Not everyone excited by EV charge stations

By Carl Clutchey
Local Journalism Initiative

While the province continues to take steps to keep electric vehicles on the road through an expanded network of public EV charging stations, the level of enthusiasm for the technology in rural Thunder Bay remains less than electrifying.

“We live in a part of the country where people drive gasoline and diesel vehicles,” Kaministiquia retailer Jena Curtis said on Wednesday.

“I can only think of one customer who came in looking for an EV charger,” Curtis added.

On Wednesday, the Ministry of Transportation said it’s seeking bids from companies to install and operate EV chargers at 15 “government-owned” properties like highway rest areas and provincial parks.

The majority of the new stations, to be in service as early as next year, will be in rural and Northern locations such as Argon Lake near Upsala and Klotz Lake near Longlac, a news release said.

The initiative announced on Wednesday is part of a $91-million commitment the province has made “to make it easier to access EV chargers across the province and provide small, rural and Indigenous communities with the opportunity to switch to EVs,” the news release said.

There are 3,550 public EV charging stations across the province, a backgrounder said.

Though the province pegs the amount of EVs registered in Ontario at 150,000, the numbers don’t seem as impressive when viewed across a national perspective.

According to Statistics Canada, electric vehicles accounted for only three per cent of “light-duty” vehicles registered in the country in 2022, although that figure rose by 2.3 per cent compared to the previous year.

Curtis said those numbers aren’t inspiring when it comes to contemplating an EV charger installation at her Highway 102 convenience store.

“Why would I pay for that?” she said. “It’s not on our radar.”

Curtis said she’d feel more confident being stuck on a Northern highway in winter with a full tank of gas in her truck, rather than having to rely on a battery that could run out of power.

In 2022, just over 42 billion litres of gasoline was sold in Canada, Statistics Canada says.

Still, the province thinks demand for EVs will grow.

The “new chargers, and Ontario’s ultra-low overnight electricity rate, will make it even more accessible and affordable . . . to make the switch to an electric vehicle,” Energy and Electrification Minister Stephen Lecce said in the news release.