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Canadian EV charging networks post double-digit growth since start of pandemic


You’re not just imagining it. There are more EV charging stations out there. Our latest tally of Canadian charging network deployments shows a 22 per cent increase in fast-charger installations since last March. Despite a rough 10 months, there are now fewer gaps in Canada’s EV infrastructure.

 

Last March, Electric Autonomy reported on the growth of Canada’s electric vehicle charging networks. Networks on both national and provincial levels were undertaking significant expansion projects, aiming to quickly shrink the gaps between areas where EV owners could drive with confidence.

 

Today, in early 2021, it’s clear that despite the widespread upheaval that characterized much of 2020, a good deal of that projected growth has been realized. Many networks continue to work towards bold plans for further expansion the rest of this year and beyond.

 

Through the start of this month, Natural Resources Canada data showed that there were 13,230 EV chargers at 6,016 public stations across the country. That was up almost 15 per cent from the 11,553 chargers at 4,993 stations we reported in March.

 

Significantly, 2,264 of those public chargers are DC fast chargers, which are capable of delivering full vehicle charges in less than an hour and sometimes in a matter of minutes. That number, which has risen by over 400 since March — a 22 per cent increase — is the most crucial for EV drivers with long distances in mind.

 

Level 2 chargers, which typically take a few hours to fully charge an EV, are also important as they allow drivers to charge while at destinations, such as workplaces, shopping malls, business districts and tourist attractions.

 

How do those charger totals break down by network? We’ve compiled the following roundup of the current installed based for every major provider — including a couple of newcomers — along with short summaries of recent highlights and future plans. Together, they are bringing Canada closer to a future free from range anxiety and putting EVs in reach for would-be buyers everywhere.

 

National Networks

Tesla

● l DC Fast Charge: 988 chargers, 102 stations

● l Level 2: 1,653 chargers, 567 stations

 

While Tesla’s proprietary charging technology is currently only of use to those driving Teslas, that group represents a substantial portion of Canadian EV owners. Previously, Electric Autonomy reported that Tesla’s Model 3 was by far Canada’s best-selling EV through the first half of 2020, with 6,826 vehicles sold (over 5,000 more than the runner-up, Chevrolet’s Bolt).

 

Tesla’s overall network remains one of the nation’s most comprehensive. First established in a limited capacity between Toronto and Montreal in 2014, it now boasts hundreds of DC fast and Level 2 charging stations stretching from Vancouver Island to Halifax with no major gaps, and is absent only from the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

In late 2020, Tesla’s next generation V3 Superchargers started popping up across Canada making the country one of the first places to host the 250kW (at peak charge rates) stations.

 

A number of Tesla chargers have also been rolled out as part of Canadian Tire’s cross-country charging network, which the retail giant announced last January. Through a $5-million investment of its own and with $2.7 million from Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Tire planned to bring DC fast and Level 2 charging to 90 of its stores by the end of 2020. However, as of early February, due to COVID-related delays, it has just 46 sites, with 140 chargers, in operation. Electrify Canada and FLO will also supply chargers to Canadian Tire alongside Tesla as part of this venture.

 

FLO

● l DC Fast Charge: 196 stations

● l Level 2: 3,163 stations

 

FLO is one of the nation’s most comprehensive charging networks, with over 150 DC fast and thousands of Level 2 chargers operational across the country – not including their chargers in The Electric Circuit. FLO also has turnkey charging stations available for sale to businesses and consumers for private use.

 

FLO was able to add 582 stations to its public network through late 2020, 28 of which are DC fast chargers. That represents a growth rate of over 25 per cent; FLO recently told Electric Autonomy that it believes it can push that figure above 30 per cent in 2021, with the potential for 1,000 new public stations to be built across the country by 2022.

 

FLO’s parent company, AddEnergie, also announced in October, 2020 that it had secured $53 million in a financing plan and the money will be used to further accelerate the company’s North American FLO network expansion.

 

As mentioned above, FLO has also rolled out several chargers as part of Canadian Tire’s retail network.

