In a joint agreement that also includes retailer Canadian Tire and Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation, ONroute and Ivy will roll out long-awaited electric vehicle DC fast chargers on Ontario’s 400-series highways — most of them by sometime next summer
After years of being a no-show when it came to electric vehicle charging infrastructure, ONroute Service Centres says that EV charging stations will be arriving at all 23 of its plazas, located along Ontario’s 401 and 400 highways where it has the exclusive right to operate.
The chargers are coming through a partnership with Ivy Charging Network — a joint venture between Ontario Power Generation and Hydro One — along with Canadian Tire and the provincial Ministry of Transportation.
According to the announcement, Ivy DC fast chargers will be deployed and open at 17 ONroute locations sometime next summer. Three more locations are to be outfitted with Ivy chargers by the end of 2022. Ivy is the “exclusive EV charging partner” of ONroute, the company confirms.
“ONroute is focused on supporting the growth of electric cars in Ontario and bringing this innovative technology to our customers,” said ONroute CEO Melanie Teed-Murch, during a press event.
“One of the most common concerns that we hear from drivers who are looking to make the switch to electric vehicles is where they’ll be able to charge up during a long road trip. This partnership between our government, Ivy Charging Network, ONroute and Canadian Tire solves that issue,” added Ontario’s Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney.
For Canadian Tire, which operates its Canadian Tire Gas+ stations for gasoline and diesel vehicles at all ONroute rest stops, this deal marks a further expansion of the network of EV chargers it’s been creating over the last two years.
“We’ve been a leader in the [automotive] industry for the past 100 years and with this initiative, we’ll be bringing another industry-leading change to our customers,” said Micheline Davies, senior vice-president, automotive, at Canadian Tire. “The introduction of these EV charging stations along Ontario’s busiest highways… is just one way that we’re helping customers to do their part in reducing emissions.”
Critical highway real estate
Just last month, Electric Autonomy Canada reported on the lack of EV chargers at ONroute locations, noting that the centres occupy critical highway real estate and that the company first said it would be installing chargers five year ago. In that story, a company spokesperson said ONroute hoped to have plans in place for 2022.
According to today’s announcement, Ivy will install 69 EV fast chargers in total. Each ONroute location will have at least two chargers, with a few seeing up to four units.
In its press release, ONroute says the chargers — with speeds of up to 150 kW, which can deliver up to 100 kilometres of charge in 20 minutes — will be available on a pay-per-use basis and be compatible with all models of plug-in vehicles.
Chargers will be installed at the remaining three ONroute sites between 2023 and 2025, once ongoing renovations of the stations are complete. It’s unclear in today’s news release if these will also be part of the Ivy Network.
“This is definitely good news and I’m looking forward to using them in the new year,” says Tim Short, an EV driver who spoke to Electric Autonomy in our recent story about his concern over the absence of chargers at ONroute locations. “My only concern, however, is that ONroute needs to roll out way more than just two fast chargers per centre. At the very least, they need to make sure they install sufficient upstream electrical capacity and allocate sufficient physical space at the outset for the service centres to accommodate adding more chargers in the future.”
Ken Rathwell, CEO of EV charging network Sun Country Highways, previously told Electric Autonomy he thought the absence of EV chargers at ONroute could be due to a lack of electrical capacity at their locations, given that many aren’t that close to built up communities.
Mark Marmer, founder of Toronto-area electrical contractor Signature Electric, echoes this view.
“The hardest part of these jobs is not the installation of the chargers,” says Marmer, in an interview with Electric Autonomy. “The hardest part is bringing in the electricity to the site and if you bring enough electricity for only two or four 150 kW chargers, and it turns out you actually need 24 chargers, you have to go through [the installations process] all over again.”
“It would be very short-sighted if ONroute is not preparing to expand.”
Making EVs more accessible
News of this deployment — which is also supported by a $3.45-million loan from Natural Resources Canada to Ivy — comes on the heels of the provincial government’s push to boost Ontario’s presence as an electric vehicle manufacturing and autonomous research hub.
Under Phase 2 of its “Driving Prosperity: The Future of Ontario’s Automotive Sector” roadmap, the government is aiming to see at least 400,000 electric and hybrid vehicles built in Ontario by 2030.
“An expansion of EV charging infrastructure like this is an important step to make life easier for current and future electric vehicle drivers,” said Ontario’s Minister of Energy Todd Smith.
“Our government’s taking a huge step forward and making EVs more accessible to the people of Ontario and we’re moving to give all EV drivers the assurance that they’ll never run out of charge while driving across the province while boosting our world-class auto sector and continuing to protect the future of our environment.”