Electric vehicles in Quebec

Electric car pioneers will soon have less to fret about as they travel Quebec roads because Canada’s first public network of charging stations is about to power up.

By March, the first 90 240-volt charging stations should be operating at 60 sites in the Montreal and Quebec City regions, those behind Quebec’s Electric Circuit say.

The 90 stations, which can be used by all electric cars or plug-in hybrids, will be joined by another 30 in the summer, bringing to 120 the number of charging stations in the network.

“We are following the rhythm of the arrival of electric vehicles in Quebec,” Pierre-Luc Desgagné, Hydro-Québec’s senior director of strategic planning, said Thursday at the Montreal International Auto Show.

The utility has teamed up with the Agence métropolitaine de transport, Rotisseries St-Hubert, Rona and Metro to create the network.

It is also now testing a rapid charger unit, a 400-volt charger that can give a depleted battery an 80-per-cent charge in about 15 minutes. The rapid chargers will later be incorporated into the network.

Although there is wide consensus that EV owners will do most of their charging at home and the workplace, “range anxiety” is also taken as fact for early adopters of EVs.

That’s an EV driver’s nagging concern that one could find oneself stranded on the highway because charging stations aren’t as plentiful as gas stations.

Studies have indicated that the mere presence of public charging stations offsets “range anxiety” even if EV owners don’t use them.

And, of course, having charging stations along heavily travelled corridors will help achieve Quebec’s goal of widespread adoption of electric cars.

Although there are a number of publicly accessible EV charging stations in Toronto and Vancouver, Quebec’s network is the first in Canada.

Users of the Electric Circuit will also have access to a 24-hour help line operated by CAA-Québec. The service will be provided free of charge, Daniel Bédard, assistant director of automotive advisory services, said.

“We believe in the future of electric vehicles and want to actively advance that program,” he said.

If need be, CAA can remotely reset a charging station or offer towing services in extreme cases.

CAA-Québec also expects to soon acquire trucks that can provide a quick charge to stranded EVs, Bédard said.

The AAA, in the U.S., is currently testing those trucks in various cities, he said.

The Electric Circuit’s service will cost $2.50 per use, or $25 for 10 charges, regardless of how long the charge.