Helpful Tips to Charge Your Electric Vehicle and Extend Your Range in BC

With electric vehicle travel accelerating in BC and becoming easier for drivers wanting to get around with fewer carbon emissions and reduced operating costs, we’ve got some advice to help you charge on with greener transportation.

We’ve compiled a list of helpful tips for electric vehicle (EV) drivers, and additional advice for those who travel in areas with fewer charging stations. We’ve also highlighted a powerhouse of information sources that answer all your EV questions, whether you own an EV, you’re thinking of buying one, or you want to install a charger for your workplace, home or community.

Top EV Charging Tips

  • Read your operator’s manual instructions thoroughly to understand your EV’s charging function, how to charge up, and the range you can expect. Today’s electric vehicles have about a 300-to-600-kilometre range per charge.
  • Find out if you need an adaptor to fuel up at various kinds of EV chargers, including Level 2 (slower) chargers. (Some EVs require an adaptor).
  • Plan charging stops around activities like meal breaks, short errands or when you’ll want to stretch your legs. EV users report having favourite charging locations, sometimes based on nearby amenities like eateries, grocery stores and walking trails.
  • Plan at least a 15 per cent buffer to reach your next charging station, in case of accident re-routing or sudden inclement weather.
  • Check PlugShare for details about charging stations, including notes and comments from users, helpful (and striking) photos showing EVs being charged at the location, and notes about any service issues.
  • Try out mobile apps — many EV charging station providers, including BC Hydro, list the stations in their network.
  • Be considerate when using this shared resource. You don’t have to stay with your vehicle while it’s charging, but we suggest that you use a charging station app to monitor when your EV is charged and ready to go, to make room for other EVs. More charging etiquette from BC Hydro here.
  • Report any charger damage or breakdowns to the contact indicated at the charging site, and update PlugShare to alert other EV users.

 Tips to Extend Your EV Range

Most people live less than 25 kilometres from work, so most EV owners need to plug in only once or twice a week. For all EV drivers, including those who live in areas with fewer charging stations or want to plan EV travel further afield, we offer these strategies.

  • Plan to ensure you can reach the charging station TWO stations away. That way, should the next station happen to have problems, you can continue your trip.
  • Be flexible and have a backup plan. (Pack a winter emergency kit – a smart practice for travel in any vehicle – to ensure you’re safe and comfortable should the unexpected occur).
  • Operate air-conditioning and heat with restraint – they require more battery power.
  • Maintain a steady speed — while EVs accelerate more quickly than gas-powered vehicles, accelerating depletes the battery. Consider using cruise control when travelling in clear conditions (but not in winter, reduced visibility or rain).
  • Be aware that steep hills and mountain driving can draw more energy. (But some can be regained on the downhill drive via regenerative braking.)
  • Consider installing a bigger battery if you’re planning longer journeys on routes with limited charger availability.
  • Consider smaller radius wheels/tires – they produce more range.
  • Turn off extra functions — things like security cameras — when charging (especially on slower Level 2 chargers), for a faster charge.
  • Keep within the speed limit to get the range displayed on the range calculator (although strong wind will affect that).
  • Be aware that cold weather demands extra power from EVs – expect to travel 30-40 per cent fewer kilometres in temperatures of -20 C or lower. However, EVs warm up quicker and offer some other cold weather benefits. Using heated seats and turning the heat down a bit will use less energy.
  • Make sure your tires are inflated to your vehicle’s recommended pressure, as it makes a difference on rolling resistance. Be aware that in winter, it’s common to lose air from tires, as the colder temperatures cause shrinkage and air escapes more easily.
Charging an EV in cold weather conditions
Cold weather may draw more on your battery. Courtesy Mark Vejvoda

Bonus Tip #1:  Apply for an  EV decal if you travel in the Lower Mainland or Kelowna. The decal allows you to drive in high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, no matter how many people are riding along.

