An electric vehicle charging station in Yellowknife in September 2021. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio
Northland Utilities will spend up to $370,000 installing two new electric vehicle charging stations in Yellowknife, a demonstration of the cost of moving away from gas.
The two stations will house the NWT capital’s first level three fast chargers, the territorial government stated in a news release this week. They are due to be operational by the end of March 2023.
News of the project, which uses up to $300,000 provided by the NWT government, comes a month after it was revealed that the NWT Power Corporation will spend $624,000 on a similar charging station in Behchokǫ̀.
The cost of public electric vehicle chargers, being installed at more than $150,000 per station in Yellowknife and more than $300,000 per station in Behchokǫ̀, appears to outstrip the funding currently allocated to a broader charger program.
Earlier in the summer, the federal and NWT governments jointly announced $470,000 to “support the installation of up to 72 EV chargers across the Northwest Territories powered by renewable hydroelectricity.”
But the governments have not set out the math behind that program. The projects announced in the past month are consuming double that sum and will result in four chargers, not 72.
Previously, the NWT Power Corporation suggested the discrepancy meant the federally funded project will likely rely on level two chargers, which the corporation said could be had for as little as $1,500 plus installation costs. At the moment, each level three charger seems to be costing NWT utility companies $100,000 or more.
Both the Behchokǫ̀ and Yellowknife projects use level three chargers, the fastest commonly available, which can fully charge an electric car in half an hour. Level two chargers take six to eight hours to do the same thing, meaning they are useful overnight charging devices but no help mid-commute.
What role level two chargers will eventually play is not clear in a territory where owners of gas vehicles routinely attempt to drive 16 hours in a day from Yellowknife to Edmonton, or 10 hours from northern BC or the Dehcho to the North Slave or Fort Smith.
In a news release, the NWT government said the near million-dollar outlay on the Yellowknife and Behchokǫ̀ fast-charging stations was the first step “in establishing an EV charging corridor between Yellowknife and the Alberta border,” a commitment under the territory’s 2030 emissions reduction strategy.
At the moment, Fort Providence invariably forms the main refuelling stop heading away from Yellowknife to the south, but the territory has said turning the community into a fast-charging hub first requires an expensive power upgrade.
$60 million is being spent connecting Fort Providence to the Taltson hydro system north of Fort Smith, work due to begin next year that will “essentially eliminate the use of diesel for electrical generation in Fort Providence and Kakisa except for emergency backup,” according to territorial infrastructure minister Diane Archie.
In the meantime, one of the two newly announced Yellowknife charging stations will be at Northland Utilities’ Range Lake Road office. The other will be in the parking lot of the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, next to the territory’s legislature. A level two station already exists outside City Hall.