Canada urged to back string of charging stations for electric vehicles

The organization last week asked Natural Resources Canada to consider its request under the eco-Energy Innovation Initiative, which has promised to invest $97 million in a bid to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, president and CEO Al Cormier said.

Should the proposal get federal approval, a study to define the project would follow, he said. The project would involve public-private partnerships, non-profit ventures or private companies — such as national retailers or existing gas stations — to host the infrastructure for alternative energy.

"These alternative energy stations could accommodate any technology that is not based on fossil fuels," Cormier said.

But it’s easy infrastructure that is of key interest to the organization, which is holding a three-day conference in Toronto on ‘building Canada’s green highway.’

As it stands, Canada has only one rapid EV charging station in downtown Vancouver, Cormier said.

Well-travelled corridors, such as the Windsor-Quebec City route or the Vancouver-Calgary trek, would probably be the first to see the alternative energy stations.

Canada does not have to "reinvent the wheel," but can learn from the European and Japanese experiences as well as study what is happening in the U.S., he said. There, the West Coast Green Highway, a stretch of 2,200 kilometres of interstate, offers a model and shows how public-private partnerships can work, Cormier said.

Rapid charging stations, known as Level 3 stations in the emerging industry, are seen as critical for a country such as Canada with its widely spaced urban centres and fondness for cottages and ski hills.

Level 1 chargers use 110 volts; plugging into a standard outlet can charge a vehicle overnight. Level 2 uses 240 volts, like a stove, and can charge a vehicle in about four hours. Level 3 uses more than 440 volts and can take a near-empty battery to an 80-per-charge charge in about 15 minutes.

Currently, rapid charging stations cost about $100,000 per station, but prices are expected to drop as new technologies are defined, Cormier said.

Quebec is seen as having a leadership role in preparing for the EV era among those attending the Toronto conference. It is home to the largest demonstration project of all electric vehicles in Canada and is launching the country’s first network of public charging stations.

The first phase of the project, involving about 100 Level 2 charging stations, should be rolled out in 2012.

Quebec’s first rapid charging station also should be in place in 2012, said Pierre-Luc Desgagne, Hydro-Quebec’s point man for electric vehicles.