Nfld. & Labrador

Electric vehicle charging network coming online in N.L., to drivers' delight

14 charging stations are being constructed across Newfoundland, promising to make it a lot easier to drive an electric vehicle on the island.

14 charging stations under construction; expected to be up and running by end of 2020

Mike Goodyear of Grand Falls-Windsor can't wait to be able to drive his 2016 Tesla, Galileo, farther afield in Newfoundland without long waits for a charge. (Submitted by Mike Goodyear)

Mike Goodyear knew what he was getting into when he first plugged his Tesla Model S into the charger at his Grand Falls-Windsor home three years ago.

Newfoundland and Labrador was "the last holdout" for high-speed chargers, he told CBC News recently — but that was fine with him.

"I understood that going in, and that was part of the thing that I accepted," he said.

Goodyear has no regrets — "it's been absolutely delightful" owning an electric car, he said, adding it costs him about $8 for the journey from his driveway to St. John's. That may be a bargain and emissions-free, but with only a few places to charge his car along that route, it requires a lot of patience: a charging stop in Clarenville takes upwards of three hours, Goodyear says.

But the province's distinct status as the only one in Canada without public high-speed electric vehicle chargers is ending.

Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro is installing 14 Level 3 charging stations along the Trans-Canada Highway from Port aux Basques to St. John's, plus one in Rocky Harbour. The chargers were tendered in October 2019, and as each charger is completed and tested, it will come online. NL Hydro expects all the work to be done by the end of this year.

"We want to be an enabler, to enable EV adoption in the province," said Jennifer Williams, the president of NL Hydro. Williams herself bought an electric vehicle this past summer.

"We believe the electric vehicles are coming, and we want to be ready for when those vehicle comes, so we're planning the system and getting ourselves ready," she told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show.

Williams estimates there are 200 electric vehicles in Newfoundland and Labrador, and 90 per cent of those are charged at home. But she said research suggests the lack of a charging network is a major impediment to increasing sales.

This charging station is under construction in Holyrood, one of 14 across the island. Each station will have one Level 3 charger and one Level 2 charger. (Submitted by NL Hydro)

Welcoming EVs from elsewhere

Each station will have one Level 2 charger and one Level 3. The Level 3 chargers will cost $15 per hour, similar to chargers in the Maritimes, and can bill by the minute. 

Goodyear estimates they will shave hours off his St. John's trips, with a 20-minute stop enough of a boost to make it to the city. The network will make it far easier to sway people who have so far been on the fence about EVs, he said, particularly in rural areas that require longer trips.

"I know lots of people in the area who said, 'Oh, I wouldn't mind having an electric car, but I can't take it and drive to St. John's, I just don't have the range,'" he said.

Twenty years from now, you'll be hard-pressed to find a gasoline-powered car on the road.- Mike Goodyear

Goodyear has offered up his own home charger, even listing it on public charging apps, to EV drivers across the province, as well as tourists in need. He predicts the new network will attract even more people in search of a scenic, all-electric drive, across the island after the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This is for a very large community, and it'll open the island up to a lot of visitors from the mainland, that's another big thing. When our pandemic has come to an end, you'll see a lot more people coming and staying," he said.

Network set to expand

Those tourists might soon get a chance to explore further afield than the TCH.

On the heels of the current network construction, NL Hydro and Newfoundland Power is also looking to install 19 other charging stations in Newfoundland communities from Robinsons to Roddickton to Port Rexton, and three in Labrador, with applications currently being accepted for most of them.

"We're certainly keeping an eye on where else we can expand," said Williams.

Those extra stations are expected to be built by late 2021, depending on funding; the $2.1-million cost of the existing charging network is being split by the provincial and federal governments, along with NL Hydro.

For Goodyear and many other drivers, the more chargers, the better to reduce range anxiety: the very real response EV owners have trying to stretch their batteries to make it to the next charge.

This map shows where the 14 new fast chargers will be placed along the Trans-Canada Highway and in Gros Morne National Park. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

That's usually not an issue for Goodyear, who does most of his driving around town. He's always had an eye on the future — he named his Tesla Galileo, after a Star Trek spaceship — and as he idles in the drive-thru and sees exhaust pouring out of every other car, he can't help think of those younger than him.

"You know, all the driving I've done — I've just tipped over 91,000 kilometres in my car — and the car itself hasn't produced any noxious gases toward my kids and grandkids," he said.

Quebec announced last week it would ban the sale of gas-powered vehicles in 2035. Goodyear would like to see more incentives in this province, as he's certain such change will soon come east.

"Right now you're hard-pressed to see an electric vehicle on the road. Twenty years from now, you'll be hard-pressed to find a gasoline-powered car on the road," he said.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show

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