It took Kent Rathwell three years to install roughly 1,000 electric-vehicle charging stations across the country, and he has just announced a goal to double the current Sun Country Highway network between now and the end of 2015.
These strategically placed Level-2 chargers will make it possible for drivers of range-limited battery electric vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf and new Kia Soul EV to drive across the country at little to zero fuel cost, as 90 per cent of the current network offers EV drivers free electric fuel.
For a fee, Rathwell’s Saskatchewan-based company supplies and installs the chargers in outlets ranging from gas stations to shopping malls to coffee shops. Cost of a charge to the vehicle owner, if any, is determined by the site operator. Many provinces including Ontario don’t allow charging per kilowatt-hour so it’s either free, delivered for a parking charge, or accessed on a network that does charge (Chargepoint, SCH/Blink, etc.).
With Level-2 charges requiring four hours or more, cross-country travel isn’t practical. Sun Country’s expanded network could make intercity travel a more amenable option for EV buyers, while giving plug-in hybrid owners opportunities to increase the number of emissions-free kilometres. Much quicker, pricier Level-3 units would provide an 80-per-cent charge in about 20 minutes. In an e-mail, Rathwell estimated that it will be possible to travel virtually anywhere in Ontario on L3 chargers “in approximately 24 to 36 months.”
Rathwell even managed to persuade a Petro-Canada owner to install an EV charger in Alberta, which in early October became one of the first gas stations in the country to sign on to the Sun Country network.
Meantime, one of Rathwell’s main concerns is lack of EV inventory in Canada. Facing a panel of auto-maker executives at the Electric Mobility Canada conference, he asked: “Will you be able to supply enough [plug-in] vehicles? Or are we just banging our heads against the wall?”
A study released at the conference through non-profit groups Plug ’n Drive and My Sustainable Canada found that out of 95 visits by secret shoppers to EV-certified dealers across Ontario in the first quarter of 2014, more than half the visits (51) yielded no available plug-ins.The study was funded by Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation and overseen by researchers at the University of Waterloo and Wilfred Laurier University.
Nissan Canada’s Marcel Guay, marketing manager for the all-electric Leaf said his company has eased bottlenecks. “If the market wants to buy the vehicles, we can supply the vehicles,” Guay told Rathwell.
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