An in-depth provincial analysis, with an additional close-up on the city of Montreal, highlights the scale of charging infrastructure needed to achieve EV adoption goals — both in Quebec and across the rest of Canada
A new International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) study released today says that while Quebec may be an advanced jurisdiction in electric vehicle charging infrastructure and adoption — currently it hosts 45 per cent of Canada’s electric fleet — the province will still need at least an eight-fold increase in the number of EV chargers if it is to meet 2030 and 2035 targets set by the province and federally.
The ICCT study, entitled Assessing charging infrastructure needs in Québec, was commissioned and funded independently last year. It analyzes the provincial electric vehicle charging infrastructure, with a more in-depth look at Montreal itself, detailing expected charging needs as the province moves to its goal of having 1.5 million EVs on the road by 2030 and recommending policy measures to help achieve it.
“Québec will require 8 times more public chargers in 2030 compared to 2020. As the electric vehicle stock grows from 92,000 electric vehicles in 2020 to above 1.5 million on Québec roads in 2030, public chargers will need to increase from about 5,700 to 45,800 normal and 700 to 6,300 fast chargers,” reads the report.
“While Québec province had built 11% of its 2030 fast charging needs through 2020, this share is only 5% for Montréal city.”
The projections in the ICCT report are modelled off of 2016 census data, statistics from the Quebec Electric Vehicle Association (AVÈQ) and previous studies by Dunsky Energy + Climate Advisors conducted in Quebec.
The report is particularly significant in showing that even though Montreal is a leader in public light-duty charging infrastructure, much more still needs to be done. By comparison, other less-advanced Canadian provinces and jurisdictions will likely face an even steeper climb to meet their targets.
First Canadian assessment
Montreal is the first municipality in Canada to receive an EV charging audit of this magnitude from the ICCT, says the organization. The report’s primary goal was to assess Quebec’s charging needs and align with Quebec’s policies, with Montreal in particular being studied more closely.
The report makes a series of five recommendations for Quebec to achieve “a 23% annual growth rate from 2020 to 2030” for public chargers. Specifically, it calls on the provincial government to:
- Provide charger deployment targets;
- Establish charging deployment strategies,
- Establish zero-emission zones,
- Provide fiscal support with contingencies; and
- Employ smart private charging.
“Transportation electrification offers Québec an opportunity to dramatically reduce its energy imports and create economic benefits by leveraging its extensive hydropower production,” says the report.
“Future work could also estimate the costs of building this charging infrastructure and develop financing models and taxation systems to distribute the costs among relevant stakeholders: all level of governments, fleets, Hydro-Québec, and the private sector.”
Needs vary across the province
One of the challenges faced in Quebec’s charging infrastructure plans is accommodating for uneven population distribution. The ICCT report took a close look at the variety of public charging needs and infrastructure upgrades as the province moves towards having 1.5 million EVs on the road by 2030 (representing 30 per cent of all light-duty vehicles).
The report looks at the 17 administrative regions of Quebec, while the focus on Montreal provides results at the Greater Montreal, administrative region and city levels. The latter are among the highly urban areas where, the report notes, “the above average EV uptake in the years to come and the low home charging availability results in many public chargers needed.” In contrast, Quebec’s mostly rural regions “have had few chargers deployed up to 2020, and with EV uptake lagging the provincial average up to 2030, charger utilization is expected to be sub-optimal, resulting in more chargers needed.”
The report summarizes that, “for fast charging infrastructure, 11% of 2030 needs were in place at the end of 2020 while close to 12.5% of the normal charging infrastructure was in place. At the regional level, four regions had less than 10% of their 2030 needs in place at year’s end 2020. The largest charging deployment challenges are in the very rural areas of Nord-du-Québec, Outaouais, and Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean and the very urban area of Laval.”
While the overall added infrastructure and increase in EV adoption is not expected to exceed Quebec’s provincial electricity generation capacity, ICCT notes that Quebec is looking at a rise in energy consumption from 340 GWh in 2020 to 5.8 terawatt-hours (TWh) in 2030.
MURBS in Montreal a unique challenge
The report strongly cautions that Montreal presents unique challenges that require specialty solutions due to the city’s high density urban living — multi-unit residential buildings (MURBs) — that aren’t addressed by Quebec’s “well-developed charging ecosystem.”
According to census data, more than 80 per cent of Montreal households are in MURBs, but only 38 per cent of these households are expected to have access to private home charging by 2030.
“1.1 million private home chargers, 23,700 private workplace, and 18,900 depot chargers will be needed by 2030,” projects the ICCT report, which estimates Montreal city has roughly 4,000 people per square kilometre compared to 1,000 people at the metropolitan regional level and six people at the provincial level.
Montreal has already announced its intention to create a Low Emission Zone (LEZ) pilot within the city by 2023. The city’s longterm plan could involve an expansion of the LEZ to include the entire downtown core by 2030.
But even so, some local electricity distribution infrastructure may have to be upgraded and Montreal will see a leap in energy demand. “The projected 210,600 EVs will consume approximately 570 GWh of electricity in 2030: 206 GWh from home charging, 300 GWh from public charging, and the remaining 64 GWh from private work and depot,” reads the report.
The result is that Montreal will need to invest heavily in non-home chargers to the tune of 94,600 units. Public and curbside fast chargers will make up an estimated 52,000 of that number by 2030 while the remainder would be split between workplace (23,700 chargers) and depots (18,900 chargers) to manage demand loads in MURBs and urban residential areas.
Workplace and depot charging
A way to alleviate the burden on MURB and public curbside fast charging infrastructure could be to boost workplace and depot charging.
The Quebec government has already shown robust investment in workplace EV charging through the Roulez Vert program, which helped to fund at least 4,559 workplace chargers between 2014 and 2020. Census data shows approximately 35 per cent of EVs in the city had access to workplace EV charging by 2020.
On the depot side — relevant for fleets and, potentially, high density urban residents — one charger is able to serve multiple vehicles at a time, which maximizes local access to charging infrastructure. The depots would allow for overnight charging and should, says the ICCT, accommodate smart charging or charging in shifts.
The report estimates that, if rolled out in full at a provincial level, depot chargers could account for 10 per cent of energy share demand by 2030 (up from five per cent in 2020) and would represent a growth from approximately 200 depot chargers in 2020 to 57,000 in 2030.
Montreal would account for 4,100 of the depot chargers by 2030, says the report.
Roadmap for the future
What the ICCT report demonstrates is, in addition to the five recommendations it proposes, the magnitude of the transition still required to achieve fully electrified transportation. Montreal and Quebec have made some of the most aggressive and future-looking investments in electric vehicle adoption and charging infrastructure in Canada, but even that best-case scenario is still not enough to meet adoption targets in the province.
Quebec will need to increase its commitment and the rest Canadian jurisdictions have even more catching up to do to meet our goals over the next decade.
“Reaching the needed charging infrastructure deployment requires coordination between many private and public stakeholders and guidance from the provincial government,” says the report.
ICCT’s Assessing charging infrastructure needs in Québec can be found here.
Editor’s note: This story was corrected to reflect that the ICCT report was not commissioned by the City of Montreal and was independently conducted and funded.