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Charging stations outnumber gas stations on this Canadian highway

Thursday, September 10th 2020, 6:00 am - Hundreds of electric vehicle charging stations are dotted along a scenic route in the Okanagan Valley, which is described as “Canada’s Tuscany.”

Route 97 is an incredibly unique highway. It is the longest continuous north-south route in North America. More than 2,000 km of road stretches from northern California all the way to the Yukon.

Surprisingly, this highway is also famous for something else. It is nicknamed ‘The Electric Highway’ because along the way there are about 2,000 charging stations, giving electric vehicle owners the range confidence to make a long distance road trip possible.

A few years ago, Rob Macgregor, the director of Electrum Charging Solutions, had a dream of installing electric vehicle charging stations on part of the highway that runs through the Okanagan Valley. He partnered with Destination B.C. and other tourist associations in the region to realize this project, but he says it wasn’t an easy task.

“It was a classic case of chicken versus egg. Most people wouldn’t buy an electric vehicle (EV) because there wasn’t enough infrastructure and a host was reluctant to install the stations because there weren’t enough EV’s.”

So instead of working directly with the potential hosts, he partnered with Sun Country Highway, a Canadian company that is working on sustainability solutions, who offered subsidies to qualifying businesses and organizations that targeted destination spots like wineries, golf courses, and hotels.

Okanagan valley BC mia gordon 2020 Okanagan Valley, British Columbia. Credit: Mia Gordon

Macgregor told The Weather Network there are now more than 300 EV charging stations across the Okanagan Valley.

“There are so many I have lost count. There are now more charging stations than there are gas stations. “

Macgregor is also hopeful that a whole new clientele will be able to enjoy this region, which he says is like nowhere else in the world.

“It would be like driving through a Tuscan desert, if there was such a thing, which there isn’t, but basically that is what we have here, Canada’s Tuscany.”

He is right. Driving down the highway travellers observe a sea of lush vegetation from the vineyards with a striking backdrop of different cacti and brush that grow in the Okanagan Valley.

With many of the charging stations up and running, a lot of wineries are trying to encourage more EVs to make the trip.

Burrowing Owl Estate Winery not only added eight charging stations but they also installed new solar electric systems at three of their locations. Kismet Winery is another spot along the highway that has the charging infrastructure and is encouraging more EV’s by offering special tours and promotions.

Macgregor says he has already seen an increase of EVs in the area and estimates that there has been a 10 per cent increase since the stations were installed. He hopes that the success along Highway 97 will encourage other destinations to do the same.

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