Canada’s Facing A False Choice On EV Charging

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A recent article at Reuters explains that Canada’s government has come across a proverbial fork in the road. On the one hand, some advocates say that the country needs to focus on home charging. But, others are pushing for a focus on road trips. Sadly, this is not only a false choice, but shows us that no country has the luxury of choosing which kind of charging to support.

The Debate

I’m not Canadian and I’ve never been to Canada. It’s not that I don’t get out of the house as much as that my house is a 30 minute drive from Mexico. So, I can’t tell you whether Reuters is right about this. It’s entirely possible that the article is taking a small policy debate out of proportion. If you’re familiar with Canadian EV politics, feel free to chime in and tell us what the situation looks like in the comments.

If what they’re saying is true, there’s a weird policy debate going on in Canada. On one side, there are people who want the country to focus on beefing up home charging opportunities. On the other side, there are people who seem to think home charging is the responsibility of the property owner, and that the government should focus on the really expensive problem of charging stations along the highways.

To me, this looks like a classic rural vs urban policy debate. I know from what I’ve read that Canada experiences those debates just like we do in the United States. The people living in the cities have needs, and most people live in cities these days. In a democratic system, more votes means more support, so the city often gets what they want. But, this creates rural grievances. In the States, this has gone on long enough that we managed to give rural states some extra power to try and balance this out, but that’s just lead us into more fighting and grievances.

In other words, it’s a tough problem to solve, and might never really be solved.

Why It’s A False Choice

But, this isn’t your grandpa’s city slicker vs cowboy policy debate. Why? Because everyone uses the highways.

It’s totally true that home charging is essential to EV ownership. When the weekly or bi-weekly trip to the gas station takes 5 minutes, it’s no big deal to not be able to gas up at home. But, when getting a full charge takes 30-60 minutes, nobody wants to do that once a week. So, getting people to actually accept EV ownership means that you need to be able to charge at home.

And, this is a big problem. For homeowners with a modern 220v house and a 100+ amp panel, this isn’t a huge problem. But, for apartment dwellers, people renting houses, and people wo own older homes with insufficient power, it’s either very expensive or pretty much impossible to get a charge at home.

So, yes, this is a problem that MUST be solved if Canada wants to reach 100% new vehicle sales by 2035. There’s just no alternative to getting the job done.

But, people living in cities use the highways between cities. Even if 95% of one’s travel by car is local, nobody wants to buy 95% of a car. They want the full capabilities their ICE car had. Failure to provide the whole car’s worth of utility means people will either keep their old ICE car running (even if at great cost) or they’ll agitate against EVs in the realm of politics. If it’s bad enough, the 2035 goal will go away.

So, at the end of the day, Canada doesn’t have the luxury of being able to choose between supporting home charging and supporting DC fast charging on the highways. The truth is that every country trying for ambitious climate action is going to have to focus on both just as hard as people would like to focus on one.

Sure, that costs twice as much money, but the alternative is worse.

Featured image by Jennifer Sensiba.

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Jennifer Sensiba

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

Jennifer Sensiba has 1886 posts and counting. See all posts by Jennifer Sensiba