Canada's NDP


July 20th, 2023

Evs Shouldn’t be a Challenge for Northern Drivers

It’s summer, and for many people, that means a trip on the open road to visit friends, family, or just spending some time at the cottage. For many of us, the distance travelling across this part of the country has become a feature of the north, and, aside from the constantly fluctuating cost of gas, it’s a fairly simple way to take in the beauty of our own back yard. However, those driving electric vehicles have found themselves struggling to find active charging stations, highlighting the problems some Canadians may have converting to EVs. This in turn also adds to challenges we are facing in our ability to transition away from fossil fuels.

In recent weeks and months, a number of Combined Charging System (CCS) and CHAdeMO (abbreviated from Charge de Move) EV charging stations in towns like Marathon, White River and Wawa have been inoperable. Tesla charging stations were still operable, but those stations aren’t compatible with non-Tesla EVs, leaving many EV drivers without a charging station between Terrace Bay and Sault Ste. Marie. This resulted in a high number of calls for assistance from tow truck drivers in the region and several stranded travelers.

So what’s happening that’s causing these issues across this stretch of the north? In the case of the Ivy charging station in White River, it was the result of a damaged transformer, but in those other instances, we don’t have details.

This doesn’t bode well for those looking to reduce their carbon footprint by switching to EVs. A recent J.D. Power Canada Electric Vehicle Consideration (EVC) Study indicates that Canadians are quite hesitant to move towards EVs, with two-thirds surveyed saying they are either “very unlikely” or “somewhat unlikely” to consider an EV as their next vehicle. The reasoning echoes recent travel woes along that stretch of the Trans-Canada highway, with respondents indicating concern with the upfront purchase price of an EV, lack of charging station availability, and the perception of limited driving distance per charge listed as key concerns from respondents.

However, it should be noted that not all parts of the country are equal when it comes to EV adoption. In British Columbia and Quebec, there is a higher uptake of EV consumers, relative to population, than other provinces. It’s no surprise, as Quebec and BC actually incentivize EV purchases by consumers, which in turn creates a higher install base, and further increases the availability of charging stations.

The government has stated that they hope to see EVs account for one-fifth of all new vehicles sold by 2026, 60 percent by 2030, and 100 percent by 2035. If this is to be even a remotely realistic goal, there needs to be a significant growth in the infrastructure necessary to support it. This would require substantial upgrades to our power grid to deal with the significant increase in electricity consumption. That would further entail building more green energy sources as to not make EVs redundant.

All of this still doesn’t address the concerns about being able to drive across large parts of the province, and indeed, the country, with an EV. While there are approximately 45,000 charging stations across Canada, the government’s goal is to almost double that number by 2027 to 84,000. The government is assisting proponents with funding for some of the project costs to build the infrastructure needed for EV charging stations, and while reliability of the stations is built into the government subsidies, the fact that there were entire swaths of land where a charger was available but not functioning doesn’t speak highly of the consequences of not maintaining that reliability.

It’s not appealing to drivers to make a switch to EVs if there’s any degree of uncertainty about the ability to charge a vehicle. And while EVs are a good step towards reducing our carbon footprint, if charging remains a problem, then people will be unwilling to move away from gas. Combating climate change remains an important issue for Canadians, but lack of government policies and corporate inaction remain massive hurdles in peoples’ ability to do their part.

Aside from investments in improving the infrastructure to support a growing demand for EVs, the government should also consider mandating auto makers to make charging components universal. Europe has functionally mandated the use of Mennekes type 2 and CCS type 3 connectors be standard, and this has had a significant increase in their EV adoption. While recent deals with Stellantis and Volkswagon to produce EV batteries in Canada is good news for workers and the future of zero-emission vehicles, it’s clear that there is still work to do to develop the infrastructure needed to get Canadians moving with EVs.