Thirteen cents worth of electricity turned into a big headache and even bigger bill for a Surrey man who was slapped with an $80 fine for charging his electric vehicle at a wall outlet in the Central City mall parking lot.
Brett Favaro was hoping to add a few kilometres of range to his Chevy Volt when he and his daughter went shopping on Wednesday.
After finding all the charging stations either occupied or out of commission, he spied an open wall socket. So he parked, plugged in, and went into the mall.
When he returned an hour later, the $80 ticket on his windshield described the violation as “using outlet to charge vehicle not allowed.”
“There was no signage anywhere that said you couldn’t do it, so I was genuinely surprised because it doesn’t seem all that far-fetched to plug your car into a wall outlet,” said Favaro. “It’s a parking lot. It’s an outlet facing the lot. I didn’t have any reason to believe it wouldn’t be allowed, especially because it’s allowed at a lot of other places.”
After posting about the ticket on social media, the company that runs the lot on behalf of the mall, Concord Parking, rescinded the fine as a “one-time courtesy” and reduced the ticket to a “warning.”
The general manager of Central City said the mall is very supportive of electric vehicles and plans to enhance signage in the area.
“We have 40 EV charging stations at our site designed for properly charging electric vehicles,” said Daniella Leck. “The electrical wall outlets are for use by our maintenance team for things like power washers to keep our parkade clean. They are not intended or designed for electric vehicle charging.”
Most EVs can “trickle” or slow charge at a standard three pin outlet, gaining around 15 kilometres of battery range every hour.
Favaro, who is a conservation scientist and dean of the faculty of science and horticulture at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, argues making regular outlets available for charging — like those provided for block heater plug-ins in colder parts of Canada — makes sense for businesses, customers and the environment.
“It’s not unusual to shop for an hour or two,” he said. “That might be enough power to get you home without having to use fossil fuels.”
The president of the Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association said the case highlights how the supply of EV charging isn’t meeting the growing demand.
“I do see it being a point of tension,” said Harry Constantine. “I always [ask] why bother putting in a power outlet if you’re not wanting people to use it? I think the better way is for people to get out in front of this and install more charging.”
Constantine said as of January 2022, businesses and multi-unit residences of five or more units can cash in on B.C.’s low carbon fuel standard by installing chargers and earning carbon credits.
“If you monitor your power usage, you can report that to the government and sell those carbon credits. And those carbon credits are then bought by oil and gas companies to offset their carbon footprint,” he said.
B.C.’s recent history of disastrous wildfires, flooding and extreme heat has put climate change front of mind and become a factor in the rapid rate of EV adoption by B.C. drivers.
According to the province, zero emission vehicles accounted for over 10 per cent of all new light-duty vehicle sales in 2021, the highest rate in North America.
And with the trend only accelerating it follows that the growing number of EV drivers will be in the market for charging options.
“I think a lot of property owners maybe just don’t understand the opportunity,” said Favaro.
“We’re in a climate crisis and we want people to adopt zero emission vehicles — whether it’s electric cars, bikes, anything else. And if you have a wall outlet in your parking lot, you have EV infrastructure, and that is actually a positive.”