 

ChargePoint

● l DC Fast Charge: 148 chargers, 100 stations

● l Level 2: 2,000 chargers, 771 stations

 

ChargePoint is another of the major players in Canada’s EV charging landscape, and one of the few networks with chargers in all 10 provinces. As with FLO, ChargePoint provides charging solutions for fleets and private businesses in addition to their public charging network.

 

In September, ChargePoint announced it was going public after a deal with Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC) Switchback, estimated to be worth $2.4 billion. In Canada, ChargePoint also announced a partnership with Volvo that will give purchasers of Volvo’s battery electric XC40 Recharge access to ChargePoint’s network across North America. The company will also supply a number of the chargers for the recently announced EcoCharge network, a collaboration between Earth Day Canada and IGA that will bring 100 DC fast charging stations to 50 IGA grocery stores in Quebec and New Brunswick.

 

Petro-Canada

● l DC Fast Charge: 105 chargers, 54 stations

● l Level 2: 2 chargers, 2 stations

 

In 2019, Petro-Canada’s “Electric Highway” became the first non-proprietary charging network to connect Canada from coast to coast when it unveiled its westernmost station in Victoria. Since then, it has added 13 fast charging stations as well as two Level 2 chargers.

 

The majority of the stations are located near the Trans-Canada highway, allowing for relatively simple access for those crossing any large stretch of the country.

 

Petro-Canada’s network has received partial funding from the federal government through Natural Resource Canada’s Electric Vehicle and Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Deployment Initiative. Petro-Canada’s network was granted $4.6 million; the same program funded Canadian Tire’s network with a $2.7-million investment.

 

Through the NRCan program, the federal government is investing $96.4 million in electric vehicle and hydrogen charging stations across the country. A separate NRCan initiative, the Zero Emission Vehicle Infrastructure Program, is investing $130 million in the construction of chargers on streets, at workplaces and in multi-unit residential buildings between 2019 and 2024.

 

Electrify Canada

● l DC Fast Charge: 72 chargers, 18 stations

 

Electrify Canada, a subsidiary of Volkswagen Group, is making aggressive moves in the Canadian charging space with a speedy rollout since their first station in 2019. In 2020, the company opened eight new stations across Ontario and expanded into Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec with a further seven stations. Two more stations became operational in Quebec as of this February. Electrify Canada boasts one of the fastest charging speeds of all of Canada’s networks: between 150kW and 350kW. The company’s plans to open 38 stations by the end of 2020 were slowed by Covid-related shutdowns, but they remain committed to achieving their target.

 

Electrify Canada is the Canadian counterpart to Electrify America, which has installed over 1,500 fast chargers across the United States since 2016. For those who purchase Volkswagen’s 2020 e-Golf electric vehicle, two years of free 30-minute charging sessions from Electrify Canada stations are included.

 

Greenlots

● l DC Fast Charge: 63 chargers, 30 stations

● l Level 2: 7 chargers, 4 stations

 

Greenlots is a member of the Shell Group, and has a sizeable charging presence in the United States. In Canada, its fast chargers are mostly located in Ontario and British Columbia. Although Greenlots was founded over a decade ago, it only began installing public DC fast chargers in 2019, in Singapore, before expanding throughout Asia and North America.

 

SWTCH Energy

● l DC Fast Charge: 6 chargers, 3 stations

● l Level 2: 376 chargers, 372 stations

 

Toronto-based SWTCH Energy is quickly building a network of primarily Level 2 chargers across the country, with concentrated presences in Ontario and B.C. Of the total number installations to date, 244 of the Level 2 stations and all of the Level 3 stations were added in 2020.  

 

Early in 2020, SWTCH received $1.1 million in funding from investors including IBI Group and Active Impact Investments. SWTCH plans to use that momentum to continue its expansion, with a plan to build 1,200 chargers in the next 18 to 24 months, 400 of which are expected within the year.  

