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Accessibility to be Improved at FBC Fast-charging Stations

Tom Hackney and William J. Andrews
Wednesday, January 13, 2021

 

A joint initiative by BCSEA and the Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association (VEVA) has resulted in new commitments by FortisBC Inc. to improve accessibility for EV drivers with disabilities at public fast-charging stations.

As we reported in October 2020 (see “BCUC Grapples With Fast-Charging Rates”), BCSEA is intervening in the Utilities Commission’s proceeding to determine the rates that FBC will be allowed to charge EV drivers at its public fast-charging stations in south-central BC. In November, BCSEA and VEVA agreed to work together as joint interveners in the proceeding.

The groups quickly identified that inadequate accessibility could be a serious problem at some of FBC’s 23 existing and 17 planned DCFC stations. While rates are the central issue in the proceeding, BCSEA-VEVA proposed to file evidence on accessibility. The evidence would be authored by VEVA member Jacques Courteau, an EV driver and retired lawyer who has extensive expertise in disability/accessibility issues.

Mr. Courteau says that EVs offer a major new mobility opportunity for persons with disabilities, but only if public fast-charging stations are fully accessible. BCSEA and VEVA acknowledged that FBC had endeavored to include accessibility factors in the design and implementation of its public fast-charging stations. However, they said the proposed evidence from Mr. Courteau would provide examples indicating room for improvement.

FBC responded positively to the groups’ accessibility initiative. BCSEA-VEVA and FBC discussed what accessibility commitments FBC could make right away, without going through the time-consuming and adversarial evidentiary procedures of a BCUC proceeding. Agreement was reached, and FBC filed a letter with the BCUC on January 8.

In its letter to the commission, FBC agreed with BCSEA-VEVA that “accessibility at its DCFC stations is an important aspect of the [EV charging] service.” FBC committed to taking “all reasonable steps to improve accessibility,” to consulting with persons with disabilities, and to annual reporting on its progress toward improving accessibility. Highlights of FBC’s commitments include:

  • “FBC will consult with Mr. Courteau and a variety of other persons with disabilities regarding accessibility at DCFC stations. ...”
  • “FBC will formalize accessibility guidelines for its DCFC stations, in consultation with Mr. Courteau and other persons with disabilities. ...”
  • “FBC will take all reasonable steps to address any deficiencies in accessibility at its DCFC stations. Such steps could include, for example, installing curb ramps and associated level landing areas for operating DCFCs, ensuring parking stalls and landings are paved, and installing sufficient area lighting at charging sites.”
  • “FBC will report to the BCUC on accessibility at its DCFC stations in its annual reviews [in which BCSEA intervenes]. This reporting will include a summary of consultation, a review of FBC’s accessibility guidelines, and a description of any improvements to accessibility that have been made, or are planned to be made, at its stations. ...”

The proceeding will carry on regarding FBC’s proposed rates, which are: $0.27 per minute for 50 kW DCFC service and $0.54 per minute for 100 kW DCFC service. Meanwhile, on December 7 BC Hydro held a public online workshop about its upcoming application for approval of rates at its public fast-charging stations. The application is expected to be filed with the BCUC within a couple of months.