Saturday, July 26, 2008

Matthew Claxton Comes Begging For Electric Cars

I was in Seattle all day Friday on a client emergency. Of course I traveled the rails with the AMTRAK Cascades trains service, leaving early in the morning, and getting back late Friday evening. I was lucky to get a ticket on such short notice. When I got to the station the ticket clerk announced that all trains south of Seattle were sold out today. I was going to stay the weekend to relax, but all the trains were booked solid until next Tuesday!

The Cascades has always been very popular and usually sold out every weekend. But now the weekdays are selling out. My fellow passengers all talked about high gas prices and stress bringing many people to the rails. I got some work done on the train, read three US newspapers, and ate my favourite Hebrew National hotdogs from the Bistro Car. How civilized. Anyway....

I returned to find myself doing a late night read of the Langley Advance. Matthew Claxton had an article about light rail expert Brent Graham that Nathan blogged about on Friday. Then I found this gem from Matthew on electric cars. Like Matthew I'm generally making lots of local trips and with a bus once per hour on many of the routes I travel, its not a viable option for me. I'm a big guy, so the sight of a middle-aged fat man on an electric scooter would not be a pretty sight around Langley, therefore that is not in my cards. There's no light rail or streetcars, so that's out...for now.

I could easily get into a sleek little electric vehicle and zip around town very easily. Like some cities in the UK, we could even have public charging stations and multifamily residences could get them if Township Councillor Kim Richter's motion that I wrote about on Thursday passes the vote this coming Monday.

Matthew said, "I asked the mayors of both Langleys if they had given any thought yet to the idea of low-speed electric vehicles.

"I've been getting a ton of emails," noted Township Mayor Kurt Alberts.

They aren't from residents clamouring for the cars, though, they're emails from a company that makes them.

He also pointed out, quite rightly, that there are a couple of problems with getting around the Township in a low-speed vehicle.

You could, for example, get around one neighbourhood with relative ease. But how do you get from Walnut Grove to Fort Langley? From Murrayville to Aldergrove? All the major connecting roads between communities have speed limits of 60 to 80 km/h. Even if you had a car that could travel up to 60 km/h, it probably wouldn't be welcome on 16th Avenue, where people prefer to travel 80 to 100 km/h.

While the low-speed vehicles may not be perfect for the Township, Alberts did note that electric vehicles of some kind will be coming soon.

"They're making some breakthroughs, and we probably have to get ready for it," he said.

In Langley City, Mayor Peter Fassbender has also been following the Oak Bay experiment.

"I suspect that we will look at it [as a council]," he said.

He noted that the cars can travel about 40 kilometres before recharging - but it costs just 80 cents to recharge. That's pretty good mileage."

Like Matthew Claxton of the Langley Advance, South Fraser OnTrax also begs our elected officials and ICBC to be innovative and act now on this issue. We need viable and clean options and we need these options sooner rather than later.


Anonymous said...

What's the federal/provincial problem with these vehicles? Is it traffic safety (i.e. how they interface with other cars)?

Joe Zaccaria said...

I gather from all the discussions I've read that their speed limitations (60 km/h), as well as the Motor Vehicle Act, Part 3, section 145 about slow driving would have to somehow be amended if these vehicles were to operate on roadways with speed limits higher than 60/ km h.

Slow Driving

145 (1) A person must not drive a motor vehicle at so slow a speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.

(2) If the driver of a motor vehicle is driving at so slow a speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, a peace officer may require the driver to increase his or her speed, or to remove the motor vehicle from the roadway to the nearest suitable place and to refrain from causing or allowing the motor vehicle to move from that place until directed to do so by a peace officer.