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  • Writer's pictureNII

Rural Ontario must get ready for the electric vehicle future

Strategic approach needed to ensure tourists and other EV drivers can get a charge in Bruce, Grey and Huron

Easy access to quick electric vehicle (EV) charging stations is a major factor in determining where EV owners choose to spend their travel dollars, a new study shows, warning that regions like Bruce, Grey and Huron counties risk losing tourist business unless they expand places for Ontario’s growing number of EV drivers to plug in.

The report, produced by the Nuclear Innovation Institute (NII), found that 83 percent of Ontario EV owners believe it would be “difficult” or “very difficult” to access public charging in Bruce, Grey and Huron. That perception is underscored by the fact that the region has just 45 places to charge an EV, with a mere 111 individual plugs across its almost 12,000 square kilometers.

The need for more charging stations is acute. Two-thirds of EV drivers say they typically use their electric cars for weekend getaways or day trips, according to the survey of 528 owners—most located in urban areas across southern Ontario—that was conducted last month by NII’s Clean Energy Frontier program in conjunction with industry group Plug’n Drive.

“To stay competitive and relevant in attracting tourists, regions across the province must be prepared for EV drivers looking for easy access to the kinds of charging stations they want,” says Bruce Wallace, NII President and CEO. “The charging infrastructure needs to be here.”

The NII study found that 42 percent of owners surveyed want to be able to charge their vehicles at highway stops using fast-charging “Level 3” or “fast-DC” plugs that can give an EV an 80 percent charge in 30 to 45 minutes.

Tesla Level 3 fast charger in Kincardine, Ontario
Tesla Level 3 fast charger in Kincardine, Ontario

Another 36 percent of drivers prefer to use on-street “Level 2” chargers that can add a 50-kilometer range top-up in about an hour. Just 13 percent were looking for chargers at overnight locations like hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts.

The findings carry significant implications for local municipalities looking to increase the inventory of charging stations. Ensuring the region is ready for heavier EV tourist traffic requires a coordinated, region-wide approach to adding charging capacity, ensuring that the right kinds of stations are installed, in the right places.

Among other things, the NII report recommends that municipalities work with partners in neighbouring regions to establish—and widely promote—an EV charging station network that would stretch from Highway 401 to the tip of the Bruce Peninsula.

Responses to the survey suggest that the Bruce, Grey and Huron region may already be missing out on attracting visitors. More than 70% of owners say they would “only choose” or would “give preference” to visiting those locations where they know they will be able to access public charging infrastructure.

Zero-emissions vehicles—those that are either fully electric or hybrid models and dubbed ZEVs—made up around two percent of all new car sales in Ontario last year.

But that number is expected to grow rapidly. Almost all major auto makers have announced plans to convert their fleets from gas or diesel to electric in the coming years, and the federal government has set a target for ZEVs to be 10 percent of all car sales by 2025—reaching 100 percent of all sales by 2035.

Projections indicate Ontario will have almost three million ZEVs on the road by 2035.

“EV drivers are affluent, travel often by car, and prefer to travel to places where they know a reliable network of public charging stations is easily accessible,” said Cara Clairman, President and CEO, Plug’n Drive. “As more EV makes and models come to market, combined with improved battery technology and EV range, the pace of EV adoption is expected to accelerate significantly.”


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