Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson stands at podium during EVweek in Burnaby
Canadian EV drivers received welcome news from the government this EV Week as 6,000 new public charging and alternative fuel refuelling stations were announced by ministers, including Minister Johnathan Wilkinson picture here, across the country. Photo: Jonathan Wilkinson/Twitter

Ahead of a string of announcements this week that saw 6,000 chargers added to Canada’s public charging network, Natural Resources Canada Minister Jonathan Wilkinson sat down with Electric Autonomy Canada for an exclusive interview on the federal government’s charger targets

Canadian EV drivers received welcome news from the government this EV Week as 6,000 new public charging and alternative fuel refuelling stations were announced by ministers across the country.

Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) is committing the funding — totalling $45 million — to support the charger installations.

“The federal government is providing leadership on the infrastructure file,” says NRCan minister, Jonathan Wilkinson in an interview with Electric Autonomy Canada.

“[We are] undertaking to ensure that even in places where the provincial government has chosen not to put money into the development of zero-emission vehicle infrastructure, we are going to ensure that it exists such that people can have confidence when they buy a car, that they can fuel it up when they drive it.”

The chargers were publicly disclosed via 10 individual announcements by various government officials across Canada throughout EV Week (roughly 2,000 chargers with $16 million in funding behind them) and in a release of the successful applicants for the latest ZEVIP, ZEVIP 3rd Party and EVAFIDI funding rounds (roughly 4,000 chargers receiving approximately $29 million).

Specific announcements about where chargers are going

In a series of announcements ministers Wilkinson, Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Lawrence MacAulay and Randy Boissonnault; parliamentary secretaries Annie Koutrakis, Andy Fillmore, Terry Duguid and Julie Dabrusin and member of parliament Michael McLeod announced the amount of NRCan funding for public chargers in designated locations.

  • In British Columbia, $1.7 million is going to two organizations that will add another 128 EV chargers in the province.
  • The Government of Northwest Territories is receiving $414,000 for the installation of up to 72 EV chargers.
  • $3.95 million is going to Shell Canada for the installation of 79 EV chargers at 37 locations along the Trans Canada Highway in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
  • Manitoba and Saskatchewan will see more than $2.5 million for 400 EV chargers across both provinces.
  • While Peak Power Inc. in Ontario is receiving $765,000 to help support the install of 117 chargers across the province.
  • Hydro-Québec will see $4.6 million to help support the installation of up to 840 chargers across the province.
  • NB Power will be getting a $350,000 investment to install 52 EV chargers for its fleet of electric vehicles and workplace charging for employees. 
  • Prince Edward Island is receiving $2 million for 250 EV chargers.
  • And Halifax is set to get 20 Level 2 chargers and is getting $55,000 from the federal government to do so.

The chargers in all locations will all be operational by the end of 2023.

The great public charging debate

This latest batch of EV chargers is not part of the government’s lot of 50,000 promised by 2026 in Budget 2022 and the most recent mandate letters, says Wilkinson. They come from commitments in previous mandate letters in 2019 to fund 35,000 chargers through several different funding streams.

In total, Wilkinson says, by 2026 the government will have funded around 85,000 public chargers. To date that number is sitting around 33,000, though many of those sites are not yet built or operational.

“We have done a lot of that work internally to try to determine what we think is required,” says Wilkinson. “We think that the 85,000 that we are building right now is an important start on that. Certainly, if we find that there’s more that we need to do, we are committed to doing it. But I think we’re on the right track.”

In recent months though the government has been criticized as not being ambitious enough with its public EV charging plans. Critics say Canada’s infrastructure is not only not competitive with other countries’ targets, but so far behind that it will impede national EV adoption rates and potentially lead to a failure to meet the government’s 100 per cent new ZEV sales target by 2035.

“At the end of the day the government does not intend to be in in the fuelling infrastructure business over the long term,” says Wilkinson. “[But] you’ve got to build enough of the infrastructure that you start to see enough of the deployment of zero emission vehicles, that you actually then create the business case for the private sector to take over some of the funding associated with this.”

Wilkinson points to British Columbia and Quebec as jurisdictions where a combination of government and private cooperation has led to impressive adoption rates and robust supporting infrastructure.

“It’s happening because the provincial and federal governments both partner on providing incentives to buy down capital cost difference. It exists because we both are putting money into the development of infrastructure. And so the infrastructure is broader-based than it otherwise would be. Quebec, and BC are the two places where we actually have the sales mandate in place. All of those things are important.”

Hydrogen refuelling network quietly growing

Among the EV charging stations, a quiet contingent of hydrogen refuelling stations was also announced.

The stations will be appearing in B.C., which already has existing infrastructure, says Wilkinson and the number of the new ones is “quiet small.” However, the new stations give a hint at the government’s larger hydrogen strategy, particularly as it pertains to non-passenger vehicles.

Just over 600 alternative fuel vehicles (of all classes) have been registered in Canada since Q1 2017, according to Statscan data. The vast majority are concentrated in Quebec, Ontario and B.C.

“With respect to medium- and heavy-duty zero-emission vehicles technologies, I think hydrogen actually is likely to have a significant role to play,” says Wilkinson (also a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle driver himself).

“We’re trying to be very thoughtful about where the government needs to expend funds and how it needs to do it and using the appropriate tools based on on the infrastructure needs that exist in those environments.”

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