The Canadian Standards Association Group takes a deep dive into Canada’s EV charging network in their new report, Charging Ahead: Ensuring Equity and Reliability in Canada’s Electric Vehicle Network
The Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Group released its new report honing in on the areas of Canada’s EV charger network that could be standardized to create a seamless, consistent and equitable experience from coast-to-coast.
Charging Ahead: Ensuring Equity and Reliability in Canada’s Electric Vehicle Network is the CSA’s comprehensive analysis of the Canadian EV charging network landscape. The report not only analyzes Canada, but compares the national charging network to other countries and provides policy considerations for the government.
“If the future of mobility is electric, it is crucial that governments, charging network operators, and utilities work together to build a Canada-wide EV charging network that is equitable, accessible, and reliable,” reads the CSA report.
“[I]t is important that these long-term investments be made thoughtfully and strategically to ensure that no one is left behind in the low-carbon transition.”
CSA report core recommendations
The Charging Ahead authors report reviewed data and literature, gathered policies from other leading EV jurisdictions and conducted numerous interviews with government and industry experts to inform the four core policies recommended in the report.
- Deploy EV charging infrastructure through an equity lens;
- Incorporate accessible design practices at the outset;
- Ensure reliability for drivers; and
- Promote inclusive payment options.
In order to reach these goals, says the CSA report, an enormous amount of work will need to be put into infrastructure and $20 billion dollars in funding over 30 years.
“The [federal government’s] proposed ZEV sales targets mean that by 2035, new internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles will no longer be available for purchase. Anyone who needs to get around in a passenger vehicle — whether they have purchased a vehicle, are renting a vehicle, or participating in car sharing — will need access to EV charging points,” reads the report.
“There is a need to deploy hundreds of thousands of charging points across the country and do it quickly to capitalize on the momentum in the EV marketplace.”
Citing data from Mogile Technologies produced for Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), the CSA report says that as of 2022 there are “15,718 Level 2 charging points and 3,784 Level 3 charging points across 7,967 sites” in Canada.
Most revealing is the information about where the chargers are located — 90 per cent in Quebec, British Columbia and Ontario — and that, with 70 per cent of all charging stations operated by just four networks, there is a near-monopoly growing in the market despite the fact that there are 28 charging operators in all.
Reliability of the network is also discussed. The report states that across Canada ChargeHub (an app used to amalgamate and host different EV charging networks) shows that in January 2022 5.9 per cent of Level 2 chargers and 4.7 per cent of Level 3 chargers were not operational. And a national Pollution Probe survey cited in the CSA report found 21 per cent of respondents said “charging points they attempt to use are often not operational.”
In a recent webinar hosted by Electric Autonomy Canada, CSA’s director of fuels and transportation standards, Brent Hartman says that the development of a standard focused on EV charger reliability and minimum uptime thresholds will start in 2023.
“We’re looking at performance, interoperability, accessibility, reliability and availability all related to charging equipment and we’re going to develop a guideline on these issues to support jurisdictions and stakeholders that are interested in deploying EV charging,” said Hartman.
The charging network’s MURB challenge
Canada’s EVs are overwhelmingly owned (85 per cent) by single home owners or townhome owners with dedicated parking spaces, according to another Pollution Probe survey cited by the CSA.
“Canada’s charging network must accommodate the needs of the approximately one-third of the population who reside in [Multi-unit residential buildings] MURBs,” the report concludes. “When it comes to governance and regulatory challenges, there are distinctions to be made within the MURB housing stock and its residents, and important equity considerations to be addressed.”
The CSA advises that the provincial and federal governments take a more active role in establishing EV-ready building codes. The common struggles of MURB residents identified in the report include negotiating EV charging through condo boards, renters being at a disadvantage compared to owners and access to EV charging being a racialized issue.
The report cautions that resident of older buildings in lower income areas, or buildings with higher proportions of recent immigrant residents will likely be some of the slowest to install charging infrastructure.
“While EV ownership rates may be low among these demographic groups currently, this does not negate the importance of providing long-term charging access for these residents as EV adoption grows in the coming years,” reads the CSA report.
Other barriers to charger access and EV adoption
The other two primary areas of concern for the CSA are Canada’s public EV chargers being designed for accessibility for drivers with mobility issues and simplifying the payment process.
“While discrimination based on mental and physical disability is prohibited under federal and provincial human rights legislation, more must be done to ensure that a driver can access a consistently accessible charging network across Canada,” reads the report.
In addition to physical impediments to being able to access chargers, other areas of difficulty include charger cables installed too high to reach from a seated position and sometimes too heavy to be lifted with limited upper body mobility as well as drivers reporting that they often feel unsafe while waiting for the vehicles to charge.
“Design elements that prioritize safety and security of drivers are key to ensuring that charging infrastructure will be used,” concludes the report.
In addition, technology can be a barrier to drivers accessing charging infrastructure in a simple and equitable way.
Currently, the public EV charging ecosystem relies on a fragmented payment system that includes apps, network subscriptions, RFID cards, credit cards and, in future, likely Plug and Charge.
The result is a lack of consistency that can frustrate and strand EV drivers should they not be able to pay for a charging session on the road.
“In theory, competition among networks should benefit consumers through lower pricing. However, the lack of payment interoperability creates inconvenience and unnecessary costs for drivers overall and disproportionately impacts those on the lower end of the income scale,” reads the report.
“Given how decentralized Canada’s charging network is currently, drivers would need to register with multiple networks to have sufficient access to public charging points.”
The CSA report cautions that as EV adoption grows, roaming agreements between networks are may not be a long term or scalable solution and, instead, recommends Canada adopts open access payment through standards to encourage interoperability.
Strategic approach to charging network needed
In order to consolidate and regulate Canada’s public EV charging networks, the CSA recommends a strategy-heavy approach by the various levels of government.
“To harness this opportunity, policymakers should deploy EV charging infrastructure through an equity lens, incorporate accessible design from the outset, maximize reliability for drivers regardless of their route or destination, and promote inclusive payment options,” summarizes the report.
As well Canada should study the policies adopted in other early-adopting jurisdictions to identify successful methods of providing sufficient access to and customer experience with EV chargers. Defining the transition to EVs as an advancement inclusive of all Canadians is critical to successful mass adoption.
“While EV ownership rates may be low among specific demographic groups in 2022, this does not negate the importance of providing long-term charging options for all Canadians as EV adoption grows in the coming years,” reads the report.
“Decarbonization efforts, particularly electrification of transportation, hold the potential
to benefit equity-deserving communities and those disproportionately impacted by the effects of air pollution and climate change.”
The full CSA report may be accessed here.