EV decal to allow drivers to travel in HOV lanes

Bonus Tip #2:  Consider participating in an EV club near you – there are about a dozen clubs in BC. With EV vehicles still being relatively new, you can talk to or message others with your questions or concerns.

Electrifying Information Sources to Get There Green

Explore these well-stocked websites to find all the answers to questions you might have about buying and operating an EV, including some appealing incentives to get you going and keep you charged.

  • CleanBC — Go Electric BC provides facts on fuel and vehicle maintenance savings, provincial rebates to purchase an EV, and the makes and models of EVs for sale in BC. You can save as much as $8,000 when purchasing an EV in BC. For those wanting to install a charging station, find out about rebates of up to $2,000 per charging station and five hours of free support from an EV charging station advisor.
  • CleanBC Go Electric Program delivers details for commercial vehicles, fast charging and hydrogen fueling station studies, a program to help public and private light-duty fleets to move to zero-emission vehicles, a program to support development and international investment in the zero-emission vehicle sector and ways for Indigenous businesses and communities to help with the adoption of zero-emission vehicles.
  • Plug In BC is a hub of information and incentive programs for consumers and fleets to go electric. It also offers a newsletter you can subscribe to, to stay connected with new programs, events and articles.
  • BC Hydro has an extensive circuit of webpages on all EV aspects and offers itineraries that connect with fast charging stations. If you like details, dig into to their electric highway report which analyzes how vehicle range misconceptions are affecting BC’s high electric vehicle adoption rates.
  • Emotive feels like a community of British Columbian EV drivers and shares experiences from amped-up EV owners in different parts of the province. “We know a lot about electric cars…Ask us anything,” the site helpfully offers. A collection of FAQ videos focuses on EV use in northern BC, snowy/icy conditions and rural areas. There are also resources for adults and children which are available in French, Punjabi, Simplified and Traditional Chinese (as well as English).
  • Road Safety at Work offers information to help you operate your EV safely and efficiently. (The different technologies used by EVs can create different hazards, especially in winter!)
Charging an electrical vehicle at a rest area
Highway 5 rest area, north of McLure. A provincial rest area can be a pleasant place to recharge yourself and your vehicle.

Charge On!

Currently, there are about 2,500 EV charging stations across the province, and more stations are coming on line. Manufacturers are producing new EVs in various price ranges – about 36 different kinds can be bought in BC. There are rebates to help make the switch from a gas-powered vehicle to an EV, and for individuals, businesses and strata councils to install chargers at places like single family homes, apartments, workplaces and condominiums.

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is part of the charging network, with about 29 EV charging stations at highway rest areas and other ministry-owned locations. You can fuel up for free there – it’s a “no-charge charge!” (Note: a few rest areas are closed in winter, like Mount Robson and Wasa, so check our website when planning your charging route.)

Our charging stations are part of the CleanBC Plan for a low-carbon economy that creates opportunities while protecting BC’s clean air, land and water. The transportation aspect of the plan focuses on making travel cleaner, more convenient and more affordable. Besides ways to increase EV use, the plan connects with active transportation grants to improve pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, compressed natural gas buses operated by BC Transit and the Island Discovery hybrid ferry launched in 2020 by BC Ferries.

We hope you’ve found this blog helpful for learning more about routes to greener travel in an EV, the best ways to drive (and charge) an EV and the rapidly expanding realm of EVs.


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Page 1 of 23 comments on “Helpful Tips to Charge Your Electric Vehicle and Extend Your Range in BC”

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  1. Over the Christmas season my wife and I drove our Kona EvV from Sechelt to Calgary and back in the -20 to -35 C temperatures. Other than two sketchy road sections the trip was uneventful. In addition to all of the emergency supplies and appropriate planning as per charging stations, range and topography that one encounters while crossing the Province several notes that might be helpful to others.

    1. Carry a small nylon cleaning brush, toothbrush like, so as to be able to clean the charging port of snow and ice that invariably finds its way into front charging vehicles.

