Why electric vehicle owners are urging Ford government to fund charging stations

Electric vehicle (EV) drivers revving up for a road trip won't find any charging stations at OnRoute stops in Ontario this summer. 

According to drivers and experts in the industry, it's partly because the Ford government has all but stalled on efforts to encourage people to adopt electric vehicles. 

"There was an election a year ago and we can see an impact," said Simon Ouellette, CEO of Mogile Technologies, and founder of Chargehub, a digital platform helping electric car drivers find public charging stations in the U.S. and Canada. 

'They canned everything'

Ouellette, an EV owner based in Quebec, said Ontario was making some headway in adding charging stations under the Liberals. 

"Essentially, when the new government came in, they canned everything related to EV."

Within about a month of winning the election, the Ford government cancelled the cap-and-trade program, the proceeds of which went towards green energy initiatives. That led to the cancellation of the electric and hydrogen vehicle incentive program that gave rebates for EV purchases, and the Workplace Electric Vehicle Charging Incentive Program, formerly the Electric Vehicle Chargers Ontario (EVCO) program. 

Under EVCO, 346 public charging stations were installed, all of which are currently active. While industry experts say the program wasn't perfect, it helped to spur EV purchases. 

We really need to consider [EV charging] as part of transportation infrastructure. - Wilf Steimle, Electric Vehicle Society

"We have made amazing progress in Ontario in the last four years," said Wilf Steimle, president of the Electric Vehicle Society in Ontario.

"Now, we can drive almost anymore in the province."

But Steimle said the province needs to continue investing in charging infrastructure, adding there's currently no provincial program focused on charging.

"We really need to start considering [EV charging] as part of transportation infrastructure as we shift our economy from fossil fuels," he said. 

OnRoute charging

Ontario's Minister of Transportation Jeff Yurek isn't ruling out an investment in EV charging in the future. It was also mentioned in the government's environmental plan unveiled in the fall. 

"We're had a few comments and consultations with regards to adding them to OnRoutes and definitely taking a look to see if that's the route we want to go," he told CBC News in early June. 

Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press

But he also said the government has a budget to balance, and will take that into consideration as well. 

Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner is critical of the government's record, citing provincial transit agency Metrolinx's decision to remove 24 chargers at GO stations in November 2018. 

"We should be leading the EV revolution, not losing jobs to it," he said. 

Charging station locations

Because the electric vehicle industry is so new, data about the number and location of charging stations is patchwork at best. Chargehub provides a map of stations (largely user-generated) and is known as the industry standard, according to Ouellette, its creator.

Chargehub's data shows Quebec leads the country in EV charging: 

  • Quebec: 2,188 locations with 4,353 charging ports at those locations.
  • Ontario: 980 locations with 2,724 charging ports. 
  • B.C.: 774 locations with 1,676 charging ports.
  • Rest of Canada: 434 charging locations with 711 charging ports. 

Ouellette also says Ontario has been slow to add charging locations year over year. 

"Quebec is adding double the amount of locations," said Ouellette, crediting it largely to government incentives. 

Because there's currently no "viable business model" for a business to install a charging station, he said the government is critical in spurring the growth of the industry. 

"The money made from the energy sold does not even cover the cost of installing and operating the infrastructure," he said.