The federal government has said expanding the electric vehicle charging network is key to meeting the country’s climate goals, but an investigation by CBC’s Marketplace has exposed a wide range in pricing as well as inconsistencies in performance and reliability at public charging stations.
Marketplace tested the pricing and reliability at some of Canada’s most popular charging providers, travelling to Ivy, Flo, ChargePoint and Petro-Canada charging stations located across Ontario.
In an apples-to-apples kilowatt-per-hour comparison, Marketplace documented the price for a 20-minute charge on a Volvo Polestar 2 and found consumers may be paying twice as much depending on where they fill up. At one station, the charge was $10.09, while a competitor charged $5.20.
In a separate test looking at reliability, Marketplace took a Nissan Leaf to three different locations from each of the four charging companies.
The team encountered some sort of challenge at seven of the 12 stations.
The seven included one Ivy station, three ChargePoint and three Petro-Canada locations. The challenges included needing multiple attempts in order to start or end a charging session as well as problems completing payment through an app or credit card reader.
At two of the locations (ChargePoint and Petro-Canada), the team could not charge at all.
No charging hiccups occurred at the Flo locations visited.
- Watch the full Marketplace episode, Putting Electric Vehicles to the Test: Are We Ready for 2035?, Friday at 8 p.m., 8:30 p.m. in Newfoundland, on CBC-TV and anytime on CBC Gem or YouTube.
There is no single, comprehensive strategy for installation and maintenance of this country’s charging infrastructure, something Joanna Kyriazis, director of public affairs at Clean Energy Canada, says should change.
“The pricing and payment systems need to be standardized and convenient,” she said.
Speaking to Marketplace, Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault pointed to the relatively small sample size of the test, but acknowledged “there are problems. And we’re working to address those problems.”
A rocky road trip
The federal government has regulated that by 2035, all new vehicles sold must be electric.
According to data from Natural Resources Canada, in the first three months of 2023, about one out of every eight new cars purchased was electric. At present, more than 26,000 public EV charging stations have been installed across Canada.
But George Iny, director at the Automobile Protection Association, stressed that adequate charging infrastructure must be in place to ensure a smooth transition to a zero-emission future.
Right now, “it’s still so buggy,” he said. “And poorly co-ordinated and poorly standardized.”