Toronto

Toronto discourages electric car use by denying on-street chargers, driver says

One Torontonian says the city is making it impossible for him to drive the electric car of his dreams.

City considering pilot project to build public charging stations in some downtown wards

If you have a private parking spot or a garage, installing a charger for your electric car is no problem. But it's a different story for Torontonians who use on-street parking. (Jason Reed/Reuters)

One Torontonian says the city is making it impossible for him to drive the electric car of his dreams.

James Scarrow put a deposit down on a Tesla Model S electric vehicle (EV), but discovered the city won't give him a permit to build a charging station outside his Toronto home near Broadview and Danforth, because he uses on-street parking.

Scarrow hoped to run power from his home to the vehicle by going underneath the sidewalk, but he says the contractors who specialize in installing the chargers told him they couldn't do any work on city property.

Now, Scarrow figures the only way he'd be able to charge an EV overnight is if the city installs its own infrastructure — perhaps in the form of cords extending from a neighbourhood hydro pole, he says.

James Scarrow wants to go electric, but with no place to charge his car overnight, he may have to cancel that plan. (Lyne-Françoise Pelletier/Radio-Canada)
This is going to continue to be something that people want to own ... we have to make sure we have the infrastructure to support it.- Coun. Jaye Robinson

"Without a method of home-charging in street parking zones at least on the table … I don't see how I can continue with the purchase of an EV. I imagine many others on permit parking feel the same way."

There are currently 53,000 motorists relying on street parking in the city.

Scarrow says that's frustrating, especially because he's willing to invest (the Model S costs upwards of $75,000) in an environmentally-friendly vehicle, and the city's own green guidelines encourage the use of EVs. The province is also urging motorists to go electric and is offering incentives to make the switch. 

Scarrow says so far, Toronto's taking a timid approach to dealing with EVs and needs to speed things up before getting left behind. 

"A world-class city? Hardly." he wrote in an email to CBC Toronto.

Running charging cords across sidewalks a safety risk, city says

City transportation staff say there were some 1,600 electric vehicles registered in the city as of 2016, and an estimated 80 per cent of owners charge at home. It's likely most of those owners have private driveways or garages.

A spokesperson for the city's transportation services division confirmed residents like Scarrow can't run a power line to the street.

"This would constitute a violation of city bylaws and provincial electrical code regulation, and would be a serious safety hazard," the city's Cheryl San Juan said in an email.

City pilot project could add public chargers

The city's public works committee did approve a pilot project that will create public charging stations in three downtown wards, and if council approves that at its next meeting, there could soon be a total of 19 stations available. But Scarrow says that's far short of what the city will need as a "wave" of customers considers buying EVs.

Coun. Jaye Robinson says getting more Toronto drivers into electric vehicles could improve the city's air quality. (John Rieti/CBC)

Coun. Jaye Robinson says she understands Scarrow's frustration, but the city needs to figure out how much installing and operating stations will cost, and how it should be done — work that will be done along with Toronto Hydro during the proposed pilot.

"I don't think we're doing enough. I think we get a bit of a failing grade on this," Robinson said.

However, she says the new chargers will be an improvement and hopes the pilot project will lead the way to the city taking a more aggressive approach to the area. 

Robinson's ward, Don Valley West, has the highest numbers of EVs, and she says the number of purchases appears to double every year.

"This is going to continue to be something that people want to own ... We have to make sure we have the infrastructure to support it."

The city is also pushing for new condo buildings to include charging stations, although some residents of multi-residential units say it's a struggle to get condo boards to add them.

City council will vote on whether or not to go ahead the with pilot project at its November meeting. Robinson says the project aligns with the city's sustainability goals, and that she hopes it will pass. 

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