British Columbia

Salt Spring Island lays claim to unofficial title of 'electric car capital of Canada'

In most places the electric car revolution is still a long-term dream but on Salt Spring Island residents have taken to emission cutting EVs (electric vehicles) in a big way.

With 111 electric cars on the island, Salt Spring residents are leading the electric car revolution in Canada

Even the dogs on Saltspring Island prefer electric cars. (Bernadette and Peter McAllister)

In most places the electric car revolution is still a long-term dream — but not on Salt Spring Island.

There, local residents have taken to emission-cutting EVs (electric vehicles) in such a big way that one person believes the island can now lay claim to the title "electric car capital of Canada."

"We drink a lot of coffee here and one day we were sitting around trying to count the [EVs]. Later it became let's count the red [Nissan] Leafs," said Jim Standen, Salt Spring's self-proclaimed electric car registrar.

"So I created a database... and one thing led to another and now we're at 111 electric cars, when statistically in Canada we should only have five."

Sheri and Jim Standen own one of the 111 electric cars on Saltspring. (Jim Standen)

EV's are still a bit of a rarity on Canadian roads but Standen says on Salt Spring new ones appear weekly, making the clean and quiet island even cleaner and quieter.

He thinks that's part of the motivation, believing there's nothing like living on an island to make someone aware of their environmental footprint.

"If you live on an island you get a little more sensitive to noise, pollution and....garbage," he said. "It's pretty easy to hide those things in the city."

Matteo Hermani and Richard MacKinnon of Country Grocer show off the public charging station installed outside their store. (Jim Standen)

The greater community has jumped on the EV movement as well. Transitions Salt Spring, a non-profit focused on environmental sustainability, has helped install seven public charging station. Another 20 are in the planning stage.

Salt Spring's EV explosion has even caught the eye of EV advocate Kent Rathwell, the former Saskatchewan farmer who built the world's longest "green highway" by installing charging stations along the 10,000 kilometres of the Trans-Canada Highway.

Kent Rathwell's company Sun Country Highways installed EV chargers across the country. (Hilary Duff/CBC)

Rathwell spoke on Salt Spring a few weeks ago and was so taken with the island's advances that he donated 20 kilogram bags of bird seed and fertilizer to each EV owner as a thank you.

"With Salt Spring there are just a lot of people who care about the environment and put their money where their mouth is," he said. 

"And to commit to a cause that actually benefits you, saves money and helps the environment while incentivizing other people is really awesome."

Last year EVs made up only .48 per cent of all new car sales in Canada, but Standen believes it's only a matter of time before the majority of new car buyers make the choice to switch from filling up to plugging in. 

"As time goes on the price of the cars is going down and the distance they can go is increasing quite dramatically," he said. 

"They're only going to get more popular."