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Leading experts will talk electric-vehicle policy in Whistler

Saturday, Nov. 23 event will be held at the Fairmont, and is free to attend
POWER UP With a provincial commitment to phase out the sale of new gasoline cars by 2040, it's now up to policy policy makers to make sure that we have the infrastructure to support widespread adoption of electric vehicles. A panel discussion on Saturday, Nov. 23—Gearing up for the Electric Vehicle Economy—will shed some light on this important topic. Photo by Braden Dupuis

While it's now widely accepted that the future of personal transportation is likely electric, questions remain about how we can get to the point where electric vehicles (EVs) outnumber gasoline-powered ones in a timely manner.

An upcoming panel discussion—which is set to take place at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler on Saturday, Nov. 23aims to shed light on these pressing questions.

Titled Gearing up for the Electric Vehicle Economy, the event will bring together four experts in sustainability-related fields for a fulsome conversation on EV policy and regulation.

"We've got people coming from all over the world, who are leaders in their field, to talk about renewable energy and sustainable infrastructure," said Suki Cheyne, executive director of the Whistler Learning Centre.

Discussion, she explained, will centre on the "the actual changes" that will be needed to make way for the "mass adoption of electric vehicles."

The Learning Centre is organizing the event in coordination with the Electric Vehicle & Sustainability Summit, a four-day event that will bring together approximately 80 experts in their fields to discuss the future of EV technology and infrastructure.

This is the first year that the summit, which will take place Nov. 19 to Nov. 22 will be held in Whistler.

Organizing a public event that draws on the brainpower that will be in town for the summit fits in line with the Whistler Learning Centre's mandate, which is to promote life-long learning, said Cheyne.

"It's really nice to tap into that knowledge while they're here," she said.

"We know that environmental stewardship and sustainability are really important to our town, [and] that it's a topic that's being discussed [frequently]."

Saturday's panel discussion will be moderated by Marco Dell'Aquila, chairman of inspiratia, a company that provides thought-leadership, data and analytics to the infrastructure and sustainable energy sector. It is organizing the summit.

Dell'Aquila teaches at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Bologna, Italy, where he also serves on its European Advisory Council.

The Resort Municipality of Whistler's climate change coordinator, Maximilian Kniewasser, will also sit on the panel, giving the audience a chance to learn more about the municipality's ongoing work to reach its sustainability goals.

Suzanne Goldberg—director of policy in Canada for ChargePoint, the leading provider of EV charging infrastructure in North America—will also sit on the panel.

Organizers are still finalizing the fourth and final panelist.

According to Nick Imregi—co-founder of inspiratia—B.C. is a natural place to hold such a summit, as it is currently in the process of advancing its sustainability targets.

The province has adopted plans to phase out the sale of new gasoline cars by 2040, and with the highest per capita rate of zero-emission vehicles in Canada, B.C. is also home to one of the largest public charging and hydrogen fuelling networks in the country.

Imregi said he is hopeful that he will see plenty of youthful faces in the crowd for the panel discussion.

"They are our future," he said, adding conference attendees will be whisked from Vancouver to Whistler via electric busses.

Gender diversity is one of the focuses of the conference, added Imregi, noting that about 40 per cent of scheduled attendees are women.

"Normally, when you go to these [type of] events, it's 99-per-cent white males," he said, adding that organizers are working closely with local First Nations. Chief Dean Nelson of the Lil'wat Nation will be giving the opening speech at the welcome reception of the conference, which will be held at the Squamish-Lil'wat Cultural Centre.

Imregi is expecting Saturday's panel discussion to be an insightful night in which pressing questions about the future of EVs will be discussed.

"Everybody knows that EVs are coming—they're here already and they are the future," he said. "That's not the question; the question is much more, 'How do we get the infrastructure to be able to have these electric vehicles and then how do we have a grid that is sustainable and is not powered by coal-fired power stations or oil and gas?'"

Doors open at 5:30 p.m. with the panel discussion starting at 6 p.m. Entry is by donation to the Whistler Learning Centre.