2.4 Expanding electric vehicle charging stations in Canada

Governments in Canada and around the world continue to encourage greater consumer adoption of battery electric cars or those powered by alternative propulsion systems. Apart from consumer price, the biggest barriers to mass adoption of EVs are so-called “range anxiety” concerns – the fear of running out of battery power during a road trip, especially as Canada’s colder climate will deplete batteries faster – and the lack of access to charging infrastructure. To address these barriers, Canada must undertake a major expansion of its electric vehicle-charging network. As of 2021, Canada’s charging network included 15,000 public or semi-private chargers, at approximately 6,500 stations throughout the country.

Analyst reports list Canada among the bottom tier of “EV readiness” due in part to slow moving efforts to expand needed infrastructure, notably chargers.

On the heels of the 2021 federal election, the Liberal government committed an additional $880 million to build 65,000 more chargers by 2026.

This expansion is in addition to other commitments made by automakers, including GM, to develop 40,000 charging stations throughout North America.

As positive as these developments seem, access to charging infrastructure must be exponentially higher if Canada is to succeed in reaching its ZEV targets. For instance, benchmarks set by European Union agencies recommend a ratio of 10 charging stations for every electric vehicle on the road.

A red and blue graph with four charging ports and thirty-nine zero emission vehicles and text four million chargers needed to support 39 million zero emission vehicles on the road.

Canada will have to significantly increase its planned infrastructure investments to meet this ratio. Specifically, the government will need to benchmark 4 million chargers to accommodate an expected on-road fleet of approximately 39 million electric vehicles based on current sales targets for ZEVs.

These concerns with infrastructure raise other considerations too. How EV owners who reside in multi-unit residential buildings or are otherwise without sufficient space to install chargers at home will access infrastructure must be addressed. Access to a variety of charging types, including levels one, two and DC (i.e. fast) charging stations, is also important and must cater to the needs of diverse communities across the country.

Ensuring that sufficient investments and expansions are made for clean, emissions-free energy production added to provincial and territorial baseload capacity are also necessary to avoid the unintended consequence of offsetting more GHG-free vehicles with higher levels of GHG-intensive power generation.

  • Establishing and communicating a national charging benchmark will provide direction for infrastructure planners as well as coordination efforts between various levels of government. A benchmark also sends a signal to prospective EV buyers to ease “range anxiety” expressed as one primary barrier to adoption. Regular monitoring is critical to ensure appropriate resource deployment and access points in various regions of the country, especially in remote communities.

    Meeting this ambitious benchmark will require further investments by all levels of government, partially funded by automakers themselves, in accordance with anticipated uptake in EV ownership. Investments include the retrofitting of public spaces, including libraries and community centres, multi-unit residential dwellings and in conjunction with the existing network of fuel stations in communities and along highway corridors.

    Increased charging capacity must include a mixture of level two and DC fast charging stations.

  • Convene a federal-provincial task force to assess existing capacity issues and opportunities for joint-investments in more GHG-free power generation, emphasizing the production of energy through renewable sources where possible.