Canada electric-car news: EV Discovery Centre, more charging sites, ZEV mandates debated

Plug'n'Drive EV Discovery Centre, Toronto

Plug'n'Drive EV Discovery Centre, Toronto

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As Canada celebrates its 150th birthday, the plug-in electric vehicle sector has charged forward, with developments on the national, provincial and even municipal levels.

Here’s our take on six of the most salient stories.

Federal ZEV committee

On May 26, the Canadian government announced its intent to develop a national Zero Emission Vehicle strategy.

DON'T MISS: Quebec passes Canada's first zero-emission vehicle rule, to start in 2018 (Nov 2016)

Stakeholders and experts from government, industry, academia and non-government organizations have gathered to develop recommendations for a five-pronged strategy outlined below, along with some approaches that might plausibly be under consideration.

1. Infrastructure: partnering with the private sector to deploy infrastructure, including support for installations in multi-unit residential buildings (apartments) and workplaces.

2. Technology: streamline regulations and incentive investment in ZEV-supporting technologies, to generate green jobs.

3. Public Awareness: resources to help ZEVs move beyond the stereotypical early adopter demographic (rich suburban males), such as web resources and “neutral” showcase facilities operated independently of auto companies.

National Drive Electric Week 2014: Eyeing a Tesla in Ottawa. Photo by Ottawa Centre EcoDistrict.

National Drive Electric Week 2014: Eyeing a Tesla in Ottawa. Photo by Ottawa Centre EcoDistrict.

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4. Costs and Benefits of Ownership: waiving federal tax (5%) on ZEVs; increasing the surtax on gas guzzlers. (Canada has a “gas guzzler” surtax, but the threshold is so high as to be irrelevant for all but the most gas-gluttonous vehicles.)

5. Vehicle Supply: investigating demand-side levers (e.g. purchase rebates) as well as supply-side tools (e.g. ZEV mandates, or even incentives for dealerships).

Many of these ideas will have been discussed among plug-in electric vehicle advocates, and occasionally at the municipal or even provincial (state) level.

ALSO SEE: Canada's High-Volume Volt Dealer: Lessons Learned

Now, it's encouraging to see the contemplation of a national-level ZEV strategy.

Fast charging along Trans-Canada Highway

With a California-sized population spread across an area larger than the United States, federal funds would likely be necessary to bring infrastructure to sparsely-populated areas.

Petro-Canada gas station, Crossfields, Alberta, with electric-car charging station

Petro-Canada gas station, Crossfields, Alberta, with electric-car charging station

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To that end, Natural Resources Canada recently allocated a repayable contribution of $8 million toward a $17.3 million project to deploy 34 fast chargers along the Trans-Canada Highway between Ontario and Manitoba.

The lower population density across that portion of the country means the private sector is less likely to invest on its own.

When the stations open in 2019, they may also be Canada’s first fast chargers to incorporate battery storage.

MORE: Multi-brand electric-car dealer to open in Canada after Iceland test

The idea is to trickle-charge those battery banks, to avoid utility demand charges and prevent overloading the local grid, while making it possible for vehicles to charge at DC fast-charging speeds of 50 kilowatts or more.

Canada's first EV Discovery Centre

Moving to the provincial level, Ontario-based electric vehicle advocacy group Plug’n Drive opened its Electric Vehicle Discovery Centre in May, helped by funding from the province’s carbon market.

The Centre provides one-stop window-shopping for car buyers wanting to learn about and test-drive electric vehicles, without the worry of pressure from salespeople.

Opening of Plug'n'Drive EV Discovery Centre, Toronto, Canada, May 2016

Opening of Plug'n'Drive EV Discovery Centre, Toronto, Canada, May 2016

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It also refers shoppers to EV-certified dealerships, which creates an accreditation that dealerships will likely want to earn, so as not to lose sales to competitors.

Plug’n Drive should be credited for involving a breadth of electric-car stakeholders in the Centre.

Different utilities provide the public charging stations, and sponsor the training hall and coffee bar. A union sponsors the interactive displays, and a bank provides EV-exclusive financing and insurance options.

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