As electric vehicle infrastructure develops across the country, consumers must navigate a confusing web of pricing models at charging stations, with some EV owners urging governments to increase regulation.

“It's not a straightforward charging pattern, so it's very complex,” said William York, president of the Electric Vehicle Association of Alberta. “It's difficult for the consumer to get price transparency when they're comparing charging stations of different charging operators. It's very hard, if not impossible, to do that math in your head.”

By 2026, Canada will mandate that 20 per cent of all vehicles sold must be EVs, a step towards a 100 per cent transition by 2035. Currently, Canada has roughly 20,000 charging stations countrywide and has dedicated $1.2 billion to building an additional 80,000 chargers over the next three years. While chargers are readily available in densely populated urban areas, gaps across rural areas make travelling long distances challenging.

Typically, charging stations bill on a “per unit time” basis, with customers charged a set rate per minute. This process is straightforward on paper, but EV owners are finding the wide variability of charging times results in some customers paying more for a charge than they intend to. “I find that a lot of the chargers don't seem to be delivering on the speed that they advertise,” said Julien Simard, who recently became an EV owner.

EVs don’t operate on a straight charging curve, meaning they accept more power toward the start of a charging session and less toward the end. Charging speeds are also impacted by the EV manufacturer. Older models, such as the Chevy Bolt, charge at 50 kilowatts per hour (kw/h), meaning it takes roughly an hour to charge the vehicle halfway. Next-generation models can charge up to seven times as fast. Weather conditions also factor in. EVs charge significantly slower in colder temperatures, a frequent issue in Canada’s chilly winter months.

Inconsistent pricing and charging times aren’t just issues of convenience. While at-home charging is available for many EV owners, refilling a vehicle can be a challenge for those living in apartments or condos.

“If we're able to enforce these companies to build more than one charger per location, especially when they're at shopping malls or all these other things, that will help people adopt EVs,” said Simard. “Specifically if people are living in apartment complexes or don't have access to a garage.”

Charging stations are run by a large network of private operators, providing energy at different rates depending on the amount an EV owner needs to refill and the time available to them. The variety of services also comes with different pricing models in the form of payment cards and apps, each exclusive to one of many charging stations.

“I know a lot of people, myself included, have an entire folder on their phone dedicated to all these apps. And there could be upwards of eight to 10 different apps just to start these tracking machines,” explained Simard.

As electric vehicle infrastructure develops across the country, consumers must navigate a confusing web of pricing models at charging stations, with some EV owners urging governments to increase regulation.

Stephen Fung is another EV owner frustrated by the current pricing model. “The app issue is quite the quagmire at the moment. In the short term, it just really trips a lot of people off.”

The current time-based pricing model is in place as a way to sidestep regulation. A pricing model that charged purely on the amount of energy used during the charging session would come with increased regulation from Measurement Canada, the agency which oversees per-unit billing at gas stations. BC Hydro, one of the major operators of charging stations in B.C., recently announced it was increasing charging station pricing across the board, including changing a previously free Level 2 charge to three cents per minute. The change is a step towards future changes to the pricing model, with BC Hydro considering an energy-based pricing model.

Ron Burton, a spokesperson for the Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association, believes the best path is to introduce regulation favouring a combination of the existing pricing models. “The pure energy charging model will work to a certain degree and the time model works to a certain degree. But really, what you would like to have is a hybrid model.”

Hybrid pricing models have been introduced in a number of states in the U.S., allowing for billing based on the energy used for fast chargers, while retaining kw/h billing for slower chargers. They offer greater flexibility for station operators and consumers and allow the owners of newer and older EVs to get the most charge for the dollar.

With changes to the regulatory model still in the early stages, EV owners like Fung see ground-level communication and education as the best path forward. “Right now is the time for the community to step in and take care of each other. There's a little bit of that happening at the EV stations, but it shouldn't. It shouldn't have to be that way.”

Keep reading

Fpr us, the biggest inconvenience so far is chargers that are out of order, but that isn't made clear on the ap. It has been the Petro-chargers that seem the most unreliable....and when we called to complain about one somewhere between Alberta and Manitoba....we got some fellow in the states........with no idea how to address the problem. Turns out Petro Canada stations had installed an American system....
The most reliable chargers have been the Flo machines.......made in Canada, and so far, completely reliable.

The other complaint we have is location. Why install a charger at a gas station on the edge of nowhere, when you could put them in locations where a coffee shop or some shopping is available while you charge?? Stopping during a long distance journey for over an hour can be a very pleasant break......if there's somewhere to go. It should be a no brainer that charging stations are not another form of 'gassing up', and need a different mind set from the gas station model.
The electric revolution invites us to slow down......look around, and enjoy some of the country you're whizzing by. Personally, I'm not sure the private model is the best model for electric cars. But then, I live in Alberta and know how our electricity bills changed once the Conservatives privatized our provincial grid....we now pay more to use the transmission wires our tax dollars put up..........then we do for the electricity. Privateers have seen to it that even if your panels produce more than you use...and they have to pay you for that still get billed for your home generated electricity travelling on privatized wires.

