Fast-charging stations for electric vehicles coming to Trans-Canada Highway

Alicja Siekierska

July 20, 2017

The $17.3M charging network, which will be installed in Ontario and Manitoba, will allow drivers to charge their zero-emission cars in about 20 minutes

Three companies are teaming up with the federal government to install 34 electric vehicle fast-charging stations along the Trans-Canada Highway in an attempt to encourage the adoption of zero-emission vehicles.

The $17.3-million charging network, which will be installed in Ontario and Manitoba, will allow drivers to charge their zero-emission cars in about 20 minutes through stations powered by a lithium-ion battery storage system, one its developers say won’t stress the utility grid.

The project is funded by an $8-million “repayable contribution” from Natural Resources Canada under the Canadian Energy Innovation Program, as well as private investment from eCAMION, a Toronto-based energy storage system developer, Leclanché, an energy storage provider, and Geneva-based power producer SGEM.

Jim Carr, the federal Minister of Natural Resources, said in a news release that government recognizes that electric vehicles will play a significant role in reducing emissions from the transportation sector.

“With more electric vehicles becoming available, we want to make them an easy choice for Canadians. The strategic investment brings us closer to having a national coast-to-coast network of electric vehicle charging stations while growing our economy and creating good jobs for Canada’s middle-class,” Carr said.

Industry experts and government leaders have agreed that developing and installing charging infrastructure around the country is crucial in order to spark electric vehicle sales in Canada.

Each new station will consist of an energy storage system that uses large-format lithium-ion batteries and multiple outlets so that several cars can be charged at once. The stations will be equipped to use Level 3 chargers, which typically use a 480-volt system that can fully charge electric vehicles in about 30 minutes. Level 2 chargers, found in homes and commonly seen in parking garages, use a 240-volt system and can fully recharge vehicles in about eight to 10 hours.

Bryan Urban, executive vice president with Leclanché North America, said the technology is particularly advantageous because it will not stress the grid or require significant infrastructure upgrades.

“As electric vehicles get faster in the charging process, that can have a lot of stress on the grid and you would need to beef up the system, particularly in areas that are more remote. That can be costly,” he said.

“But this way, you can charge multiple vehicles at a time, without stressing the grid.”

The battery sources would be recharged during off-peak times, according to the companies. Urban also said several stations will be outfitted with solar panels to recharge the battery.

“This is perhaps the largest infrastructure project for electrical vehicles to be deployed at one time anywhere in the world,” said Elad Barak, VP business development of eCAMION, in a statement.

Urban said the exact locations for the 34-charging stations will be determined later this year. Production on the charging stations is expected to start early next year, followed by installation some time in the spring. 

Electric vehicle drivers will have to pay a fee to access the stations. Urban said how that usage fee is calculated is still being determined.

There were more than two-million electric vehicles on roads around the world in 2016, according to a report released by the International Energy Agency last month. According to the report, China is the largest electric car market in the world, with 336,000 new electric cars registered in 2016 alone, but it represents a mere 1.37 per cent of the country’s total car market.

Meanwhile, Canada is behind China, Norway and the other leading nations in the electric vehicle market. In 2016, 11,580 electric vehicles were sold in Canada, or just 0.59 per cent of the total car market.

The federal government has created an advisory panel aimed at raising the number of zero-emission vehicles on Canada’s roads. The panel, which includes experts from the auto industry, non-governmental organizations and both provincial and federal governments, will focus on developing a national strategy for electric vehicles by 2018.