    2. On several occasions, though Hwys were clear, the access roads to the charging stations were not. Potentially problematic.

    3. At some chargers where the sight said available and working it was found that the card readers were not. There were work arounds such as Apple pay and triggering the charger from the app or phoning in on a toll fee number to the provider.

    4. It was noted that PetroCan, a great and efficient network, used such thick charging cables, that at -30 C, I could not easily bend the cable to couple to the charging port of the car. Without re-positioning the car, I feared that the pressure on the plastic charging port would break the fitting. I found that BC Hydro cords were much more pliable as they we smaller in diameter and perhaps composed for thinner internal wiring.

    Perhaps some of the issues were caused be the very cold temperatures or perhaps the various idiosyncrasies of my EV, but take the observations as one persons perceptions.

  2. The remark that, smaller radius wheels and tires will increase range, I don’t think is true. A smaller radius tire will rotate more times per km that a larger radius tire. I think your range would be increased by a larger radius tire as it would turn less times per km.

  3. Since you are giving away power to the EV users, how about us who have gone to Split Heat Pumps and Geo Thermal heating systems where is our benefit for converting to total electric and carbon neutral heating systems.

    • Hi there Joseph – thanks for your question.
      We anticipate the project will be completed later in the fall. The ministry is using new technology to be able to operate fast chargers (50kW +) at rest areas like Buckley Bay, which has limited electrical power (single phase only). Before deploying at Buckley Bay, we decided to test the equipment at the Mount Terry Fox rest area to make sure it works as expected. During the installation at Mount Terry Fox, engineers had to make design changes and order new parts. We anticipate that location to be in operation in late summer/early fall. Installation at Buckley Bay will take place later in the fall (much later than we planned). In the meantime, drivers have access to a free Level 2 charger. We hope this is helpful. Safe travels.

  4. In addition to that 15% (I prefer 20%) buffer, in times of variable road conditions be sure you have enough to return to a charger if the road becomes impassable OR know when you will pass your point of no return. All EV owners know that frigid temps reduce battery capacity by up to 30%, however around 0C with heavy slush, rolling friction climbs and range drops, too (I’ve seen drops of 10%). The flooding/snow this fall has really emphasized the importance of planning with these details in mind.

      • Hey, no worries. This is probably outside of your swimlane, so-to-speak, but with the floods in the interior, gas rationing was necessary to provide certainty of supply. Similarly, EV owners were uncertain about recharge sites in flooded areas (Princeton, Merritt, and Hope, specifically). As a result, I (and others) returned from the interior via the US because the charging network conditions weren’t known. Usually, its easy to determine, but with comms networks down its hard to trust charger status reports. I realize that these networks are not a government responsibility, but it might be an idea to post advisories/verify the network during future events. One more thing to do in a crisis…

        • Thanks for this, Simon. Glad to hear you were able to make it home via the US safely. Ministry staff responsible for the EV charging stations have been monitoring the situation and were aware this event might leave some in a lurch. We will share your message with them. Safe travels.

  5. Hey there, I’ve got some concerns and complaints about a sign, uh, well, stickers and maybe a bit more. Let’s start with the first one. (This is long, and I greatly appreciate your consideration)

    I’ve got a titanic sized bone to pick with the W-131 series “Single File” sign. Words cannot express my hatred for this specific sign. It’s like a horrible joke or something. When I’m cycling, I do NOT want to be with cars. Ever and you’re just adding to drivers’ anger. You’re delaying people if you do it and you’re putting yourself in danger. Someone can end my or anyone’s life at an instant if they feel like it.

    To think that these signs (Which I might add aren’t even regulatory) are the solution for promoting cycling is disgusting. I adore that in every project there’s new cycling stuff. It’s fun, it’s good for kids, good for communities and good for cyclists.

    But please for the love of god, I sincerely from the bottom of my heart hope that these signs are never a solution, nor are they used on provincial roads and they all be eliminated with haste.

