Two DC Fast EV chargers of the Ivy Charging Network
Two of the Ivy Charging Network DC Fast EV chargers

The joint-venture remains on track to be one of Ontario’s largest fast-charging networks with its newly rebranded “Charge & Go” service, as it also launches a Level 2 “Park & Charge” service with 11 municipal and local business partners

Electric vehicle drivers in rural Ontario or those travelling to the more remote corners of the province will be able to hit the road with an extra sense of security after a new announcement by Ivy Charging Network.

After launching last year as a fast-charging network, Ivy — a joint venture between Hydro One and Ontario Power Generation (OPG) — is now adding Level 2 charging in partnership with local municipalities and businesses. It’s also rebranding the two tiers of service as “Charge & Go” for its DC fast-charging options and “Park & Charge” for its Level 2 charging.

“It is really exciting for us to be launching ‘Park & Charge.’ The ‘Charge & Go’ was really intended to be a part of the solution to help address range anxiety on the go, but people charge in lots of different locations and so partnering with municipalities that have climate targets, or want to be transitioning to a bit of a cleaner future, makes a lot of sense,” says Theresa Dekker, vice-president, corporate business development and strategy at OPG and co-president of Ivy Charging Network, in an interview with Electric Autonomy Canada.

“For us it’s about supporting that and providing turnkey solutions, so [municipalities] don’t have to worry about it and we can help support their climate goals.”

Preparing for the future

Ivy also says it’s now finished construction of its 27th fast-charging installation, with a dozen more underway. If all of its planned stations are built on time, it will have one of the largest fast-charging networks in the province with roughly 60 charging locations operational by the end of 2021.

This is less than Ivy’s original target of 73 locations and 160 chargers, pledged publicly in February 2020. The shortfall is due, in part, to the challenges of finding appropriate site hosts that have the criteria Ivy is looking for.

“It’s largely driven by the best amenities that we can provide to customers and also partnerships,” says Dekker. “We do have some partnerships with site hosts that have allowed us to say, ‘Okay, this is working really well in this location’ and if they’ve got other locations that they would like to look at we’ve been able to add some space in that way.”

Each site location must be chosen deliberately and carefully, not just to ensure immediate positive experience, but to set Ivy up for future success as the transition to electrification continues to advance. By expanding into Level 2 charging, “Park & Charge” could offer Ivy the option to potentially move into the vehicle-to-grid (V2G) energy storage space, which is as yet a largely untapped area in the market.

But is that the direction Ivy is heading?

“We are constantly evaluating what additional growth opportunities there might be. So you know, there’s potential. That could be something we look at in the future,” says Dekker in response to questions about the network’s V2G plans.

Ivy Charging Network map
The Ivy Charging Network map. Click the image for full size

Ivy from then to now

The Ivy network was first exclusively reported on by Electric Autonomy Canada in October 2019, and it made its soft public launch in early 2020. At the same time, the federal government awarded Ivy $8 million in a repayable funding contribution, which the company anticipates being able to refund as it sees more growth and success.

“We are seeing more uptake this summer, which is really positive. Hopefully, with COVID vaccines getting out there and people feeling like they can travel a bit more, we’ll continue to see more growth,” says Dekker.

In terms of measuring success outside of dollars and cents, one of Ivy’s biggest accomplishments since its inception is that it completed the rollout of the northwestern branch of the network with a complete circuit of six charging locations spaced between Thunder Bay and Longbow Lake (just east of Kenora).

“We were trying to ensure that you could get from one city to another with about 100 kilometres worth of charge. So that you could make your way up north with more limited or more spatially distanced sites than you would see in the urban areas down, you know, closer to Toronto, for example,” explains Dekker.

The distance between Ivy stations on this loop is between 150 km to just over 200 km. They are six of just 33 stations between Thunder Bay and Kenora. The majority of the existing chargers in northwestern Ontario are Tesla Superchargers, whereas the Ivy locations may be used by any type of vehicle.

More Level 2 potential

Looking ahead, Ivy hopes to be able repeat this pattern of success with it Level 2 municipal and business partners. So far the network says it has paired with 11 communities: the Towns of Halton Hills, Aurora, Port Hope, Carleton Place, the City of Orillia, Municipality of Newmarket, the County of Haliburton, the Township of Algonquin Highlands, the Municipality of Dysart et al, the Municipality of Highlands East and the Township of Minden Hills.

Ivy is looking to open all of these charging locations in the next six months and is hopeful this initial batch of Level 2 charging partners is the first round of many.

“We’re always looking at ways that we can help support municipalities, says Dekker, who confirms Ivy is open to being approached for Level 2 charging by interested municipalities through the company website form.

“We would be interested in hearing if there are other municipalities that are looking to do the same thing and where we could help them — or businesses, for that matter.”

Ivy Charging Network announcement