Ottawa moving on high-speed charging stations for electric cars

Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr says he is planning to ask the private sector for proposals to develop a series of fast charging stations across the country.

Natural resources minister to ask for private sector bids this spring

Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr has asked the private sector for proposals on developing a national network of fast charging stations for electric cars 1:23

The federal natural resources minister says there's no time to lose in establishing a high-speed charging network for electric cars in Canada.

That's why Jim Carr is planning to ask the private sector for proposals this spring to develop a series of fast charging stations across the country.

"This is not something that government can do alone, we have no intention of trying to do it alone," said Carr in an interview with CBC News.

"We think that this investment in electrical vehicles is a prudent way to proceed, but prudent doesn't mean that you take your time. So we also understand that there's urgency."

Carr's department received $62.5 million in last month's federal budget  to "support the deployment of infrastructure for alternative transportation fuels" over the next two years. That includes projects to develop better electric vehicle charging infrastructure. 

Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr says now is the time to take advantage of the growing interest in electric cars. (CBC)

He said now is the time to take advantage of the growing interest in electric vehicles across the country.

"To make it more affordable, to make sure people can go greater distances so when they get in their car they can get to the lake or get where it is they want to be and that there will be a place to charge the vehicle that'll take half an hour or less."

Supply and demand

According to the national electric vehicle advocacy group Plug 'N Drive, there are 18,451 electric cars on the road, mostly in Quebec, Ontario and B.C. 

There are 3,513 charging stations, including 102 that are for Tesla owners only.

Only 51 of the total public charging stations are the high-speed type that take less than half an hour to charge a car. The vast majority are medium speed, which require four to six hours to charge a vehicle. 

Cara Clairman, president of Plug 'N Drive, says a national network of charging stations would help neutralize fears of potential electric car owners that they might run out of juice before a journey is over. (CBC)

"The stats will tell you that 80 per cent of Canadians drive 50 kilometres or less a day … so the issue of range is not relevant for a lot of folks," said Cara Clairman, president of Plug 'N Drive in an interview with CBC. 

"Most of us tend to drive and come home and charge at night."

But she thinks the gap in the charging network is discouraging many consumers from buying an electric car because they have "range anxiety," fear their car will run out of power on a long-distance drive. 

"We are all accustomed to gas, and we know the stations are out there, we don't have a fear of running out of gas. With a new source of fuel people imagine they are going to be out there driving, and they think, where am I going to plug in?"

National network proposed

Clairman is urging  the federal government to establish a network of fast charging stations in places where people will see them and use them.

"You want those stations at a place where you can stop and run errands and get something to eat, and by the time you get back, your car will be charged. That makes it very convenient … and I think that will really change things," said Clairman. 

The number of electric car charging stations across the country by province/territory according to Plug 'N Drive (Francois Leclerc/CBC)

The province of  Quebec has been a leader in building electric car infrastructure, followed by B.C. and more recently by Ontario, which announced last year it would spend $20 million on high-speed charging stations.

But the natural resources minister thinks there's a definite role for his federal department to help green the country's transportation sector through a high-speed charging network. 

"That certainly will be a focus," Carr said. "You have to be practical. You want to create a situation and an environment within which Canadians will see there is an opportunity for them not only to help make the planet a cleaner place but also to help them in the way they get around and in ways that are sustainable." 

About the Author

Margo McDiarmid

Parliamentary Bureau

Margo McDiarmid is a Senior Reporter with CBC's Parliamentary Bureau, who focuses on energy, the environment and Indigenous issues.


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