    Let me give you a hypothetical situation. It’s a bit of an exageration I’ll admit, but these things happen on the daily to people. So, Bikes usually go 20 km/h. Way less if you’re going uphill (which is likely here for tectonic and hydrological reasons. Cars can reach speeds of up to, I don’t know, a lot more. Most people exceed the speed limit by 10-20 km/h in my experience. Thus, say you have a 30 km/h. Now you have a car driving 50, and bike going 20. There’s a single file sign so the bike goes to the centre of the lane. The car driver’s late for a million dollar deal or literally everything because everyone is impatient. So on a double solid line he passes him. Then the cyclist gets punishment passed by a pick-up truck going 60 km/h. The driver falls of the bike and is run over and killed by a driver day dreaming.

    This whole situation could have been avoided if these signs didn’t exist. Why? Well, it’s always safer for bikes to be on closer to the right (or on a sidewalk for that matter, I don’t know why it’s illegal) You don’t anger people by taking an entire lane, (this is also a reason why bike lanes continuing between a right turn lane and travel lane is dumb, not to mention that the speeds that right turn channelization allow for can make intersections more dangerous for pedestrians but that’s a different story).

    Going back to the story, all the passing, and the death of a person could have been avoided by not having these signs. I understand that sometimes it’s safer to share a lane. But in most cases on flat terrain it is never a good idea unless traffic is insanely slow. In the end all these signs do is make people angry. It makes drivers angry because there’s a delay, it makes me angry because of how dangerous it is, it makes people not want to use a bicycle. Ever. The fact that elementary kids are expected to take a bike into the centre of a live lane of traffic is absurd. These signs are almost designed to kill people.

    I haven’t even gone onto the “Take the lane “sign and how half the time construction crews can absolutely accommodate a cyclist proceeding through a closed lane. It’s not a car, it doesn’t go very fast, it can turn on a dime unlike a car and it’s safer, less anger inducing and stress causing too. I guarantee you that people will ignore these signs because they’re completely illogical. I can definitively say I will ignore them too, they’re not even regulatory. It’s not telling cyclists to get to the centre of the lane, it’s just warning drivers.

    Now there’s even more I detest about W-131 and that’s that the sign catalogue indicates that they can be used on freeways. I really hope I don’t need to explain the level of stupid that’s at. Bikes can ride on some freeways (the Coke is the primary example, and I could complain about the fact there’s a disused railway with grades of 2% compared to 8% and that the railway isn’t considered the primary bike route, even though it’s easier but I’ll move on) (I did complain I’m sorry). I don’t know how there’s even a potential for this sign to be recommended for usage on freeways. Thank god it requires an STOE to be used. I really hope you can understand how stupid it sounds for a bicycle to ride in the centre of an active lane of a freeway, let alone a road with a speed limit greater than 20 km/h

    The second might not be your problem, but it affects everyone who drives any distance and on any road, at night (and if you’re still reading thank you from the bottom of my heart)
    Most signs have stickers on the back of them signifying ATSM and manufacture year. That’s OK, the problem is they’re reflective. Why? Let me explain.
    Quote from Learn to Drive Smart Ch. 8
    “• Look for sudden, unusual spots of light on the roadway
    at night. This may be the reflection of your headlights
    off an animal’s eyes. ”
    Now both, the eyes and the stickers sit next to the road at night. If you’re looking for animals using the method of looking for animal eyes, well the method becomes redundant because it’s far more likely that it’s a sign, rather than a living being. Valley Traffic Systems is the company that I 100% know reflectorizes these stickers. I doubt there’s a purpose for it, maybe for contractors. Honestly, too, it’s completely distracting. I don’t need to know there’s a sign there. It seems like to waste of money. I’ve also looked at the ministry’s requirements for labelling signs (you either engrave it or label it) and there is no mention that they have to be reflective. Please, please if you can contact inform VTS of this problem because it has the potential to reduce people’s awareness of animals at night (which is already a massive problem.

