As Ontario plans to build dozens of electric vehicle chargers, calls grow for ramped up infrastructure

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With the Ontario government’s announcement that at least 46 electric vehicle (EV) charging stations will be built at all Onroute locations, experts and opposition party members say a lot more needs to be done to incentivize drivers to make the switch.

“I think it’s a good move, it’s needed, but it’s not sufficient,” Hany Farag, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at York University, told CityNews on Wednesday, calling for ample new data to help support the case for expanding infrastructure.

“If we see the utilization of the electric chargers is increasing, this means our government needs to push more and accelerate these EV chargers.”

During a news conference at the King City Onroute Wednesday morning, Ontario Energy Minister Todd Smith and Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney announced a plan to install at least two level-three (the fastest category of EV chargers) charging stations at 20 Onroute stops on Highways 400 and 401 by the end of 2022. The remaining three locations (Ingersol, Newcastle and Maple) would come between 2023 and 2025 as the facilities are revamped.

The electric stations are part of the Ivy Charging Network, a joint initiative by Ontario Power Generation and Hydro One and partly funded by the federal Natural Resources department. Currently in the Ivy network there are more than two dozen level-three EV chargers across all of Ontario with roughly three dozen more planned excluding the additional stations announced on Wednesday. In addition to the provincial network, municipalities across the province have been moving in recent years to incorporate EV infrastructure.

RELATED: Electric vehicle chargers to be installed at most Onroute rest stops by summer

The announcement marks a change in policy direction at the provincial level. Months after the Ford government assumed office in 2018, initiatives like an EV rebate program for drivers and a pilot project of having EV charging stations at select GO Transit stations were scrapped.

Farag said the chargers typically take around 15 minutes to recharge a vehicle, adding that time would vary depending on the battery size and model and the level of depletion.

On the Ivy Charging Network website, it said customers will be billed 30 cents a minute to charge their vehicles and it noted it could take anywhere between 10 to 30 minutes to get enough of a charge for 150 kilometres of travel.

Smith called Wednesday’s announcement a “historic expansion” of electric vehicle infrastructure, adding it’s an important step for current and future drivers of the vehicles. He noted there are nearly 67,000 electric vehicles registered in the province and the goal for officials is to see hundreds of thousands of EVs and hybrid vehicles built in Ontario by 2030.

Micheline Davies, a senior vice-president at Canadian Tire, which is part of the initiative, said at the announcement the company expects to see a million EVs on roads across Canada by 2030.

RELATED: Ontario aims to ramp up electric vehicle production but not offering rebate on sales

Farag, who specializes in electric mobility, said the announcement is timely and the chargers are needed. However, he said there are still many components of a fulsome EV strategy that need to be addressed in order to meet the provincial government’s aspirations.

“It’s a bit tricky. If the government is being very proactive and builds all this mass infrastructure yet we don’t have too many EVs on road, I guess it’s somehow risky,” Farag said while encouraging officials at all levels of government — especially municipalities — to make charging stations easily accessible and visible.

He went on to describe how the higher cost of EVs versus gas-powered vehicles, the lack of widescale availability of high-speed chargers across the province within close distances, and the potential of high charging rates are the biggest current barriers to a noticeable uptake in vehicles.

When asked to react to Wednesday’s announcement, members of Ontario’s opposition parties criticized the government for cancelling electric vehicle programs in 2018 and said it has delayed progress in building needed facilities.

Heading into the 2022 provincial election, all of the parties have boasted about building EV charging stations but firm commitments to the number of facilities as well as related infrastructure weren’t clear.

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