Sudbury

Electric car chargers hoped to fuel tourism

The installation of four electric vehicle chargers at locations between Sudbury and Toronto means drivers can now make the journey on nothing but battery power — and hopefully give a boost to tourism.

Four charging stations installed between Toronto and Sudbury

Kent Rathwell's company Sun Country Highways is currently installing e-vehicle chargers across the country, including in Sudbury at the Quality Inn. He's pictured to the left, along with hotel general manager Troy Rainville. (Hilary Duff/CBC)

The installation of four electric vehicle chargers at locations between Sudbury and Toronto means drivers can now make the journey on nothing but battery power — and hopefully give a boost to tourism.

Before these charging stations were installed, electric vehicle drivers in Toronto were restricted to travelling within the Greater Toronto Area, said the president of the Canadian company Sun Country Highways.

"Now that a lot of [people] are moving to electric cars to save money and help the environment and keep more money available for their family and their leisure activities, hopefully their leisure activities will include Sudbury in the future," Kent Rathwell said.

His company is currently installing e-vehicle chargers across the country, including in Sudbury at the Quality Inn.

The general manager at the hotel, Troy Rainville, said the charge is free for hotel and restaurant guests and available to others at a small fee.

"It's the perfect tie-in and I do believe that there will be an increase in tourism having this station," he said.

"We're hopeful that eventually we'll have a number of other electric charging stations."

New charging stations have also been installed in Parry Sound, Orillia and Aurora.

Rathwell said he expects the stations to draw people from southern Ontario to the north.

Electric pick-up trucks?

But one auto industry analyst said the stations won't make a difference in the popularity of e-cars.

Dennis DesRosiers, president of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants, said it’s a case of the infrastructure being put into place before the need is actually present.

"These charging stations … [are like] the chicken and egg situation," he said.

"Between Toronto and Sudbury you might have — if I exaggerate — 100 electric vehicles. So what are the chances of one happening to be near your charging station?"

DesRosiers said northern Ontario consumers are also less likely to switch to electric vehicles because of weather and the area's preference for larger-sized cars.

He said the market will eventually switch to electric cars but "I think we're still looking at a minimum of a decade before plug-in electrics start to catch on, and that more likely will be two decades."

And that begs the question of who will cover the capital cost of the electric charges while the market catches up, he said.

DesRosiers noted factors like weather, distances in rural areas, and people’s car size preference makes electric cars less likely to succeed in Sudbury and northern Ontario.

"When you get to the Sudbury's in the world you have a higher percentage of pick-up trucks and the types of consumers that live in those areas prefer those types of vehicles," he said.

"Right now, there isn't a plug-in electric pick-up truck … there's some daunting challenges here."

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