Fully Charged

“F our or five years ago, I don’t know if there were 100 electric vehicle charging stations in the country,” says Simon Ouellette, manager of ChargeHub, a Montreal-based company that offers advice to prospective EV buyers. “But it snowballed from there.” Indeed it has. The data used to build this map comes from ChargeHub and shows there are 3,914 charging stations — more than enough to zip across the second biggest country in the world while producing zero tailpipe emissions.

While it’s currently possible to drive an EV from coast to coast, there are still several regions of the country — such as Saskatchewan — with a sparse selection of public charging stations. With the average driver in Canada travelling about 50 kilometres a day, this isn’t a daily concern for most EV owners, but it could get in the way of longer journeys such as the great Canadian road trip. That’s why the federal and provincial governments are working together to enable the rollout of fast-charging stations at the same highway rest stops we’re accustomed to using to fill up on gas (and marginally nutritious food). In road trip emergencies, EV drivers can always plug their cars into any standard 110- volt electrical outlet that’s available, like those installed in many public parking lots used to fire up engine block heaters in the depths of winter.

For many Canadians, particularly those in rural areas or those with long commutes, extended-range electric vehicles provide the best of both worlds. Unlike normal hybrids, EREVs, which include plug-in hybrid vehicles, run on electricity only until the battery is empty. Then they switch to a gas generator. “We like the EREV option for now,” says Andy Ball, an owner of an extended range Chevy Volt. “With the EREV we can do most of our daily driving, about 700 kilometres per week, using only electricity. On the weekends, we can drive from Ottawa to Mont Tremblant, about 170 kilometres, using only six litres of gas compared to the 25 litres we used to use in our Toyota pickup.”

The rapid uptake of EVs is also affecting neighbourhood-level electricity use. With over 90 per cent of EV charging happening at home, some worry that multiple EV owners on the same block will charge their cars at the same time, which could strain older street-level transformers. While theoretically possible, it’s not an issue yet, and utility companies have already begun work to ensure a smooth transition.

—Tom Hall

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