As I finished my BCSEA Webinar on May 17th, 2016 and watched our Salt Spring Island EV Celebration film again, I sat back and paused to reflect, on how much progress we have made with the growth of fully electric vehicles ownership on SSI.

We were an EV backwater of a few vehicles, mostly conversions by our EV pioneers, Al Kirk and Jon Healey under 3 years ago. Elizabeth May has just opened our Level 2 charger at our local Arts theater and a few vendors had displayed their models. Not a lot of action and not much momentum.

Where are we today? The highest density in Canada with over 87 fully electric units over a population just over 10,000, which is a startling 17 TIMES the average EV ownership across the nation. We have notable repercussions of that ownership. As a fleet, we no longer bring over 95,000 liters of fuel per year. And our air is cleaner as we are no longer producing over 320 tonnes of Green House Gasses per year.

saltspring-evI am so proud of those figures.

Ohhh, and those 95,000 liters of fuel are also no longer required to be explored for (carbon intensive), mined (carbon and water intensive), transported (carbon intensive), refined in locations perhaps as far away as China (carbon intensive), and then transported to the pumps, in our case over BC ferries on special dangerous goods sailings (carbon intensive) to be sold and burned in internal combustion engines (sooooo very carbon intensive). Instead we use electricity from BC Hydro which is well over 90% clean and renewable in BC. Nice!
How did this happen?

How did this happen?

We focused on Metrics. As the numbers began to grow, we initially wanted to answer the question “How many are there now ?” So we started a database to track the owners. This allowed us to be able to answer that question, and eventually address many others (how many RED Nissan Leafs are there – nine)?, what is the most popular EV (Nissan Leaf, 55 or 62%)? Can we calculate our GHG emission reductions? Can we calculate how many Oil changes are no longer required?). In other words, we could use our gathered metrics to reliably and accurately measure our progress.

Here is a sample calculation. We did a survey of our owners to determine their average annual driving distance. We consulted statistic tables to determine the average liters/kilometer driven. We knew the number of cars, so presto, 7,900 liters of fuel per month are no longer required to be shipped to our island. Each additional EV entering our island fleet increases that number and we can quickly calculate the benefit.

We made connections. Every owner of an EV is given a “Charging Station Etiquette Card” ( a dash display card documenting compassionate best practices at charging stations) and encouraged to join Transition Salt Spring. We have monthly Green Drinks discussions. All these connections inspired a community of similar minded folks. And they helped to spread the word.

We became a transmission town. Salt Spring Island has been a transition town for many years and that gave us an umbrella organization to work on transportation solutions, more local produce, Community Gardens, High School solar panels (supporting a scholarship program), a unique local abattoir and many others.

We made an effort to celebrate. We get involved with Canada Day, Earth Day, our own unique events like our Energy Conferences and our ECO Home Tour. In 2015 we had an EV Show that drew 20% attendance from off island and injected over $10,000 into the local economy. After the smoke cleared, 10 EVs were sold to islanders worth an estimated total of $300,000.

We pursued partnership and collaboration. We build relationships with Motorize Auto Direct, Campus Nissan and Sun Country Highways to support 9 free-to-use Level 2 chargers at Island Savings, Country Grocer, Moby’s Marine Pub and Oyster Bar, the Fernwood Cafe, the rental Stop and the Fulford Inn. All participants have been rewarded from their association with these projects. Locals are tourists are happy too.

Yes, all of those helped, but they were not the key. And so I backed up and replayed the tape and looked for the foundation ingredients. It came down to an island with caring people.

As an island we are effectively an earth in miniature. Every action and the repercussions are very visible, so we recycle and compost like crazy. These limits give us an awareness of the fragility of the planet and make us “ultra sensitive” to how our actions effect the environment.

We are also aware from our other local initiatives over the years, that a few kind-hearted folks can make a big difference. Folks like Peter Lamb and Andrew Haigh. They believed in the mission and provided the ongoing gentle encouragement.