Why does one NWT EV charging station cost more than $600,000?

Last modified: July 27, 2022 at 8:35am


Last week, the NWT government announced $624,000 would be spent opening an ultra-fast electric vehicle charging station in Behchokǫ̀.

Given the territory had just received $414,000 from the federal government to help pay for up to 72 electric vehicle chargers, the announcement that far more was needed to build one Behchokǫ̀ charger raised eyebrows.

We asked the NWT Power Corporation, which is building the charging station, why it will cost so much.

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The power corporation said the plan is to build a charging station with two stalls. That allows two vehicles to charge at once, with the aim of ensuring you don’t have to wait more than half an hour to get a full charge.

According to the power corporation, that explains some of the cost – as does the use of a level-three charger, currently the fastest commonly available.

“The cost to install a level three charger is significantly higher than a level two charger as there is a requirement for upgrades to the distribution system to power a level three charger,” Doug Prendergast, a spokesperson for the power corporation, told Cabin Radio by email.

“A level two charger can be connected to the electricity system, similar to a major appliance. The time required to charge an EV with a 100-kW level three charging system is approximately 30 minutes, while a level two charging station would require from six to eight hours.

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“Approximately $200,000 of the total project cost is for the purchase of two 100-kW level three DC charging units. By comparison, a level two charger can be purchased for as little as $1,500.”

Prendergast initially said the federal funding for up to 72 charging stations was “primarily for level one and level two charging stations that residents or businesses can install using their existing infrastructure,” but later clarified – after this article was first published – that the funding will, in fact, be spent mostly on level two chargers, with some assistance available for level three chargers.

(Speakers at last week’s federal announcement had said the $414,000 was for level two and three chargers, and that money is coming from a federal fund that appears designed to support level two chargers or higher. A level one charger can plug into an ordinary power outlet and provides only around eight kilometres of charge per hour.)

The power corporation says other costs contributing to the $624,000 price tag “are related to design and engineering, property preparation (platform and entryway), distribution line upgrades – including the installation of a dedicated transformer and development and installation of a security monitoring system – as well as a communication system for billing.”

Prendergast said a 20-percent contingency had been included in case of “unknown or unexpected costs,” given this will be the NWT’s first level-three charging station outside Yellowknife.

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“Behchokǫ̀ was selected as the site for the first charging station on the proposed corridor between Alberta and Yellowknife for several reasons,” he wrote.

Those reasons are the community’s proximity to Highway 3, the ease of access to existing hydroelectric power infrastructure, and the availability of nearby power corporation staff for technical support and maintenance.

Prendergast also noted Highway 3 between Behchokǫ̀ and Yellowknife is one of the busiest in the NWT and a study considered it to have “the greatest potential for EV adoption.”

Behchokǫ̀, he wrote, is “well-situated for travellers heading to or departing from the territorial capital.”