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Pollution Probe's CHARGED program helps drive public EV charging

Nonprofit organization sets out to reach 9% of public EV chargers by end of 2025

Steve McCauley, a senior director at Pollution Probe and member of CHARGED. (Courtesy Pollution Probe)

CHARGED, an independent program run by Toronto non-profit Pollution Probe, has been helping to install public electric vehicle (EV) chargers across Canada and doesn't plan on hitting the brakes anytime soon.

It has aided in the rollout of approximately 500 public EV chargers and plans to reach 1,100 by the end of 2025, according to Steve McCauley, a senior director at Pollution Probe.

This makes up over four per cent of the country's public EV chargers to date, and is forecast to make up almost nine per cent by the end of 2025.

Managing over $20 million in investments, CHARGED has partially funded the installation of EV chargers for property development organizations, car dealerships, hospitals, municipalities and retailers.

“We think that transportation is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in Canada. EVs are the strategy for passenger vehicles. The charging area is very important to realize the emission reduction potential of EVs,” McCauley said in an interview with Sustainable Biz Canada.

Pollution Probe gained valuable insight into public sentiment on EV chargers thanks to a recent survey it conducted. With EV adoption continuing to increase, McCauley sees CHARGED having a role to play for years to come.

Revving up public EV charging

CHARGED is a third-party organization operated by Pollution Probe, an environmental charity. Its team is run by three full-time staff: McCauley, another director and a program assistant.

The impetus for CHARGED came from Pollution Probe’s desire to accelerate EV adoption. It has worked with the federal government to include EV incentives, does research with utilities on grid readiness for EVs, and has worked with the Ontario government and municipalities around Canada on EV deployment strategies.

CHARGED receives funding from Natural Resources Canada's (NRCan) Zero Emission Vehicle Infrastructure Program to cover half of the expenses for installing and buying public EV chargers. The funding is given directly to the site owner as a subsidy, and the site owner is responsible for the remaining project funding.

The program has partnered with:

  • St. John’s, N.B.;
  • Pelham, Ont.;
  • The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto;
  • Le Massif ski resort in Quebec;
  • Georgian Bay Hotel in Collingwood, Ont.; and
  • telecom and media company Rogers, among others.

Most of its EV chargers are sourced from Quebec company FLO, McCauley said.

Even with signs of a potential global slump in EV sales, he remains positive about CHARGED. The 2035 federal government deadline to end sales of gas or diesel-powered new light-duty vehicles in Canada is crucial, as is long-term demand specifically for EVs. In its latest research, Pollution Probe found Canada's zero-emissions vehicle market rose by 44 per cent in 2022 compared to 2021.

“Canada’s made a lot of progress on building public charging infrastructure . . . We’re going to continue to build out a public charging network for many years,” McCauley said.

NRCan projects Canada will need between 442,000 to 469,000 public chargers by 2035. Canada currently has under 11,000 public EV charging stations, according to government data.

What public EV charging needs

To uncover what public EV charging sites need, Pollution Probe asked over 1,500 EV owners across Canada about the charging experience and what is in need of improvement.

Almost every EV owner (96 per cent) said they use public charging stations. Over half said the availability of public chargers in areas they frequently travel influenced their decision to purchase an EV.

Reliability and consistency showed up as a problem: 56 per cent of EV owners said they felt the power supply at public charging stations was not consistent. Over 40 per cent said the signage at public EV charging stations was not clear.

In a series of recommendations, Pollution Probe urges:

  • strategic positioning of Level 2 EV charging stations at retail centres, hotels and recreational spots, or any site where EVs are parked for long periods of time;
  • development of universal construction standards for public EV charging stations that have clear signage, quality lighting and accessibility for people with disabilities;
  • mandating a minimum station uptime and a standardized billing format for consistent charging costs; and
  • holding regular surveys to determine the demands of EV drivers and public chargers.

The question of energy

EV charging has also raised concerns about the grid's ability to accommodate the heavy electricity demand. The required energy consumption may overload grids or siphon electricity from other needs, for example.

McCauley is bullish on Canada solving this potential problem. Pollution Probe’s work on grid readiness found EVs are still in the adoption phase, and utilities are making the investments to meet the load demand.

“I’m confident we have the electricity supply in this country, and between 80 to 85 per cent of that is basically zero-emission electricity.”

From the private sector, he would like to see large companies, particularly from the automotive industry, make more investments into public EV charging. He named Tesla (TSLA-Q) and Volkswagen as companies driving in the right direction.

CHARGED is open to working with other organizations, such as hotels, hospitals, local organizations and Indigenous communities on its work, McCauley said.

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