    The last thing I promise, do you have plans to use bike boxes? As a biker, it’s impossible and exhausting to decide on the course of action time consuming to make left turns. I also know that people end up driving into the bike box (and the same problem exists with people stopping in crosswalks and exceeding the stop line, but I think that’s ICBC’s lacklustre education). Since it’s a new concept to old and new drivers. I can drop you a proof of concept design for a sign telling drivers not to be in them when waiting at a light.

    Alright that’s everything. Honest to god, thank you so much for reading this all if you have. I’d love to give to offer you a cookie but I don’t know how.
    Cheers and thank you for listening, plus thank you everyone for helping us all!

    Ian D.

    • Hello sir – thank you for your comment and our apologies in the delay in getting back to you. We have sent your comments and concerns to our traffic engineering folks for their review and will let you know what we hear back. Stay tuned.

    • Hello again Ian,

      We shared your comments with our ministry engineers and this is what we heard back.

      The ministry has the W-131 sign, and it is also a TAC MUTCD sign (perhaps named something else) that municipalities use a fair amount. I believe the issue the writer has is how the sign gets used. We only tend to use it where we have insufficient width to support side by side travel which generally only occurs on Ministry structures. The Ministry design standards for highways has for many years………. is to provide paved shoulders typically designed to be a minimum of 1.85 metres (6 ft) in width. As a consequence, we really don’t use the W-131 sign much, other than perhaps work zones where the same sign is now called a C-series sign, and along highways where “old” structures such as bridges and tunnels may have insufficient width for side by side travel.

      Due to the confined spaces in municipalities for their roads due to building structures, they tend to use the Ministry’s W-131, or the TAC equivalent to the W-131 quite a lot. I should add the sign is a “warning sign.” If there are no shoulders on the highway, then it is assumed a cyclist will be in the traveled lane. If the sign showed the cyclist on the right side of the road regardless, as there is no shoulder the cyclist is still considered to be in the lane. Bike boxes would also be a local, municipal conversation.

      Regarding the reflectorized stickers -yes, they are considerably brighter – which supports our goal to assist an aging population with improved visibility during darker driving hours.

      We hope that this information is helpful.

  6. We are going to travel to vancouver at latest October.
    Please let us know if all seaon tires which has M+S and tire chains are allowed.
    Our tires are not winter or all weather tires.
    But they are all seaon with M+S sign and we have tire chain.

    Please let us know if it is ok.


  7. Won’t work for us We like to do our trips in one go of 18 hours have high winds and mountains cold weather in winter I don’t see this being practical at all I really don’t want to be forced into a EV car it is planes that cause greater damage as far as I am concerned.

  8. “Consider smaller radius wheels/tires – they produce more range.” Have you got a source for this information? Sounds unlikely to me – though if you don’t adjust the odometer gearing you will appear to go further! As an extra ‘benefit’ your speed will ‘increase’ if you don’t adjust the speedometer gearing. If it is true perhaps we should all fit smaller radius wheels to our internal combustion engine vehicles to get better mileage.

    • Hi there Nick,

      This information came from our EV user experience group. Smaller radius wheels/tires produce more range so on my Tesla Model 3. I use 18″ tires in winter and get 5-10% more range than my summer 19″ tires 2. When charging (especially on slower Level 2 chargers) I turn off Sentry mode (security cameras) which saves me about 1kw and hour 3. Driving the speed limit or slower means that 95% of the time I will get the range displayed on the range calculator unless wind is extremely aggressive. Hope that this information helps clarify.

      • Lets be clear. From that it sounds like you are using different size rims. To know what the rolling radius of the tire is you also need to know the width and the aspect ratio. I can believe that changing each one of these will change the rolling resistance, (as will different tire compounds and constructions) but I doubt it is as simple as smaller is lower resistance. N.B If you have changed the rolling radius and haven’t adjusted the odometer gearing then your distance and speed readings won’t be accurate and can’t be used to accurately judge range.