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Businessman leads drive for charging stations
2014-06-15
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Don Fraser, St. Catharines Standard – July 14, 2014

Electric event at Canadian Tire

What: A public and media event to celebrate a new electric vehicle charging station at a Canadian Tire store. It will feature Sun Country Highway’s Tesla Roadster electric super car and VTRUX, the world’s first 100% full-size electric vehicle

When: Thursday from 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Where: 459 Welland Ave. St. Catharines

Graham Keene is sparking a drive for new local electric car charge stations.

And the owner of a Canadian Tire location is urging the City of St. Catharines to set an example by installing one near Market Square.

“I think St. Catharines and Niagara need to get on this and be ahead of everyone else,” said Keene who himself has a Daimler AG Smart car that’s also used by the store. “We really want to get the ball rolling, we want to create the itch.”

Keene has also set up a charging station at his Welland Avenue location that is free to store visitors. He says the city’s other two Canadian Tire locations have agreed to set up stations of their own.

He is also challenging the private sector and other Canadian Tire locations to set up stations he says cost under $3,000 to set up. Keene points out advertised station sponsorships could help defray that cost.

Niagara itself has about 15-20 charging sites, said Keene. There are none at City of St. Catharines-owned properties.

“We are an automotive facility, we go and pick parts up, so it made total sense to have an electric car,” said Keene, who also emphasizes a number of Green initiatives at his store like solar and wind power.

“So we are trying to be the Marco Polo of this new world and saying … ‘ if you build it they will come,’” he said. “And they are indeed coming.”

The businessman cites a host of advantages of promoting the use of electric vehicles, including the need to move away from dwindling oil supplies, its lighter environmental impact and far-lower operations costs.

These vehicles also now have “incredible torque … are extremely powerful for its size,” he adds.

“What is really driving the electric car is the development of the lithium-ion battery to give us greater range and keep the costs down, the price of fuel and the number of charging stations that (are spreading) across the land,” said Keene, who is also an electrical engineer.

Keene adds for those with “range anxiety” that most driving errands are short range. His store’s car can do 100 kilometres between charges and Keene says he rarely gets below a 60% charge on his Smart vehicle.

Electric cars would “work significantly for a lot of people that aren’t aware it is good for them,” he said. Many other stations also allow drivers to charge for free, or for a small price.

Keene will be speaking about the proposal — and possibility of allowing electric cars to park for free in city parking lots— at a future council meeting.

City of St. Catharines Mayor Brian McMullan supports the idea of setting up a station, and suggested the Carlisle Street parking parage might make more sense for a location.

“It’s certainly an idea I’d embrace,” McMullan said, adding the city has been progressive in supporting things like Community CarShare and preferred parking at the Carlisle garage for hybrid cars. “I’d certainly be prepared to bring it up at council .. so we can get a staff report and get things going.”

Stephen Bieda, president of the Golden Horseshoe Electric Vehicle Association, praised Keene as “a great advocate for the whole electric vehicle industry.”

Bieda also works with Sun Country Highway Ltd., which is developing charging infrastructure across Canada. Sun Country also partnered with Keene’s Canadian Tire store and FRESCO Ltd. to help install the charging location.

He said there about 200-250 charging stations in total in Ontario and adds in some parts of the country, there are more charging than gas stations.

“There is always a need for more for these in the forseeable future,” Bieda said, adding 80-90% of charging is done at homes and workplaces. “With electric car, you can always leave your home with a full tank of electricity.”

Read more at St. Catharines Standard