For newly elected Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Taylor Bachrach the campaign trail was a proving ground for the viability of electric vehicle (EV) travel in the North.
During the five-week election, the ex-Smithers mayor turned politician put more than 11,000 kilometres on his 2019 Chevrolet Bolt.
“It’s not a choice that’s available to everyone,” he said. “There’s still lots of occupations and lifestyles where electric vehicles aren’t yet practical.
“However, for a lot of people in our region who might be a two-car household or who have a short to medium commute to work, it’s a great way to reduce pollution and save money.”
The decision to go electric was both personal and political, he said.
“We’ve been trying, as a family, to make lifestyle changes that reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and transportation is one of the big sources of emissions for British Columbians,” he said. “I really believe that people in leadership positions have a responsibility to ‘eat their own cooking’.”
There were, of course, areas in the riding he was unable to get to by EV, simply because the charging infrastructure doesn’t exist. For more remote communities such as Atlin, the Nass Valley, Telegraph Creek, Bella Bella and Bella Coola, he used a conventional gas-powered car, a 2006 Toyota Matrix.
“We did manage to get it over to Haida Gwaii, though,” he said. “We were able to charge up at a Haida Gwaii resident’s house. There’s a fellow on Haida Gwaii who owns a Nissan Leaf and he allowed us to charge up at his house overnight.”
Bachrach foresees EV travel becoming more practical and affordable in the coming years, even in the North.
“The charging infrastructure still has a ways to go in order to facilitate longer-range electric vehicle travel, but we’re working on a project right now with the Community Energy Association to bring Level 3 chargers to all the communities on Highways 97 and 16 from Kamloops to Haida Gwaii. Once those chargers are in place it’s going to be a lot easier for people to make the switch.”
But it’s not just the infrastructure that will facilitate greater uptake, he said, the technology of the vehicles themselves is improving rapidly.
“The new vehicles have longer range,” he said. “This is our second electric vehicle – the first one had a 130-kilometre range and this one has a 400-kilometre range.
“It still requires a bit of an adjustment – you have to make time in your schedule for charging. Currently, public charging stations are a bit out of the way and most of them are Level 2 charging stations, which means you need several hours to fill up the battery.”
In addition to feeling good about the choice to go electric, Bachrach also really likes the car.
“One of the aspects of electric vehicles is they’re really fun to drive,” he said. “They’re comfortable and they’re quiet and, at the end of the day, they’re not too much different than an ordinary car and I think in some ways they’re an even more enjoyable experience.”
Bachrach had set a goal at the beginning of the campaign to visit all the communities of Skeena-Bulkley Valley, but said he ran out of time.
Places such as Hartley Bay, Klemtu, Ocean Falls, Lower Post, Fort Babine and a number of other smaller Indigenous communities were left out. Visiting those places soon will be a priority, he promised.
“That’s going to be my focus early on in this new mandate,” he said. “This is a huge region and it’s home to a lot of really small villages and rural communities.
“I believe that all those little places deserve representation and that means showing up and understanding the issues they face. I’m really looking forward to doing that. As someone from a small rural place myself, those kinds of communities are close to my heart.”