are opposed to mandatory minimums, particularly before the technology is widely adopted. "Is this the right technology? We want to sit down with the city and car manufacturers to check on this," said Jeff Fisher, deputy executive director of the Urban Development Institute pacific region. "It's a bit of a chicken and egg issue. We all support going green, but we want to make sure it's the right green."

The city expects the move will add 0.5 per cent to the cost of building. Council will also look at piloting charging locations at city-owned parking lots as well as on city streets.

Irwin Loy reports for 24 Hours Vancouver.

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