The Atmospheric Fund calls on Ottawa to create $250 million annual EV infrastructure support fund
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Aug 3, 2023
Mehanaz Yakub

In a letter with 100 signatories, the Atmospheric Fund is asking the federal government to provide funding for EV-readiness in multi-unit residential buildings

The Toronto-based Atmospheric Fund (TAF) has launched a letter campaign urging the Canadian government to help improve equitable access to electric vehicle charging infrastructure in multi-unit residential buildings (MURBs) across Canada.

The Atmospheric Fund has 75 signatories for its letter requesting government assistance for multi-unit residential buildings

The Atmospheric Fund (TAF) has launched a campaign urging the Canadian government to improve equitable access to electric vehicle charging infrastructure in multi-unit residential buildings (MURBs) across Canada.

In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, TAF asks Natural Resources Canada to establish a new funding stream to address the issue. The funding would be available to landlords and condo boards who wish to install Level 2 chargers in their buildings.

“Within Canada, about one third of folks live in multifamily buildings. That’s well over 10 million people,” says Ian Klesmer, director of strategy and grants at TAF, in an interview with Electric Autonomy. TAF is nonprofit that invests in and low-carbon programs in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area.

“If the federal government is going to meet its climate targets [for 2030 and 2050] and meet its stated EV adoption targets, it’s really critical to focus on this very large swath of the population who currently would find it quite challenging to have an EV.”

TAF proposes the next federal budget allocate $250 million annually over four years to ensure EV-readiness in existing MURBs. The organization argues the investment would encourage more tenants and condo dwellers to purchase EVs. It may also “drive market development for EV-ready apartment and condo retrofits to gradually reduce the need for government investment in this sector over time.”  

So far, TAF’s campaign has the support of 75 signatories. These include SWTCH, Plug’n Drive, the Town of Oakville as well as condo corporations, environmental organizations and property owners. The letter is open to anyone who wishes to add their names in support of the proposal.

“We’ve been really encouraged by the depth and breadth of support that we’ve received. We’re going to continue to try to have this message amplified,” says Klesmer.

Current funding gaps

TAF’s letter says EV charger installation policies for apartments and condos across Canada are “limited and piecemeal.”

It’s more complicated to set up chargers in these buildings compared to single-family homes, reads the letter. Many landlords and condo boards lack the upfront capital to meet future charging needs.

To encourage EV adoption and fund charging installations, the federal government already established the Zero-Emission Vehicle Infrastructure Program (ZEVIP).

“However, landlords and condo boards cannot use ZEVIP funding for the electricity upgrades and associated construction costs to support the future installation of Level 2 chargers throughout their buildings,” explains TAF in the letter.

For its part, the non-profit has received funding as a third-party delivery organization for NRCan’s ZEVIP program. TAF is supporting local groups and building owners looking to install EV charging on-site. But the funding only covers up to $100,000, or, “generally 20 chargers in the multi-family residential buildings,” says Klesmer.

The proposal for a new funding stream, “won’t make every single multi-family building in Canada EV-ready. But it will be an excellent start at stimulating the market to make sure a lot of buildings become EV-ready,” says Klesmer.

Emulating the British Columbia model

Should the government set up a fund to make MURBs EV-ready, TAF recommends following the CleanBC Go Electric EV Charger Ready rebate program structure.

The CleanBC program launched in December 2020 and ran until June 2023. It offered support to building owners by covering most of the EV-ready planning costs. It also offered up to half of the infrastructure and installation costs.

“The CleanBC program, we believe, is a successful model worth replicating for a few reasons,” says Klesmer.

“One, it provided funding for the electrical investment upfront to make sure that the project was planned in a comprehensive way by qualified experts. Two, it made sure that parking spaces became EV-ready, which is the bulk of where the funding went and needed to go. And, three, it had a smaller amount of funding for a discrete number of direct-charger installations for those residents who were ready to go.”

The B.C. model is successful because it doesn’t have an annual cap, believes Klesmer. This means most of the work on a building may occur at one time.

Prioritizing widespread implementation and equity

To build upon the successful BC program, Klesmer proposes some changes the federal government could adopt for its own program.

For instance, the B.C. rebate covered up to 50 per cent of costs, to a maximum of $600 per parking space and $120,000 per project.

“I understand this to mean the program could cover a maximum of 200 parking spaces in a building,” says Klesmer.

“Ideally a federal program would extend the rebate to cover most or all of the parking spaces in a building. This would enable all residents of large multi-family buildings (which can have several hundred parking spaces) to access home charging.”

The federal government should also prioritize ensuring equitable allocation of funding, says Klesmer.

“I think having a funding program focused on multi-family buildings, at least some of which are low-income buildings is inherently equitable,” says Klesmer.

“But even then, I think it can be more equitable by ensuring program funding goes to those who are most in need of it. And is also designed in a way so that the investments in EV readiness aren’t passed on to residents in the form of increased rent.”

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