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City planning trip down electric avenue

People with hybrid cars will soon get a boost if the citys plan to build five new charging stations goes ahead.

People with hybrid cars will soon get a boost if the citys plan to build five new charging stations goes ahead.

The stations are planned for places such as Steveston Community Centre, Richmond City Hall and Cambie Community Centre, said Suzanne Bycraft, the citys manager of fleet and environmental programs.

This is definitely a trending issue right now, said Bycraft. This will allow the public, those who own electric vehicles, to charge them in the city.

It will hopefully encourage more people to purchase these vehicles as well. It started in Vancouver and I think Surrey has a station right now.

In addition, the city is currently giving its sustainable fleet policy a tune up. The policy will provide guidelines for the acquisition, funding, and monitoring of city vehicles. It focuses on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and setting up target dates over the next few years.

As a result of work so far, the city has added about 30 hybrid vehicles to its municipal fleet and all five of its ice re-surfacer vehicles (zambonis, for example) are electric, according to Bycraft.

Although most passenger vehicles are electric, challenges emerge with Richmonds service vehicles.

Since they are larger and hybrid technology is not as advanced yet, there arent a lot of options, said Bycraft.

Generally, this means the city turns to diesel to fuel these vehicles, as it is the most efficient in powering the engines, using less fuel for more power.

For some, this reliance on diesel raises health concerns since exhaust from a diesel vehicle is classified as carcinogenic. Just because it provides better fuel economy, doesnt always translate to being better for the environment.

However, recent developments in diesel engines have made them cleaner and similar to gas, keeping emissions much lower than in the past, according to Derek Jennejohn, senior engineer for Metro Vancouver.

This is also why youre seeing more and more diesel engines in North America, he said.

Bycraft said the city is also looking at natural gas as an alternative fuel option.

In comparison to other Lower Mainland cities, Richmonds air quality rates about average, said Ken Reid, Metro Vancouvers superintendent of environmental sampling and monitoring.

Similar to surrounding municipalities, it was affected by a series of air quality advisories last month.

We generally monitor from region to region, rather than municipality to municipality, said Reid. So the build up of smog in August occurred within the whole valley. Some of the higher ratings were more eastward, but it varied day to day. I dont think Richmond is dissimilar to other municipalities in the region.

Reid said one advantage Richmond has is its proximity to the water. The sea breeze allows fresh air to come in, but it still depends on wind directions.

Metro Vancouver is working on developing an air quality episode response plan to better monitor response times to smog build up in the summer, or residential wood smoke excess in the winter. This way we can determine which factors can be mitigated, said Reid.