Nfld. & Labrador

The future is electric but the province's infrastructure is lagging behind, says non-profit

Newfoundland and Labrador is the only province without a high-speed charging network, says the founders of Drive Electric NL.

Joe Butler says he drives 18,000 kilometres a year in his EV and it costs him about $30 per month

Joe Butler, left, and Jon Seary stand with a level-two charging station on Kenmount Road. (Gavin Simms/CBC)

A group dedicated to promoting electric vehicles says the province isn't doing enough to inspire more EV drivers. 

Drive Electric NL is pushing to get the latest in charging technology installed across the island. The non-profit says Newfoundland and Labrador is currently the only province in Canada without a network of high-speed chargers. 

"You can charge your car overnight, easy enough," said co-founder Joe Butler. "But if you want to go long distances, it is currently a problem." 

He's quick to add that the vast majority of people drive less than 150 kilometres a day, and would charge their cars at home. 

The province currently has approximately 70 level-two charging stations available for public use. They can charge an electric vehicle in three to four hours.

But a high-speed charger can do it in as little as 15 minutes.

"What we're looking for is to put in a dozen," Butler said.

Fellow Drive Electric NL co-founder Jon Seary adds that a distribution system along the Trans-Canada Highway would allow people to stop, have a coffee and have a fully-charged vehicle by the time they're done. 

Drive Electric NL is leading the charge to get a network of high-speed chargers built across the province. (Gavin Simms/CBC)

Harnessing electricity

According to Service NL, less than one percent of the vehicles registered in the province are electric. Seary says that percentage is even less when you look outside the Avalon, adding that he's aware of more EVs in Labrador than in central or western Newfoundland. 

"Labrador, of course, with typically higher gas and lower electricity prices makes it even more attractive," he said.

Drive Electric NL recently submitted a rate mitigation review to the Public Utilities Board, suggesting the move to electrification needs to be started as quickly as possible, given the upcoming switch to Muskrat Falls power. 

"Irving wouldn't produce gas and then not have gas pumps," Butler said.

Seary says in the next year even electric pick-up trucks are coming on board, with a 35,000 lb towing capacity. (Gavin Simms/CBC)

The future looks bright

Both Seary and Butler have been driving electric for a few years now, and can't recommend it enough.

Butler said he drives his electric vehicle about 18,000 kilometres a year and it costs him about $30 a month — "and no gas bills."

The steady decrease in purchase cost and increase in electric models to choose from is something Seary thinks will change the game. 

"A lot of people say, 'OK, electric car — that's a Tesla, they're really expensive and I can't afford that'. Well that's changing."

Drive Electric NL expects that once high-speed chargers are in place, a lot of people will start taking their foot off the gas pedal. 

"They're cheap to drive, they're fun with fantastic specs," says Seary. "You're going to want to take them on the highway and get from one end of the province to the other. And that's where we lag right now compared to every other province, with the availability of car chargers."

CBC News contacted the Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment for comment. In an emailed response, a department spokesperson said government is "currently working with industry to gauge stakeholder interest in availing of a federal funding program for electric vehicle charging infrastructure." 

Read more stories from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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