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Ontario is planning to offer a discounted electricity rate to providers of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations where demand is “just starting to emerge.” The lower rate will make charging infrastructure more affordable and encourage more drivers to switch to electric vehicles, said the Ontario Ministry of Energy in a statement.

Currently, public EV charging stations in areas with low EV adoption rates face significant operational costs, the ministry said. These stations experience sporadic peaks in demand when an EV is charged, yet still incur expenses during periods of low use throughout the day. The expenses are a disincentive for operators to build, and those who do, are operating at a loss. This gives rise to accessibility concerns, the statement reads. Charging stations for electric cars that are expected to be rarely used either don't get built or lose money when they are, contributing to concerns about the accessibility of charging facilities, the statement reads.

“With more than 150,000 electric vehicles already on the roads in Ontario, we’re continuing to look at new ways to increase the number of public chargers,” Todd Smith, Ontario’s energy minister, said in the statement. “This is another step we are taking to give drivers in every part of our province, including rural Ontario, the confidence to transition to electric vehicles, and take advantage of our growing, world-class clean grid.”

Starting this month, the Ontario Energy Board will begin public consultations on the proposed new rate. If approved, the discounted rate will be available to public EV charging stations with low usage, ranging from 50 kW to 4,999 kW. Local distribution companies are anticipated to start offering this rate to public EV charging providers in early 2026.

Currently, public EV charging stations in areas with low EV adoption rates face significant operational costs. Photo submitted by Devin Arthur

Devin Arthur, director of government relations of Electric Vehicle Society, an electric vehicle advocacy organization, said installing charging stations is expensive, especially in rural locations where they aren’t often used. Charging operators and site hosts currently pay demand charges on electricity if they exceed a certain usage threshold, for example, more than 50 kW. A single charging session from one EV could push a location over this threshold, which would cost the operator hundreds or even thousands of dollars, he added.

Arthur, who is an EV driver from Sudbury, highlighted the crucial role of charging infrastructure in boosting EV adoption.

“Having adequate charging infrastructure has been proven to be one of the key pillars in EV adoption and is sort of in a ‘chicken and egg’ scenario, especially in these rural and rarely used areas of the province,” said Arthur. “But having that infrastructure in place is extremely important to improve consumer confidence in the technology and will definitely encourage more consumers to purchase an EV.”

BC Hydro is also shifting to energy-based pricing for public EV chargers. Drivers pay for the energy consumed rather than the time spent plugged in.

Starting this month, the Ontario Energy Board will begin public consultations on the proposed new rate. If approved, the discounted rate will be available to public EV charging stations with low usage, ranging from 50 kW to 4,999 kW. #EVCharging

According to the Ontario Ministry of Energy, as of March 2024, there are more than 150,000 EVs registered in Ontario, including both battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). By 2030, more than one million EVs are expected to be on the road in Ontario.

As of September 2023, Ontario boasted over 2,900 public charging stations with 7,900 ports, including 6,600 Level 2 ports and 1,300 Level 3 fast-charging ports.

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Makes sense to lower the barriers of transitioning to EVs. Power utilities will recover any temporary reduction in revenues well before electrification of transportation is complete.