In cities and highway rest stops, the case for more ultra-fast charging grows with dropping temperatures
Ten years ago, during the dawn of the modern all-electric vehicle with the launch of the Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S in quick succession, executives from both companies tacitly admitted that despite key EV advantages in smoothness, zero emissions, cost of fueling and even being able to remote start in one’s warm garage, there were also two extra challenges for battery electric vehicles (BEVs) in cold climates: driving range, and overall charging speeds.
These days, longer range batteries, quicker overall charging speeds and more plug-in vehicle options have helped to make winter driving much easier and a realistic option for many drivers, current EV owners and others. But many areas in Canada are still well behind in DC quick charging options, which help especially with those two winter issues.
Most automakers have now declared themselves committed to a zero emissions future for their vehicles, some more enthusiastically than others, prompted by countries such as Canada that have mandated such measures. This is slated to occur by 2035 in Canada, but as early as 2025 (or earlier) in Norway, the runaway global market leader in electric vehicle sales. With 64.2 percent of the entire new vehicle market in Norway consisting of BEVs in 2021 (roughly 92 percent of new vehicle sales if you include plug-in hybrids and hybrid sales to the end of November 2021), Norway is an oil-rich nation that should be a model for Canada that even countries with serious winter weather can embrace modern EV technology.
A study of the early Norwegian EV market found that installing public quick chargers helped increase the adoption of BEVs by roughly 200 percent over five years, by addressing the range issue in both urban and inter-city travel, with the addition of quick charging points every 50 km along major highways. And momentum seems to be building in this direction in Canada as well, after the provinces of Quebec and BC were also early to establish quick charging public networks in those provinces early on, helping to drive BEV adoption in those provinces, along with rebates and more recently ZEV mandates as well.
Electric vehicle drivers in Ontario were super excited to learn in early December that its popular network of ONroute highway stops would finally receive long-promised quick charging capabilities in 2022, as part of the Ivy Charging Network. Ivy is a joint venture between Hydro One and Ontario Power Generation (OPG), which will install and operate quick chargers of up to 150 kW speeds as early as the end of January, with 17 planned to be operational by the summer road trip season, and 20 by the end of 2022. These will cover some of the busiest stretches of highway on the continent, along the 401 and 400 north-south routes.
Such DC quick chargers will very much help with the inter-city travel that has traditionally been more of a challenge for EVs, especially in the winter, as will longer-range batteries and better thermal management systems in modern EVs. Where highway quick charging won’t help nearly as much is with urban drivers who don’t have access to a garage or a regular parking spot with overnight charging abilities.
It’s these drivers that would most benefit from more urban charging capabilities – as would all who work or live in cities, through lower pollution and climate-changing emissions. This could involve simple new 110-volt outlets in street lamps, more street-side Level 2 (240-volt) chargers, or more downtown DC quick charging (480 volts, or Level 3), such as Tesla offers with its Superchargers.
The success of Tesla is undoubtedly in large part due to its Supercharger network, which is both urban and inter-urban, but unfortunately not nearly as built out in Canada as in the US. If Canada is to successfully reach its goal of all zero emissions consumer vehicles in Canada by 2035, with all the health and climate benefits, more charging commitments in all areas of the country are needed.