The approximately 700 Manitobans who own a battery electric vehicle likely do not need financial help to pay for parking. People who paid the higher sticker price of an EV can presumably find a toonie or two to feed a parking meter.
Allowing them to park for free at city lots and street meters, as is currently proposed by one city councillor, is more like a public signal that the Winnipeg pioneers of EV vehicles deserve respect.
While the vast majority of Winnipeg drivers continue to express personal hesitation about making the switch from internal-combustion engines — commonly voiced reasons are that EVs are initially expensive, and charging stations are scarce — some drivers of commendable conviction are blazing the trail toward this sustainable form of clean energy.
Coun. Kevin Klein (Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood) proposes that Winnipeg show its gratitude to these EV drivers in a small but tangible, way. It’s one of many recent proposals from this councillor, who has made obvious efforts to raise his public profile since Mayor Brian Bowman announced he will not run for re-election. Mr. Klein’s pitches in past weeks have included a tax rebate for backyard composters, prioritizing police officers and bus drivers for COVID-19 vaccinations, and giving hotels a grant worth half the taxes they pay.
Amid his blitz of ideas, the proposal related to electric vehicles is one that would seem to deserve traction. In a motion that will be debated Friday at a meeting of the Assiniboia community committee, he asks the city to consider a permit process that would let eligible EVs park for free for five hours at city parking lots and street meters.
It’s the least this city can do to catch up to other jurisdictions that are doing much more.
Winnipeg has about half as many public chargers available as Edmonton, and less than a third of what’s available in Quebec City. This shortage of chargers will be eased to a small degree, owing to the federal government’s February announcement that it will install 31 additional Level 2 chargers in Manitoba.
The notion of giving EV drivers free parking is already common in other countries such as Norway, where EVs are also allowed to drive bus lanes.
One would think Manitoba would be a poster province for clean transportation, given that this province has among the lowest electricity rates in North America. Manitoba Hydro says an EV that travels 15,000 kilometres per year would use about the same amount of energy as an electric water heater, with the driver paying only $0.02 per kilometer driven.
But while the provincial government in Manitoba says the right things about moving to clean energy, words don’t pay for vehicles. Manitoba Conservation and Climate Minister Sarah Guillemard has said lowering emissions from the transportation sector is a priority, but while she awaits a report from an advisory council on how to proceed, other provinces already offer financial incentives to prospective EV buyers. Quebec offers up to $8,000 and British Columbia offers $3,000, alongside the additional federal grant of $5,000 for fully-electric purchases.
It’s a tribute to Manitoba EV owners that even while getting scant support from their governments, they decided to plug in and do right by the environment. Someone has to model how to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions; someone has to become the harbinger of a better way to drive.
Giving them a break on parking meters is a bit like giving them a trophy: it’s not worth much financially, but it’s recognition of an admirable achievement.