Alberta Needs DC Fast-Charging Infrastructure Investment

Alberta Needs DC Fast-Charging Infrastructure Investment


The shift towards electric vehicles (EVs) is gaining momentum as consumers become more aware of the environmental impact of traditional gasoline-powered vehicles. With the increasing number of EVs on the road, the demand for charging infrastructure has skyrocketed. As a result, commercial electric vehicle chargers need to be bigger in order to meet the growing needs of EV drivers.

One of the main reasons for the need for bigger commercial EV chargers is the limited charging speed of current charging systems. Most commercial EV chargers are Level 2 chargers, which can take several hours to fully charge an EV battery. This can be a significant inconvenience for drivers who need to quickly get back on the road. By installing larger chargers, the charging speed can be significantly increased, reducing the amount of time drivers need to spend waiting for their vehicles to charge.

Another reason for the need for bigger commercial EV chargers is the limited number of charging ports available at existing charging stations. With the increasing number of EVs on the road, it's becoming more common for drivers to arrive at charging stations and find that all the charging ports are occupied. This can be frustrating and time-consuming for drivers who need to charge their vehicles quickly. By installing larger chargers with more charging ports, the number of charging stations can be reduced, which will help to alleviate the problem of charging station congestion.

The Current State of DC Fast Charging in Alberta

DC fast charging in Alberta is primarily limited to 50kW charging stations dispersed throughout the Edmonton, Calgary, and Southern Alberta regions. While these are nice to have, they don't necessarily enable electric vehicle owners to travel with the same cadence as gasoline propelled drivers. Excluding Tesla Superchargers, Less than 20 DC Fast Chargers with speeds faster than 70kW are available for public use in Alberta. These are primarily located along the Highway 1 corridor between Medicine Hat and Banff. In fact, only one non-tesla DC Fast Charger greater than 70kW is available North of Airdrie! This charger is located all the way in Mackenzie County (even farther north than Fort McMurray).

Locations of non-tesla chargers above 70kW

Unequal Access to DC Fast Charging

Looking at PlugShare charging data, it's clear DC Fast Charging Infrastructure is concentrated in Southern Alberta. This is especially true for charging stations above 50kW. Smaller communities, especially northern communities have poor access to DC charging. Fort McMurray is an example of a population isolated from charging infrastructure. The city has no publicly available DC Fast chargers, and only a handful of level 2 chargers. Moreover, the 435km trip between Fort McMurray and Edmonton has zero on-route DC chargers. How can we expect people in this region to adopt electric vehicles, when they don't have the infrastructure to comfortably travel between their isolated community and other major municipalities. Other communities like Cold Lake, Slave Lake, and Fort McKay face similar hurdles.

Financial Barriers to Building Larger (100kW+) DC Fast Chargers

Building DC Fast Charging stations is an expensive investment, with the majority of the burden being placed on private investors, businesses, and municipalities. The price of the charger units can range from $50,000-$150,000+ for each port. The price range primarily depends on the kW rating of the unit. As you'd expect greater kW charging requires more capital outlay. Utility transformer upgrades, electrical installation, maintenance, trenching, and finishing work can add significant project costs.

Many of the chargers have been subsidized through programs like the Southgrow Regional Initiative. This program will subsidize 46% of project costs, up to $75,000/100kW+ charging stations. Although this is a great help for building stations, it is still quite costly to install these systems.

Proposed Financial Incentives to Encourage EV Charging Infrastructure

Government incentives to encourage investment in 100kW+ charging stations are necessary to ensure the infrastructure needed to make electric vehicles accessible for Albertans. If these are not provided, undersized DC fast charging stations will continue to be built which will continue to delay mainstream EV adoption.

The Canada Greener Homes Grant offers a 10 year interest-free loan for individuals retro-fitting homes with solar arrays. This popular program gives home owners up to $40,000 towards the purchase and installation of qualifying solar panels. Why couldn't a similar program be implemented for high-powered DC Fast Chargers?

In conclusion, the shift towards EVs is driving the need for bigger commercial electric vehicle chargers. Larger chargers will provide faster charging speeds, reduce charging station congestion, and help to reduce the environmental impact of EVs. By investing in the development of larger commercial EV chargers, we can ensure that the shift towards EVs is successful and sustainable for years to come.