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More Canadians are buying EVs, but is there enough infrastructure to support the industry?



As electric vehicle (EV) registrations in Canada continue to rise, reaching 3 percent or 789,000 vehicles in 2022 according to Statistics Canada, concerns are mounting about the readiness of charging infrastructure and the automotive repair industry to support this surge.


The data also reveals that all types of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs), including hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), and battery electric vehicles (BEVs), experienced "double-digit" growth in 2022, signaling a significant shift toward sustainable transportation.


However, the federal government's ambitious goal to have all light-duty car and passenger truck sales fall under the zero-emission category by 2035 is facing challenges. The issues primarily revolve around the state of charging infrastructure, the readiness of the EV repair industry, and concerns about battery longevity.


Jeff Dingwell, learning manager of automotive service technology at Holland College in P.E.I., highlighted the difficulties in achieving the government's target. While repairs on EVs share similarities with gas-powered vehicles in some aspects, the complexity of the "high voltage system" in EVs sets them apart. Repairing EVs requires additional safety equipment and specialized tools, making it a potentially costly endeavor for repair shops.


The weight of EV batteries, which can reach up to 453 kilograms compared to the 13 to 27-kilogram batteries in gas-powered vehicles, poses another challenge. Mechanics need specialized tables to handle and lift the extra weight, adding to the overall cost of EV repairs. Without adequate funding from the government, the adoption of EV repairs by existing shops may be limited.


On the infrastructure front, a federal environment commissioner audit reveals a considerable gap between the current number of charging ports and the required number by 2035. While the government achieved its goal of funding the construction of 33,500 EV charging ports by July 2023, the audit points out that 87 percent of completed ports were concentrated in Ontario, British Columbia, and Quebec. The remaining provinces, the Northwest Territories, and Yukon accounted for only 13 percent of funded charging ports.


The distribution of charging ports raises concerns about the equitable access to EV infrastructure, affecting all drivers across Canada. Lower-income Canadians, residents of older multi-unit residential buildings requiring costly retrofits, and those in areas with limited charging infrastructure may face challenges as the industry transitions to more sustainable transportation.


The report emphasizes the importance of reliable, visible, and convenient EV charging infrastructure across the country to encourage public acceptance and motivation to purchase electric vehicles. As of 2021, the transportation sector accounted for 22 percent of carbon emissions in Canada, making the transition to sustainable transportation a crucial aspect of reducing the country's overall carbon footprint.


However, challenges persist, including the impact of cold weather on EV battery performance. Some Canadians remain hesitant to adopt EVs due to concerns about battery range and reliability in winter conditions. Studies indicate that EVs can lose up to 35 percent of battery range in freezing conditions, posing challenges for daily use.


Sumit Chauhan, co-founder of CerebrumX, an EV data collection company, attributes this challenge to the basic chemistry of how batteries operate, stating that current battery technology struggles in extreme temperatures. While some strategies, such as preheating the vehicle and using heat pumps, may help mitigate the impact of cold weather on EVs, there is a recognition that advancements in battery technology are needed to address these limitations.


As more Canadians embrace electric vehicles, the nation faces a crucial juncture in ensuring the supporting infrastructure, repair capabilities, and technology keep pace with the growing demand for sustainable transportation. The successful transition to widespread EV adoption hinges on addressing these challenges in a comprehensive and equitable manner.

More Canadians are buying EVs, but is there enough infrastructure to support the industry?

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