Ongoing concern about the adequacy of New Brunswick's car charging network may be giving some potential buyers second thoughts about switching to an electric vehicle, but sales in the province have been setting records anyway.
New figures released by Statistics Canada on Tuesday show 365 fully-electric vehicles were newly registered in New Brunswick during the first six months of 2023.
That's 67 per cent more than the same period in 2022 and more than four times the 85 electric vehicles newly registered during the first six months of 2021.
Saint John resident Jamie Reschny is included in those numbers. He took possession of a new electric KIA in the spring, and said the switch has been positive, to date.
New Brunswick has a haphazard network of public charging stations located in various spaces around the province, including at gas stations, hotels and parking garages. Locations mostly offer slower-charging Level 2 plug-ins. (Robert Jones/CBC)
"It's fantastic. I have no real complaints," he said.
New Brunswick's spotty charging network was not something Reschny thought much about prior to buying electric but he said it has presented no significant problems so far.
The vast majority of charging is done overnight in the driveway at home, and longer trips require just a bit of foresight.
"We've been to Moncton several times and you do have to charge once, but you can get away with going to a [slower] charger for 15 minutes and you're fine," he said.
"It's super easy. You just have to plan a little bit better."
New Brunswick has set a goal of having electric cars and trucks make up six per cent of new light-vehicle purchases in the province by 2025, and 50 per cent by 2030, as part of its plan to fight climate change.
This year sales are at about two per cent. That is well behind where electric vehicle sales in provinces such as Quebec and British Columbia, at 10 and 12 per cent, respectively, already are.
New Brunswick has acknowledged that building numbers like that will require a major expansion of public charging infrastructure across the province.
Electric vehicles produced by Volkswagen Saxony are seen in Zwickau, Germany, earlier this month. Following a shortage in 2021 and 2022, electric cars have become increasingly available and interest among New Brunswick buyers is growing. (Hendrik Schmidt/dpa/The Associated Press)
Last year in evidence presented at the New Brunswick Energy and Utilities Board, N.B. Power said an extensive charging network is an important "enabler of EV adoption."
It requested permission to lower the rate owners of charging stations pay for the electricity they sell to drivers and temporarily exempt charging stations from rate increases that residential and business customers pay.
The utility said that would help make charging stations more affordable to build and operate. In turn, it argued, more stations would ease the "range anxiety" of those who worry about driving long distances in an electric car and hesitate to buy one for that reason.
In a ruling in July, the utilities board agreed to the requests.
"The Board confirms that it will not apply general rate increases to N.B. Power's EV Charging Rate Schedule and, until further order of the Board, approves a rate-setting approach by which EV charging rates are set to be comparable to EV charging rates in the region," it wrote in a decision released July 28.
Minister of Environment and Climate Change Gary Crossman acknowledged this week that the charging infrastructure for electric vehicles in New Brunswick needs to be expanded. (CBC)
On Tuesday, Environment Minister Gary Crossman acknowledged there are not enough chargers available for public use in the province, even as he dealt with reporter questions about a rapid-charging station off limits to the public that is built adjacent to his ministerial parking space in Fredericton.
Crossman said the unit is a "fleet" charger available for use by all government electric vehicles and is accessible from three parking spaces other than his own. He said it is not a personal charger for his own electric vehicle but he did agree the public needs more locations.
"It has been a concern across the province," said Crossman. "I've been through it myself travelling, and we need more as we move along to make things better."