Effort to boost electric vehicle charging stations in GTHA gets $2M in new federal funding

A Toronto non-profit has partnered with the federal Ministry of Natural resources to create a fund to make it easier for municipalities and agencies to build electric vehicle charging stations.

Toronto's goal is to have 100% of vehicles be zero-emission by 2050

New funding will mean the creation of up to 300 electric charging stations. (Miles Willis/Getty Images)

A Toronto non-profit has partnered with Natural Resources Canada to create a fund to make it easier for municipalities and agencies to build electric vehicle charging stations.

The Atmospheric Fund (TAF) says the initiative, announced Tuesday,  is being dubbed the "EV Station Fund" and will support the installation of up to 300 charging stations.

"We have $2 million in new funding to be made available for a lot of groups across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area to build our electric vehicle charging infrastructure," said Ian Klesmer, director of strategy and grants with TAF.

The funding comes more than two years after the City of Toronto launched its own electric vehicle strategy. While the city says it's still on track to meet some of its goals, some say it needs to ramp up the installation of charging stations significantly to encourage more people to make the transition to electric vehicles.

Targeting specific communities

TAF says the funding will target communities where charging stations aren't accessible or can't easily be built: for example, areas where homes only have on-street parking, community properties and multi-family residential buildings.

"Forty-six per cent of Ontario residents don't live in single-family homes and don't have garages or driveways to put their electric charging vehicles," said Klesmer.

A man in a blue sweater
Ian Klesmer is the director of strategy and grants at The Atmospheric Fund, which has now partnered with the federal government on a fund that aims to boost the number of electric charging stations. (The Atmospheric Fund)

"So this program is really designed to address that pinch point and make chargers more widely available and accessible so that people can more easily get behind the wheel of an electric vehicle."

Those who can apply for the funding include municipalities, utilities, parking authorities and non-profits. If approved, they can get up to 50 per cent off the purchase and installation of a charging station, up to $100,000.

City numbers

The City of Toronto launched its electric vehicle strategy in 2020. One of its goals is for 100 per cent of vehicles in the city to be powered by zero carbon energy sources by 2050. 

In a statement to CBC News, the city said it's confident it will meet the targets — in fact, it wants to beat them. Its TransformTO Net Zero Strategy, adopted by council in December 2021, calls for achieving this goal by 2040. 

The city's goal is to have more than 3,200 charging ports operating within three years. So far, it has 864.

Part of the new funding will go toward ramping up charging infrastructure, and some say it needs to be done quickly to encourage more people to make the transition.

The City of Toronto is testing on-street charging stations for electric vehicles on certain streets as part of a pilot project. (Robert Krbavac/CBC)

Toronto resident Caroline Glogoviecki says in 2012, when her gas vehicle was nearing the end of its life, she tried to make the transition to an electric vehicle, but the charging infrastructure wasn't widespread enough. Her residential street has shared street parking without a nearby charging station.

"I think people are just really stuck right now where they just figure, well, it's not even an option," said Gogoviecki.

Glogoviecki, who lives with her husband and three children, says she's even tried to get the city to approve the creation of a parking pad on her own property to install a charging station, but says she's been rejected repeatedly since 2012.

"We should be incentivizing people to do it," said Glogovieci, who is once again considering making the transition, but nine years later says the infrastructure still isn't there.

"Have the [charging] infrastructure available and readily available or we just have to go back to gas."

Thinking bigger

Some experts applaud the city's efforts to transition to EVs so far, but acknowledge the difficulties when it comes to charging infrastructure.

"In the downtown core, where the access to overnight charging is really constrained, that's a major challenge," said Olivier Trescases, a professor of engineering at the University of Toronto and the director of its Electric Vehicle Research Centre..

Trescases thinks the city should focus on fast-charging stations at strategic locations — similar to how we have gas stations set up. Right now, under the city's plan, only 220 out of the more than 3,200 stations it wants to install will be fast charging.  

Olivier Trescases is a professor of engineering and the director of the University of Toronto's Electric Vehicle Research Centre. (Olivier Trescases)

"For those homeowners who cannot necessarily have easy access to overnight charging, the solution is going to be probably a larger battery and more convenient fast charging," said Trescases, but he acknowledges larger battery electric vehicles that are able to travel longer distances are still very expensive.

"Today, the offerings are limited, and I think in the next few years, we're going to see an explosion of available different models with all kinds of different range and price points."

But he emphasizes the goal isn't to get more cars on the road.

"We don't necessarily want more vehicles in the downtown core. We want a larger proportion of the existing vehicles to be electric."