Petro-Canada and Tesla completed their national charging networks last year and a raft of charging infrastructure has been announced for completion this year and next. Here’s our round up of what’s live, what’s been announced and what may be still to come
Last June, a report from BC Hydro found that 70 per cent of British Columbians surveyed said concern over the range limitations of electric vehicles was the main reason why they wouldn’t consider purchasing one.
But is “range anxiety” still a legitimate barrier to EV ownership? The answer, thanks to Canada’s numerous rapidly expanding EV fast charging networks, increasingly seems to be no.
For prospective EV owners with long distance drives in mind, the expansion of DC fast charge networks is of the utmost importance. Fast chargers are capable of delivering full range charges in less than an hour, and sometimes in a matter of minutes. As such, a fast charger’s installation at a location effectively ensures the surrounding region is easily EV accessible.
Level 2 chargers, which typically take a few hours to fully charge an EV, are also crucial as they allow drivers to charge while at destinations, such as places of work, shopping malls, business districts and tourist attractions.
Electric vehicle sales continue to grow rapidly, nearing three per cent of total Canadian vehicle sales in 2019. As that growth continues, continued investment in and roll out of charging infrastructure will be necessary.
According to Natural Resources Canada, there are currently 11,553 EV chargers open to the public at 4,993 stations across Canada. Over 1,850 of those chargers are DC fast chargers.
A number of those chargers belong to one of several expansive charging networks announced in the past few months. Here’s a review of who’s making long distance EV travel easier than ever for Canadians.
- Completion announced 2019
- 51 fast charging stations
Canada’s first non-proprietary, cohesive nationwide EV fast charging network came courtesy of Petro-Canada, whose Electric Highway was completed in December of 2019 with 40 fast chargers. The network is still growing, currently boasting 51 fast charging stations between Halifax and Victoria, British Columbia. The majority of the stations are located along the Trans-Canada highway, allowing for relatively simple access for those crossing any large stretch of the nation. Drivers pay per minute of charge; Ontario stations currently charge a rate of $0.33 per minute.
- 898 superchargers, 1,400 Level 2 chargers
- 584 locations
In late December, Tesla also activated a series of new proprietary charging stations along the Trans-Canada Highway, several of which contained Tesla’s new ultra-fast V3 250kW chargers. Nine of these chargers are currently hosted at Canadian Tire locations, with that number set to eventually increase.
Tesla’s Canadian charging network was first established in a limited capacity between Toronto and Montreal in 2014. It now stretches from Vancouver to Halifax without any major gaps, and is absent only from the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island.
Although only Tesla drivers can take advantage of this network, they represent a rather large fraction of Canadian EV drivers – in the first nine months of 2019, 54 per cent of all battery electric vehicles (and 34 per cent of EVs) sold in Canada were Teslas.
- 240 fast chargers, 55 level 2 chargers
- 90 locations
Canadian Tire announced in January its plan to open a network of 240 fast chargers and 55 Level 2 chargers at 90 Canadian Tire retail locations across the country by the end of 2020. The network was developed in collaboration with FLO, Tesla and Electrify Canada, who will jointly supply the chargers. Although charging speeds vary by location as well as by car make, Electrify Canada’s fast chargers are currently capable of charging at 350kW, or speeds of up to 30 kilometers per minute.
Chargers are already operational at 21 Canadian Tire locations nationwide. Andrew Davies, senior vice-president, automotive, Canadian Tire Retail, has hinted that this year’s expansion is merely the beginning, saying at the network’s launch that “this is the first step in our plan past 2020”.
Both Canadian Tire and Petro-Canada’s networks received partial funding from the federal government through Natural Resource Canada’s Electric Vehicle and Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Deployment Initiative. Canadian Tire’s network received a $2.7 million investment, while Petro-Canada’s electric Highway was granted $4.6 million.
Through the NRCan program, the federal government is investing $96.4 million in electric vehicle and hydrogen charging stations across the country. A separate NRCan initiative, the Zero Emission Vehicle Infrastructure Program, is investing $130 million in the construction of chargers on streets, at workplaces and in multi-unit residential buildings between 2019 and 2024.
- 32 fast charger locations
Also still in progress is the Electrify Canada network. Electrify Canada, a subsidiary of Volkswagen Group, last fall announced a commitment to install a network of 32 fast charging stations across the nation by the end of 2020. Three of these stations are currently open, including two at Canadian Tire retail locations in southern Ontario and the flagship location at Toronto Premium Outlets shopping centre in Halton Hills.
