Canada’s most populous provinces are falling behind many U.S. states when it comes to building fast charging stations for electric vehicles, a CBC News analysis shows, raising questions about whether this country’s infrastructure is ready for a transition to cleaner energy.
Quebec and B.C. fare the worst among Canada’s large provinces in terms of the number of publicly accessible fast charging stations compared to the number of electric vehicles on the road, according to CBC’s analysis of data from Transport Canada, Statistics Canada and the U.S. Department of Energy.
The four North American jurisdictions with the best ratio of EVs to charging stations are all in the U.S.
With more than 344,000 EVs, B.C. only has 924 charging stations, according to CBC’s analysis, meaning there are 0.27 fast chargers for each car.
Quebec fared even worse. With more than 450,000 EVs on the road, the province has less than 500 fast chargers, meaning there are 0.11 chargers for each car.
The data from those two provinces, however, is marked by the fact they simply have more EVs than many other jurisdictions, meaning the supply of chargers hasn’t caught up with demand for the vehicles.
Out of the Canadian provinces and territories, Yukon and Newfoundland and Labrador fare the best, with more than five and three fast charging stations per 100 cars respectively, though the absolute numbers for both are small.
“We have a large and growing charging-infrastructure gap in Canada and if we have any hope of meeting the ambitious zero-emissions sales target from the federal government, we need to rapidly close that gap and roll out more public charging infrastructure,” Brian Kingston, president of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association, said in an interview.
By 2035, 100 per cent of new cars and light trucks sold in Canada must be zero-emissions vehicles, under federal rules. Experts say the number of charging stations will need to increase exponentially to meet that mandate.
Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, has 0.38 chargers per 100 EVs, while Alberta and Nova Scotia each had fewer than one per 100.
Manitoba and P.E.I. each had more than one charger per 100 EVs, while Saskatchewan and New Brunswick each had more than three.
There are no fast chargers available for motorists in Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
‘We have not shown an ability to build with urgency’
Observers worry the lack of chargers could hold back Canada’s commitments to reduce climate change — and cause consumers major headaches given those targets.
Canada is expected to need about 444,000 EV chargers to meet demand by 2035, Kingston said, up from about 20,000 in service today. That means the country will need a roughly 20-fold increase in the number of EV chargers in 12 years.
“The pace of building out this charging infrastructure needs to increase significantly year on year and I am worried [we] won’t meet it,” said Kingston. “We have not shown an ability yet to build with the urgency to meet the target.”
Because the federal government mandated that new vehicles sold in this country must produce zero-emissions by 2035, Kingston believes they should hold primary responsibility for building new charging infrastructure, though he said provinces, automakers and others also have a role to play.
For its part, the federal government has said it is putting its money where its mouth is. Earlier this year, Ottawa announced more than $1.2 billion in funding to build nearly 84,500 chargers by 2027, among other commitments.
Information about how Canadian provinces compare to many U.S. states for charging infrastructure comes on the heels of the announcements of massive new subsidies for electric vehicle makers.
Despite the lack of chargers, EV sales in Canada are increasing quickly. The number of EVs on Canadian roads in 2022 was double what it was two years earlier, according to Environment and Climate Change Canada. But challenges loom.
Charger supply impacting EV demand, survey suggests
Critics of EV mandates, including many U.S. Republicans and some Canadian conservatives, say they limit consumer choice, force people to buy more expensive electric vehicles and have little impact on the environment.
“A massive shift in sales of EVs, would not detectably change world temperatures,” noted a commentary from the Hoover Institution, a U.S. conservative think-tank. It also criticized EV mandates as unrealistic for people who live in cold climates, arguing they typically lose up to 30 per cent of their range and can take twice as long to charge.
Citing consumer research, Kingston said a significant number of Canadian consumers aren’t comfortable buying an EV, as they worry about access to charging infrastructure, along with fears over drive range.
Canada has more than one million kilometres of two-lane roads, according to Transport Canada, so widespread access to charging infrastructure is considered especially crucial for people making longer trips.
Some of the results of CBC’s analysis are surprising. The sparsely populated U.S. state of Wyoming, not typically considered a leader on climate change, fared the best for charging stations per number of electric vehicles for jurisdictions in North America, although the numbers of both there are small.
The Cowboy State boasts 99 charging stalls for 840 electric cars, meaning there are more than 11 stations per 100 cars.
Earlier this year, Republican legislators in the state proposed a bill that would ban new EV sales by 2035 in Wyoming. The representatives later indicated their bill was something of a joke, taking a dig at California’s plan to phase out gas vehicle sales by 2035.