The first site in Electrify Canada’s 32-station charging network has been revealed. The news comes as parent company Volkswagen Group shows its EV capabilities, teasing its North American crossover and revealing the Porsche Taycan

September is proving to be a month of milestones for Volkswagen AG as the world’s largest automaker escalates its strategic commitment to become a world leader in battery-electric vehicles.

In Canada, the major highlight was this week’s announcement from Electrify Canada, the Volkswagen Canada subsidiary created in 2018 to build a network of 32 high-speed, direct current (DC) EV charging stations in B.C., Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, that it has broken ground on its first location, west of Toronto.

“EV owners need a convenient, reliable and fast turnaround in recharging their vehicles”

Robert Barrosa, Chief Operating Officer, Electrify Canada

The inaugural station is located at the Toronto Premium Outlets shopping centre in Halton Hills, Ont., between Toronto and Hamilton. The centre is co-owned by Simon Property Group and SmartCentres REIT. An announcement about other charging station locations is pending.

That news was just one item of many from the VW family.

Porsche’s “Tesla fighter” unveiled

The electric Porsche Taycan at the Frankfurt Auto Show
The fully electric Porsche Taycan at the Frankfurt Auto Show. Photo: Peter Vella

A few days earlier, Niagara Falls, Ont., was one of three global locations — the others being a solar farm in Berlin and a wind turbine farm in Shanghai — chosen for the unveiling of the new 2020 Porsche Taycan. The Taycan is the high-performance carmaker’s first battery electric. Its launch had been highly anticipated — as a competitive response to the top-line Tesla Model S in the premium market segment and also as an indicator of what’s to come given Porsche’s commitment to make more than 50 per cent of its portfolio electric or hybrid by 2025.

“The future is electric, whether you want it or not,” says Klaus Zellmer, president and CEO of Porsche North America.

VW’s new mass-market EV

Volkswagen reaffirmed Zellmer’s outlook this week at the Frankfurt Auto Show. On consecutive days it debuted the ID.3, its first mass-market (i.e. affordably priced) long-range electric car, then followed that up with a “teaser” showing (camouflaged, behind glass) of the production version of the ID. Crozz, an electric crossover vehicle.

Volkswagen ID.4, or ID. Crozz, at the Frankfurt Auto Show. Photo: Peter Vella
The Volkswagen ID.4, or ID. Crozz, at the Frankfurt Auto Show. Photo: Peter Vella

The ID.3 is critical to VW’s overall EV strategy. Priced at “under €30,000” (approximately $44,000), it needs to sell well to validate both VW’s EV engineering and its belief in the market’s potential growth. It’s also the first vehicle built on VW’s new modular, all-electric platform, which the company will use for many different EV models to follow. 

The ID.3 will be out some time next year. However, it is aimed solely at the European market. The ID. Crozz, on the other hand, will be available here in 2021. Asked if there is a chance the ID.3 could also come to Canada, Thomas Tetzlaff, VW Canada’s media relations manager, says: “We will keep a real close eye on it, and if there is an opportunity in the future, we may seek to bring it over. But for now, the answer is ‘No.’”

Faster “fast” charging

The Taycan will also be available here, possibly as early as next January. But even now, it and the Electrify Canada network have a compelling link.

The Electrify network, like that being built by Electrify America — a much larger system (228 stations and counting), launched in 2017 as part of the carmaker’s settlement in the VW emissions scandal — will be equipped to recharge at rates ranging from 50 kW to 350 kW. But there’s a catch: only vehicles with 800-volt systems will be able to charge at the top end of that range and there are none on the market. However, that will change as soon as the Taycan is available, since it is the first production vehicle with an 800-volt system.

To give a hint of what’s to come, Porsche took the newly unveiled Taycan on a test drive south after the Niagara Falls launch and shortly afterwards, announced that it had become the first car to charge at 270 kW on Electrify America’s network.

At that recharge rate, according to Electrify America, the car needed just 22.5 minutes to go from 5% to 80% state-of-charge.

Plug & Charge

Canadians interested in what the Electrify Canada network might look like as it begins to unfold can look to Electrify America for parallels.

Electrify Canada electric car charger close up
Electrify Canada EV charging screen

All compatible EVs with CSS or CHAdeMO charging ports will be serviced. Users can pay by credit card or with a mobile app that was unveiled in the U.S. in May and will be available to Electrify Canada users from launch.  Drivers will also be able to use the ISO Plug & Charge standard which allows them to pay just by plugging in — a feature that’s being added to the U.S. system in 2019 as well. 

Electrify America also has interoperability agreements with other charging networks (EVgo and ChargePoint), which will be something to watch for here.

Millions of shoppers

The decision to locate the first Electrify Canada station at a premium outlet mall also repeats the start taken by Electrify America.

“The millions of shoppers Toronto Premium Outlets attracts each year and the variety of existing amenities makes it the perfect choice for our first location,” says Lorie-Ann Roxburgh, acting president and CEO of VW Canada.

Toronto-based ClearBlue Technologies Group is handling the station’s engineering and construction. According to VW Canada’s Tetzlaff, ClearBlue was chosen “through a competitive bid process to build Toronto Premium Outlets and other locations.”

He says a full list of partners will be available when the other locations are announced.

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