Vancouver’s where EVs plug and play

It’s hard to think of a better place than Vancouver if you want to establish a beachhead for electric cars in Canada.

It’s hard to think of a better place than Vancouver if you want to establish a beachhead for electric cars in Canada.

With its self-styled green image, openness to new technology and increasingly congested streets, the city seems like an ideal place to test drive zero-emission electric vehicles (EVs) and the infrastructure they need to make them practical.

Word that Nissan-badged EVs will be arriving in 2011 is cementing its reputation.

The Nissan-Renault Alliance has signed a memorandum of understanding with Vancouver and BC Hydro to bring Nissan’s LEAF EV into fleet use a year before it goes on sale worldwide.

Mark McDade, Nissan Canada’s EV project manager, stresses this is not a test run for a pre-production prototype.

“These are not early trials for Nissan Canada,” he says. “These are production-ready, ready-for-consumption vehicles.”

Vancouver already has a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle in its fleet — a Prius sporting a conversion module that allows for charging on the grid and increases its electrical capacity 10 times.

It also has an agreement with Nissan competitor Mitsubishi to test two of the Japanese automaker’s i-MiEV models, scheduled to arrive later this year.

The LEAF will have a range of 160 kilometres of stop-and-go city driving. It can be recharged with normal 110-volt household current, 208-volt systems normally used for stoves, washers and dryers, and eventually 480-volt quick-chargers.