Driving an electric car along Canada’s rugged East Coast is about to get a lot easier.
Electric utilities in both Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are moving ahead with plans to install more charging stations along major highways.
“It’s a good step forward,” says Wayne Groszko, renewable energy co-ordinator with the Halifax-based Ecology Action Centre. “When they’re in place, people will be able to drive their electric cars farther. I see that as a good thing.”
In Nova Scotia, the province’s electric utility announced Wednesday it will set up 12 more stations along the province’s 100-series highways, though the locations have yet to be determined. Nova Scotia Power Inc. says these stations will offer so-called fast-charging, which will dramatically reduce the time it takes to charge electric-only vehicles.
The average charge time for Level-3 fast-chargers is 15 to 30 minutes, whereas most of the 100 or so Level-2 chargers in Nova Scotia take from three to eight hours, and a regular household outlet can take 12 hours or more. (There are currently only two Level-3 chargers in the province – one in Halifax, the other in Truro.)
Nova Scotia Power says the new stations, which should be ready by next spring, will enable electric vehicle drivers to travel from Sydney to Yarmouth without worrying about where they can charge their batteries. Fast charging will cost $10 per hour, or $2.50 for a 15-minute session.
“Electric vehicles are the future, and we want to help make Nova Scotia ready for that future,” Nova Scotia Power CEO Karen Hutt said in a statement.
New Brunswick’s NB Power announced a similar plan last month, committing to adding 10 Level-3 fast-charging stations along the Trans-Canada Highway, from Edmundston to Aulac.
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Currently, New Brunswick has more than 50 standard Level-2 chargers.
Prince Edward Island has about 30 Level-2 chargers, and Newfoundland and Labrador has about two dozen.
Groszko says the shift toward electric vehicles will eventually have a big impact on the environment. In Nova Scotia, drivers of fully electric vehicles typically produce 30 per cent less greenhouse gasses than those driving gasoline-powered vehicles. That number will improve as the province reduces its reliance on coal-fired generating plants, which currently produce about 50 per cent of Nova Scotia’s electricity.
“The savings will get better over time,” he said.
On a per capita basis, however, the Atlantic provinces are well behind Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia when it comes to charging stations and electric vehicle ownership, said Sanjeev Pushkarna, Nova Scotia Power’s manager of customer solutions.
There are only about 150 electric-only and plug-in hybrid vehicles in Nova Scotia, he said.
The three bigger provinces are well ahead on electric vehicles because they offer sales rebates, education programs, special driving lanes and parking spots, and workplace charging, among other things, Pushkarna said.
The sales rebates, which can reach up to $8,000 in Quebec, have helped boost sales. Last year, nearly half of all of Canada’s electric car sales were recorded in Quebec, where electricity is relatively cheap due to abundant hydroelectric power.
The province also recently passed the country’s only legislation requiring automakers to sell a minimum number of electric, plug-in hybrid and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles for the 2018 model year.
In P.E.I., the leader of the opposition Green party, Peter Bevan-Baker, has said the provincial government should bring back an incentive program that was killed in 2013.
“In terms of offering incentives to Islanders to actually purchase the vehicles and use them we’re really lagging behind,” he told CBC.
However, Groszko says he doesn’t support such a program for Nova Scotia.
“Using an electric vehicle does reduce emissions, but there are lots of other things that we can do to reduce more emissions,” he said, pointing to investments in public transit and improving the energy efficiency of homes.
“Someone who can afford an electric car, frankly, is not in the same situation as someone who has to decide between paying their heating bill and feeding their children. That’s the person we should be helping by insulating their house. That would save just as much emissions or more.”
In a report released in June, the Montreal Economic Institute concluded provincial subsidies were the most expensive, least effective way to help cut greenhouse gas emissions. The organization studied the subsidies offered by Quebec and Ontario and found they could cost those provinces a total of $17 billion by 2030, while cutting emissions by less than four per cent a year.
In Canada last year about 0.6 per cent of all new cars sold were electric or electric hybrids. There are now about 32,000 electric vehicles on Canada’s roads.