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Parkland plans to double Western Canada EV fast-charging network

IMAGE: Parkland's ON the RUN charger in use
An ultra-fast charger in use at a Parkland ON the Run location. (Courtesy Parkland Corporation)

Parkland Corporation will double the size of its ultra-fast electric vehicle (EV) charging network in Western Canada – from 25 ON the RUN chargers to 50 – and is keeping its foot on the pedal for its Canada-wide expansion plans.

The company expects to largely complete its initial 25 charging locations by the end of 2022, and the remaining 25 locations by early 2024.

“The topic of electrification was something that was on our radar screen. But for a while, we weren't quite sure how big of an impact it was going to have, how quickly it was going to come. Then we started to notice an uptick in EV adoption in B.C.” said Scott Sharabura, Parkland’s vice president of EV charging. "It just so happens that we have not only the largest network of retail fuel sites in B.C., but I think also some of the nicest."

“We do have sites that have good convenience stores, sites that have great restaurants and goods. They're relatively good places to spend 20 to 30 minutes. So we said, look, there's a potential opportunity here.”

Since its 2017 purchase of Chevron Canada, Parkland (PKI-T) has grown its retail fuelling property network to approximately 2,100 locations.

Strategically located across the company's existing Chevron and ON the RUN retail portfolio between Vancouver Island and Calgary, Parkland's network will nearly triple Metro Vancouver's publicly available ultra-fast EV charging locations.

The network has been partially funded by a $5 million grant through Natural Resources Canada’s Zero Emission Vehicle Infrastructure Program, while the B.C. provincial government provided over $1.8 million.

Parkland, headquartered in Calgary, is an international fuel distributor and retailer with operations in 25 countries. It has over 4,000 retail and commercial locations across Canada, the U.S. and the Caribbean.

Parkland’s Western Canada network

The fast-charging network will stretch from Vancouver Island to the Lower Mainland, the Okanagan and into Alberta. The chargers are capable of up to 200 KW and can charge most EV models in 20 to 30 minutes. Each location will have two or four charging ports.

Locations will be staffed, feature an ON the RUN convenience store and most will have a Triple O's restaurant. Washrooms will also be upgraded.

Sharabura said the locations were chosen based on convenience, whether they have the space and amenities required, as well as ability to handle the electrical demand.

“We worked very closely with our operations team to identify which are going to be the right locations that are not only going to attract EV drivers, but also make sure that they have a good experience while they're there,” he said.

The first pilot site for the EV charging network was installed in October 2021 in Kelowna. The positive reaction from attendees interested in EV charging education led Parkland to announce its initial network of 25 charging sites last year.

Government funding was secured over the summer, which Sharabura said helped Parkland reach its decision to double the size of the network. The overall cost of the network was not disclosed.

“Our level of ambition was quite a bit higher with government support than it would have been without it. For companies like Parkland that are looking at investments in this space, there's a huge amount of uncertainty on project cost. There's a huge amount of uncertainty on utilization,” he said.

“I would say that the support from both the federal and provincial governments were able to get past that quite a bit and, like I said, help us be quite a bit bolder in terms of the timing and the size and the scope of our investments.”

The future of the network

Sharabura told SustainableBiz Quebec and Ontario are next in line for expansions of Parkland’s EV charging network because of the size of the markets and the rate of EV adoption.

He also singled out the strength of Alberta’s market based on its inclusion in the B.C. network.

Parkland has charging locations in the U.S. as well, with Sharabura citing it as another possible location for a future network.

“It'll depend on the right location. It'll depend on EV adoption in the area. It'll depend on our ability to tap into government funding,” he said. “We're continually looking, and so who knows a few years down the road, we may be well beyond B.C.”

In September, EVs made up 17.5 per cent of light-duty passenger vehicles sold in B.C.

In February, SustainableBiz reported on global EV charging station design competition run by Electric Autonomy Canada and sponsored by Parkland. However the winning design, from Scottish architect James Silvester, will not be a part of Parkland’s Western Canada network.

Parkland is currently scouting locations for Silvester’s design.

Sharabura believes the transition to much wider EV usage will continue, and that Parkland is well positioned for it.

“One of the things for us, what we find attractive, actually, about the way that we're pursuing EV charging, is a lot of the investments you need to make at a site are actually things that work well for our fuel customers too,” he explained.

“If we expand our food offerings, if we expand our convenience store size, if we put indoor seating and we make it a nicer and more pleasant place for an EV driver to spend time, well guess what, a family on a road trip in a Suburban is also going to find those amenities quite relevant as well.”

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