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A Renault Zoe new electric car is displayed during a meeting with journalists in Lisbon March 14, 2013.

RAFAEL MARCHANTE/REUTERS

Ontario is building nearly 500 electric vehicle charging stations across the province with hopes they will encourage more residents to use electric vehicles.

The provincial government says the network of public stations will help address "range anxiety" among electric car drivers who may be concerned about the distance their vehicles can travel compared to traditional vehicles.

The full network of stations will allow electric vehicles to travel from Windsor, Ont., to Ottawa, or from Toronto to North Bay, Ont., as well as in and around major urban centres.

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The stations — which will be placed at more than 250 locations including highways, workplaces and public spaces — are all expected to be in service by the end of March next year.

The government says the $20 million investment in the charging stations comes from Ontario's $325 million Green Investment Fund, which supports projects that fight climate change.

The province provides up to $14,000 in incentives for electric vehicle buyers as it aims for electric cars to make up five per cent of new vehicle sales by 2020. It says there are nearly 7,000 electric vehicles currently on the roads in Ontario.

"By investing in charging infrastructure that is fast, reliable and affordable, we will encourage more Ontarians to purchase electric vehicles, reducing greenhouse gas pollution and keeping our air clean," said Steven Del Duca, Ontario's minister of transportation.

Ontario's announcement on Wednesday comes after Quebec announced last month that it will greatly increase the number of fast-charge stations for electric vehicles along one of the province's busiest highways.

Electric cars are still a niche market, with less than one per cent of global auto sales. More than 21,000 plug-in electric vehicles have been sold in Canada since 2011.

The plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt leads, followed by the all-electric Tesla Model S and Nissan Leaf. Together they account for almost 70 per cent of sales.

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Widespread adoption of electric vehicles has been hampered by consumer concern over the availability of charging stations, the time required to charge electric vehicle batteries and the distance that can be travelled between charging sessions.

The typical Canadian urban commute, however, is far shorter than the travelling range of many of today's plug-in vehicles.

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