This first phase of construction will include locations only in Ontario, Québec, British Columbia, and Alberta. Following 2020, according to CEO Rob Barossa, Electrify Canada will “continue to expand mainly on routes [highways] and other locations that we see fit.” Electrify Canada is the Canadian counterpart to Electrify America, which has installed over 1,500 fast chargers across the United States since 2016.
Volkswagen also announced recently that those who purchase its e-Golf electric vehicle will receive two years of free 30-minute charging sessions from Electrify Canada stations.
In addition to the cross-country networks, there are several provincially-backed and local charging networks connecting Canadian EV drivers in a number of different regions.
- Launched 2012
- 294 fast chargers, 2,104 Level 2 chargers
- 1,445 locations
Quebec’s Electric Circuit, owned and operated by Hydro-Québec, currently consists of more than 2,300 charging stations. Last year, plans were announced to add at least 1,600 new fast charging stations over the next 10 years in addition to the 296 which are already operational.
B.C. Hydro EV
- Over 100 fast chargers
- Over 85 locations
The provincial utility of British Columbia, the province with Canada’s highest rate of EV adoption, operates a major fast charging network. The B.C. Hydro EV network currently consists of over 70 locations with over 80 total fast chargers, mostly along major highways and in urban centres. B.C. Hydro has plans to expand their network to include over 85 locations with over 100 chargers across the province in 2020.
- Completed 2019
- 13 fast chargers, 40 Level 2 chargers (part of the above BC Hydro network)
Peaks to Prairies
- Completed 2019
- 19 fast chargers, two Level 2 chargers
In Western Canada, the Peaks to Prairies program in southern Alberta and Accelerate Kootenays program in B.C. have funded the installation of 32 high-speed charging stations in areas that despite being heavily travelled, were previously underserved by pre-existing charging networks. The two programs are not networks, but rather funding initiatives which received financing by local governments, private investments, and the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta. The Accelerate Kootenays stations operate in part on the BC Hydro EV network and in part on the FLO network; Peaks to Prairies operates fully on the FLO charging network.
Ivy Charging Network
- Coming 2020
- 160 fast chargers
Last month saw the official launch of the Ivy Charging Network, a joint venture between Ontario Power Generation and Hydro One which will see 160 fast chargers installed throughout Ontario by the end of 2021. One hundred of those chargers will be opened at 43 stations, mostly located in rural Ontario, by September of this year. The following year will see 30 more sites with a total of 60 fast chargers installed in urban areas including Toronto, Ottawa and Windsor.
Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro
- Coming 2020
- 14 fast chargers
Newfoundland and Labrador has also announced plans to build 14 high speed chargers along highways in the province by the end of this year.
A more even distribution of EV charging infrastructure between urban and rural areas has been shown to increase consumer confidence in electric vehicles, and in turn, bolster rates of adoption.
Despite the current surge of growth in Canadian fast charging networks, there still remains much work to be done.
“Infrastructure is the biggest thing,” Peter Hatges, national sector leader, automotive at KPMG Canada, recently told BNN Bloomberg.
“That’s probably the number one thing the government can put its attention to, over incentives.”
Hatges recently authored Canada’s Automotive Future, a KPMG report examining the coming impact of electric and autonomous transport on Canada’s auto industry. The report described availability of charging infrastructure as the most significant challenge standing in the way of widespread adoption of EVs.
Indeed, as the amount of EVs on Canadian roads climbs, so too will the demand for robust and expansive charging networks. Canada has set a target of 2040 for having all new light-duty vehicle sales be zero-emission vehicles. As such, those looking to continue to build charging infrastructure networks in the next decade will have their work cut out for them.
Public sector funding will continue to be crucial to respond to this coming demand, including the aforementioned Natural Resources Canada incentive programs. In his mandate letter to Natural Resources Minister Marc Garneau last December, Prime Minister Trudeau also called for the building of 5,000 new electric vehicle chargers across Canada.
It will take years of continued leadership and financial commitment, however, to reach a future where fast charging infrastructure will support a fully electrified Canada.
Natural Resources Canada’s Electric Charging and Alternative Fuelling Stations Locator
Note: This story has been updated March 5th, 2020, to provide more accurate information regarding British Columbia’s charging networks and March 9th with an updated number of Petro-Canada stations.