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Giving Thanks (In Canada) for Electric-Car Charging On Roads


Sun Country Highway electric-car charging station, Burnaby, BC, Canada [photo: Matthew Klippenstein]

Sun Country Highway electric-car charging station, Burnaby, BC, Canada [photo: Matthew Klippenstein]

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Today is Canadian Thanksgiving, though the country's electric vehicle enthusiasts could be forgiven a bit of pessimism.

Plug-in car adoption has been slower than expected, and support seems unlikely from a federal government that has reshaped the country from mild, modest milquetoast to combative, pugnacious petrostate (a transformation future historians might call "Breaking Bitumen").

But there is one thing Canada's electric-car community can give thanks for–and it's pretty big.

Sun Country Highway electric-car charging station, Burnaby, BC, Canada [photo: Matthew Klippenstein]

Sun Country Highway electric-car charging station, Burnaby, BC, Canada [photo: Matthew Klippenstein]

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One million km of roads with "charge coverage"

By year's end, charging-station vendor Sun Country Highway expects to have blanketed the country with enough infrastructure to provide "charge coverage" for 1 million kilometers of Canadian roads.

Which is to say, the company's charging stations are spaced closely enough that electric-car drivers can access 1 million km (620,000 miles) of roads across the country.

The million-km milestone gets more impressive considering that only 1.35 million km (840,000 miles) of paved roads exist in Canada--against about 2,600,000 miles of paved roads in the United States.

The accomplishment is part of the company's goal to green 90 percent of Canadian highways by year's end.

The stations were initially spaced to meet a Tesla Roadster's range–Sun Country President Kent Rathwell crossed the country in one last winter–but the company has been steadily filling the gaps in its network to accommodate lower-range Nissan Leaf drivers as well.

Sun Country has also begun to expand into the United States, with plans to extend coverage to selected highways in Washington State. It also has four stations pending in California.

Those are in addition to the Level 2 charging stations Sun Country installed in Michigan along Highway 401.

Sun Country Highway 401 corridor map

Sun Country Highway 401 corridor map

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"Future-proofed" Level 2 strategy

Figuring that a cross-Canada network of DC fast chargers would be prohibitively expensive–Nissan recently estimated costs at $40,000 apiece--Sun Country adopted a Level 2 strategy, reasoning that forward-looking businesses would find the costs acceptable (roughly $2200 plus labor, materials, and power supply).

The company has so far self-funded its trans-Canada network, without depending on government subsidies or incentives--despite underestimating the costs of scouting appropriate locations.

Indeed, Rathwell commented that the company spent more money scouting than it spent on the chargers. Tesla too has incurred delays in rolling out its Supercharger network; perhaps site selection was a contributing factor there too?

Sun Country anticipates that vehicle recharging rates will increase over time, so it has tried to future-proof its network using 90-amp chargers (offering 72 amps of continuous current) in most installations.

These can recharge vehicles at up to 17 kW (72 amps x 240 Volts), versus the roughly 7 kW offered by Level 2 installations with 30-amp chargers

Sun Country Highway electric-car charging station, Burnaby, BC, Canada [photo: Matthew Klippenstein]

Sun Country Highway electric-car charging station, Burnaby, BC, Canada [photo: Matthew Klippenstein]

Enlarge Photo

Most automakers' on-board chargers for Level 2 recharging are designed for 3.3 kW or 6.6 kW, so it may be years before the company's infrastructure is used to its capacity.

Sun Country is also the official Canadian distributor for Via Motors, with whom–among other automakers–hey've discussed upgrading the vehicles' on-board chargers to take better advantage of their (mainly) 90-amp network.

Whatever the timeline for onboard charger upgrades in cars and trucks, Sun Country's network should remain reasonably well positioned.

Giving thanks for cross-Canada networks

As Canadians tuck into turkey six weeks ahead of their American cousins, plug-in enthusiasts among their number can be thankful that the charging infrastructure is in place to support far greater numbers of electric vehicles than are currently found on Canadian roads.

The history buffs among them can be further thankful that the country's first coast-to-coast electric-friendly highway actually stays within-country.

Recall that 140 years ago, early plans for the Trans-Canada Railway called for it to be routed through the well-known provinces of ... Wisconsin and Minnesota.

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© 2014 Green Car Reports. All Rights Reserved. Green Car Reports is published by High Gear Media. Send us feedback. Stock photography by izmo, Inc.
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