NB Power hopes to encourage more motorists to switch to electric vehicles by making it easier for them to do so.

The utility currently allows up to 70 electric car owners in the province to recharge their vehicles for free at one of its seven charging stations.

"We want to make it easy for New Brunswickers to adopt electric car technology," said NB Power spokeswoman Meghan Gerrish.

"There are not that many electric car owners at this point, but as prices continue to fall, and we get more renewable resources on the grid, then it's something we hope picks up in the future."

In 2013, 29 per cent of the net electrical generating capacity in the province was from renewable resources. As that number increases in the coming years, Gerrish says it will encourage a greater number of environmentally-conscious drivers to switch to electric vehicles.

It's part of the utility's overall plan to reduce emissions from fossil fuels, she said.

Free recharge helps offset costs

One driver who has already made the switch is Dave McCurry, of Fredericton. He owns one of a handful of Tesla vehicles in New Brunswick.

"You don't have a loud, exhaust fume-ridden car. It's quiet, it's a really nice car, and you don't have to pay for gas at all," said McCurry, whose model S 85 can travel about 400 km on one charge.

"The cons are you've got to do that planning step on your trip. So, before you leave, you have to figure out where the charges are and you have to allocate time for charging."

McCurry's car needs between four and nine hours to recharge the battery.

Tesla plans to install one of its own superchargers near Woodstock in 2016. McCurry says that will allow him to recharge 80 per cent of his battery in 40 minutes, and make long trips to the U.S. a feasible option.

In addition to the seven NB Power charging stations, there are 20 more stations installed by private firms, such as Sun Country. Drivers can use many of them free of charge.

McCurry says being able to recharge his car for free helps offset the considerable upfront cost of a Tesla.

The S 85 retails for about $90,000, but the technology pays for itself over 10 years, when the savings from not having to buy gasoline are factored in, he said.

Smart grid technology

NB Power has recently installed three more charging stations at the rear of its Fredericton headquarters. They will be used solely by NB Power's fleet of electric vehicles, freeing-up the two stations in front of the King Street building, for public use.

Gerrish says the three new stations will play a part in NB Power's research into smart grid technology. Smart grid involves two-way communication between consumer devices and the utility provider, making more efficient use of the electricity available.

"We will be able to utilize the energy stored in the [car] batteries to power the home, as required, through the two-way communication of the charger and the utility," said Gerrish.

She says for the time being, at least, residents who buy electric cars can all take advantage of free charging. Gerrish advises that drivers get in touch with NB Power to learn about how they can access recharging facilities in the province.