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Rural Ontario must get ready for electric vehicle future

Christian Fernsby |
Easy access to quick electric vehicle (EV) charging stations is a major factor in determining where EV owners choose to spend their travel dollars, a new study shows, warning that regions like Bruce, Grey and Huron counties risk losing tourist business unless they expand places for Ontario's growing number of EV drivers to plug in.

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The report, produced by the Nuclear Innovation Institute (NII), found that 83 percent of Ontario EV owners believe it would be "difficult" or "very difficult" to access public charging in Bruce, Grey and Huron. That perception is underscored by the fact that the region has just 45 places to charge an EV, with only 111 individual plugs across almost 12,000 square kilometres.

The need for more charging stations is acute. Two-thirds of EV drivers say they typically use their electric vehicles for weekend getaways or day trips, according to the survey of 528 owners—most located in urban areas across southern Ontario—conducted last month by NII's Clean Energy Frontier program in conjunction with industry group Plug'n Drive.

"To stay competitive and relevant in attracting tourists, regions across the province must be prepared for EV drivers looking for easy access to the kinds of charging stations they want," says Bruce Wallace, NII President and CEO. "The charging infrastructure needs to be here."

The findings carry significant implications for local municipalities looking to increase the inventory of charging stations. Ensuring a region is ready for heavier EV tourist traffic requires a coordinated approach to adding charging capacity, ensuring the right kinds of stations are installed in the right places.

Survey responses suggest that Bruce, Grey and Huron may already be missing out on attracting visitors. More than 70% of owners say they would "only choose" or would "give preference" to visiting those locations where they know they will be able to access public charging infrastructure.

Zero-emissions vehicles (ZEVs)—either fully electric or hybrid models—made up around two percent of all new car sales in Ontario last year. But that number is expected to grow rapidly.

Almost all major automakers have announced plans to convert their fleets to electric in the coming years, and the federal government is targeting ZEVs to be 10 percent of all car sales by 2025—reaching 100 percent by 2040. Projections indicate Ontario will have almost three million ZEVs on the road by 2035.

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