 

Provincial Networks

The Electric Circuit

● l DC Fast Charge: 450 stations

● l Level 2: 2,456 stations

 

The Electric Circuit (Le Circuit électrique), the public charging network founded by Hydro-Québec in 2012, is Canada’s most comprehensive provincial charging network (along with Quebec, several stations are in eastern Ontario). Quebec currently has the most electric vehicles of any Canadian province, an accomplishment that is owed no doubt in part to the province’s affordable hydroelectricity and early and robust leadership in charging infrastructure.  

 

In 2019, Hydro-Québec announced its intention to build 1,600 new fast charge stations across the province over the next 10 years. Fifty-five new fast charging stations with a charging speed of 100kW were added to The Electric Circuit’s network since the beginning of 2020. The Electric Circuit has also recently rolled out a new mobile app which includes a trip planner, charger availability information and other features designed to make the charging experience more user-friendly.

 

Ivy Charging Network

● l DC Fast Charge: 100 chargers, 23 stations

 

Ontario’s Ivy Charging Network is one of the newer names in Canadian EV charging; its official launch came only a year ago, just weeks before the first COVID-19 shutdowns rocked Canada. A product of a partnership between Ontario Power Generation and Hydro One, Ivy received $8 million of funding from Natural Resources Canada through its Electric Vehicle and Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Deployment Initiative.

 

Ivy aims to develop a comprehensive network of “carefully selected” locations in Canada’s most populous province, each with convenient access to amenities, such as washrooms and refreshments.

 

It currently offers 100 DC fast chargers in 23 locations. Following that pattern of growth, Ivy has committed to bolstering its network to include 160 fast chargers at over 70 locations by the end of 2021, a size which would put it among Canada’s largest networks.

 

BC Hydro EV

● l DC Fast Charge: 93 chargers, 71 stations

 

British Columbia’s provincial network was established in 2013, and offers significant coverage connecting urban areas such as Vancouver to far less populated regions in the province’s interior, greatly simplifying long-distance drives. Prior to the pandemic, BC Hydro announced plans to expand its network in 2020 to include over 85 locations.

 

In 2021 BC Hydro is planning to focus on installing only DC fast chargers with plans to add 12 news sites with dual fast chargers and upgrading a further 25 sites. By March 2022 the utility is planning to have 50 more DC fast chargers, bringing the network to almost 150 chargers spread over 80 sites.

 

Like Quebec, British Columbia has a long record of offering purchase rebates on electric vehicles. Not surprisingly, it has the highest rate of EV adoption of any Canadian province, making robust charging infrastructure crucial to support continued growth. BC Hydro has also done important work in pioneering the accessibility of EV charging, as Electric Autonomy reported last year.

 

eCharge Network

● l DC Fast Charge: 26 chargers, 26 stations

● l Level 2: 58 chargers, 43 stations

 

The eCharge Network was established in 2017 by New Brunswick Power with the aim of enabling EV drivers to travel the province with ease. With partial funding from Natural Resources Canada and the province of New Brunswick, those efforts have resulted in a charging corridor with an average of only 63 kilometres between each station, far below the average battery electric vehicle range.

 

NB Power recently told Electric Autonomy that while it has no current plans to add any additional fast chargers to its network, it continues to work to install more public Level 2 chargers at places of business and other locations across the province, two of which were built last year.

 

Newfoundland and Labrador

● l Level 2: 14 chargers

● l Level 3: 14 chargers

 

Newfoundland is Canada’s fast-charging orphan no more. In December 2020, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro broke ground on the first of the 14 charging stations that will make up the province’s public charging network. Built along the Trans-Canada Highway from Greater St. John’s to Port aux Basques, the network includes a mix of Level 2 and Level 3 charging outlets with 7.2kW and 62.5kW charging speeds, respectively. Off the highway there is also one station in Rocky Harbour (in Gros Morne National Park) to service the tourist site. The stations will be no more than 70 kilometres apart.

 

Last summer, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro announced that the project would receive $770,000 in federal funding through Natural Resources Canada, as well as almost $1.3 million from the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The project is slated to be completed by early 2021. Currently only the Holyrood station is online, but the charging equipment for the remaining 13 sites is in place


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