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Inside Innovation: EV recharging stations make a compelling business case

John Bleasby
Inside Innovation: EV recharging stations make a compelling business case

U.S. President Joe Biden has thrown down the EV gauntlet and American car manufacturers have responded. Forty per cent of vehicles sold by Ford, GM and Chrysler will be electric by the end of this decade. This is coupled with the recently passed U.S. Infrastructure bill that will invest up to $7.5 billion to increase the number of EV charging stations across the country.

The Government of Canada has dropped a similar gauntlet.

“All new light-duty cars and passenger trucks are to be zero-emission by 2035,” says NRCanada.

In terms of recharging stations, the government has a number of rebate and incentive programs available to encourage their installation too.

The money is already out there. In fact, Canadian Tire was given funding support of 50 per cent from the federal government — $2.7 million — to install 240 “Fast Chargers” and 55 Level 2 chargers at 90 store locations across Canada by the end of this year.

Whether the auto industry can actually meet the ambitious sales and production goals is an unanswered question. One thing is for sure though: there are not nearly enough recharging stations available to meet the projected charging demand. In fact, in some areas outside major metropolitan Canadian centres, it’s hard to find a commercial charging station anywhere along point-to-point highways.

It is expected up to 80 per cent of EV charging will occur at home. Nevertheless, office workers, shopping mall patrons, restaurant goers and inter-city travellers will expect the convenience of charging away from home.

This throws responsibility for providing charging stations into the laps of property owners, business operators and new project developers.

EV charging stations vary in cost depending on their level and speed. Level 1 recharging stations can be installed for as low as $3,000 per unit. However, these are slow and only appropriate for home installation.

For multi-unit residential buildings and public parking lots, a Level 2 station offers a recharge time of four to eight hours, and cost about $6,000. These deliver a battery top-up equivalent of 30 to 40 additional travel miles per hour.

The ultimate in recharging are Level 3 “Fast Recharging” stations that can take less than an hour for a full charge. However, these are costly, as much as $75,000 each for the required equipment such as transformers. Level 3 is appropriate at pay-as-you-go rest stops on highways or at car dealerships. Annual maintenance is high, estimated around $2,000 to $3,000 per station, including software subscription costs that assist with station management issues such as load balancing and charge optimization.

While home installation is relatively simple and inexpensive in most areas of the country, commercial installation costs can vary due to geographical location and the state of local electrical infrastructure. Trenching for underground conduit lines and upgraded electrical service panels, for example, can add to costs.

EV owners already know that electricity is not free, of course. Therefore, it’s reasonable for station operators to “charge for the charge.” However, electricity prices are volatile throughout a 24-hour day. This needs to be reflected in pricing. For example, overnight charging at a residential building during off-peak hours can be less than any recharging costs levied during peak utility hours when office buildings are in full operation. 

There is momentum toward EVs that cannot be denied and must be met with a parallel increase in EV charging stations. Yet there is a strong business case to be made. In terms of attracting tenants to commercial properties, retaining employees and drawing shoppers from a desirable demographic, onsite EV charging will go beyond being “à la mode” and become a key amenity. The good news is that from an operational standpoint, charging stations can at least pay back their capital cost through user charges, depending on the location and circumstances.

When combined with the incentives being provided by various levels of government now and in the near future, the decision to install recharging stations should be relatively straight forward.

John Bleasby is a Coldwater, Ont.-based freelance writer. Send comments and Inside Innovation column ideas to

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