Could be, all we need to do to screw up the transition that has to to let a lot of wanna be rich guys set up the charging stations. I've been wondering for a while now....where are they getting the electricity they sell us by the minute???
And that leads me to questioning who is going to own the grid of clean electricity??? Because if as a society, we only do what a few rich cats want us to do, its not going to be as smart, or as fast a transition as the planet is suggesting that we need now. On our last trip to the north of our own province, twice we had to wait for the single plug in that fits our Kona....which suggests that EV adoption is happening faster expected.
One last thought on apartments....if you have underground parking, regular outlets charge very slowly, but are the most efficient for the life of the battery. When camping, we use the electric outlet and can get 80-100 km over night.
Optimal of course, is to have your own rooftop solar and a level charger at home.

A thoughtful, well-written comment, Ms. Nokleby. Tesla charged us a "mint" for our 2017 Model X because they presumably used the funds to help build a decent charging infrastructure. They were careful to place the chargers in locations close to coffee shops, restaurants, etc., as the private purveyors have often failed to do (as you noted, and I have observed as well). I have little hope that other EV car manufacturers will follow suit. They behave like dinosaurs, being pulled kicking and screaming into the modern world. I hate to say it, but we need regulations to get car manufacturers and apartment builders off their duff.

I totally think per kwh charging is the way. With so many different versions of EVs with different charging speeds (varying by temperature and charge level) it is the only fair way to do it. Especially by public chargers like BC Hydro. It should be manated. It can already get to be more expensive than gas sometimes right now. 2020 Hyundai Kona EV owner here with max 80kw charging speed, much lower most of the time due to temp or charge level.

Great info. The lack of charging standards across jurisdictions and the treatment of grid transmission as private infrastructure (even by public utilities like BC Hydro) begs for a national response.

Six non-Tesla companies recently agreed to standardize their plug design, which is a start. Tesla is opening their private charging stations to other car brands in future. This is industry's initial response.

Time to follow up with a national smart grid.

Tesla is now branching out into grid battery storage in a big way. It has switched to the lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery chemistry, which is more stable and not fire prone like the old school lithium ion batteries containing nickel and cobalt. LFP batteries can be charged to 100% without excessive degradation.

Tesla buys their batteries from CATL and BYD in China, the most advanced batteries in the world.....for now. You'll find these units today inside the stacks of Tesla battery kiosks at huge solar and wind farms in Australia and Scotland. Tesla is also stacking up large LFP battery packs at their charging stations where they tap into their own PV arrays and buy and store cheap power from the grid at night and sell it with a mark up to EVs during the daytime peaks.

Elon Musk's political philosophy may be destestable, but that doesn't translate so easily to the people running Tesla who seem to be very smart and are filling an electrification gap left by government and business who are lazy and intransigent.

China will be getting some stiff competition soon. Joe Biden's IRA policy is reaching far and wide and will offer a growing market for EVs and renewables. China's population has peaked and will decline to the point its economy will also decline. It is no longer the workshop and marketplace it was.

Technology is following suit. South Korea's LG recently suffered a major setback with its lithium ion batteries that caught fire. Cobalt and nickel now have no legitimate place in batteries, as GM found with the otherwise attractive Chevy Bolt compact EV that used LG's batteries.

LG Chem learned. They have recently had major success in the lab in a team with several universities that are developing batteries with silicone anodes with double the average energy density and promised range for EVs. They are also lighter in weight.

LG Chem is part of the Stellantis group that recently struck a deal with the federal and Ontario governments to build a huge battery plant in Windsor for the North American EV market -- it qualifies for the US IRA credit. It's likely that LG will be using the latest battery chemistry.

Consider that LG, VW and at least one other battery company in Quebec will be supplying Canada, the continent and the EU markets with 21st Century electric products that will compete directly

(.....oops.....) with fossil fuels in land transportation, it's very curious why Alberta chose to pause its renewable power industry. There was no business cas

(small cellphone keypads!) to back that decision.

These battery companies would be well advised to also consider making larger battery packs for the North American grid which could become larger than the EV in

A Tale of Two Articles, both written by CNO reporters:

“Currently, Canada has just under 9,000 charging stations — most of which are concentrated in the country’s south.”

“Currently, Canada has roughly 20,000 charging stations countrywide…”

Apparently, in one week, the number of charging stations dropped by half.

This article was informative, and underscores the need to regulate. It seems to me the billing model maybe needs to be informed by those plans used elsewhere, such as taxis. A combination of time spent plugged in (time for the taxi trip), and the actual amount of juice transferred (distance travelled). To be fair, per kWh rates should mirror time-of-day pricing rates, if they exist in the system.