NWT receives cash toward dozens of new EV charging stations by 2024

Last modified: July 15, 2022 at 7:05am


Ottawa has announced new funding to support the installation of up to 72 electric vehicle charging stations along a corridor from Yellowknife to the Alberta border.

In a briefing on Thursday, NWT MP Michael McLeod said the federal government is giving $414,000 toward the project. Almost $60,000 will be contributed by the GNWT.  

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Generally, the plan is to install a mix of level two and level three chargers on streets, outside multi-unit residential buildings and at workplaces by March 2024.

Level two chargers take a few hours to fill a battery, while level three fast chargers can do so in as little as 30 minutes.

Exact locations will be decided through an application process. The criteria for submitting an application are not yet clear.

The NWT government’s director of energy, Robert Sexton, said the territory will prioritize communities that use hydro power and explore options for charging stations in diesel-powered communities as charging technology improves. (The obvious drawback of charging an electric vehicle in a community powered by diesel is that generating electricity there creates far more emissions than in a hydro community.)

This investment is part of Canada’s attempts to ensure all new passenger vehicles sold in the country are zero-emission by 2035.

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NWT infrastructure minister Diane Archie restated her government’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, a target that some observers doubt the territory will hit.

With 58 percent of the NWT’s emissions coming from transportation, Archie argues getting more electric vehicles on the road will be critical to meeting that target.

A charging corridor facilitating electric vehicle travel between Yellowknife and Alberta is an important step in making that kind of travel accessible to more people.

No NWT subsidies

But charging stations are not the only piece in the accessibility puzzle.

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Up-front cost is another.

John Sangris, a member of Yellowknives Dene First Nation who lives in Dettah, attended an electric vehicle information session hosted by the First Nation in the community on Thursday morning, unconnected to the federal announcement later that afternoon.

Sangris said he would be interested in purchasing an electric truck if they were not so expensive.

John Sangris inspects an EV sports car at an information session in Dettah on Thursday morning. He said he was surprised by how quickly, and quietly, it accelerated. Sophie Kuijper Dickson/Cabin Radio

As it stands, only the federal government offers a subsidy, up to $5,000, for the purchase of electric vehicles.

The Arctic Energy Alliance, an organization that works to promote renewable energy solutions in the territory, offered a similar subsidy program with money from the territorial government, but funding was not renewed for this year.

“We have exhausted our budget,” said Sexton, the GNWT energy director. He said the NWT’s subsidy program was a pilot project and his department is evaluating what, if anything, will replace it.

Kevin Cull, communications coordinator for the Arctic Energy Alliance, said the subsidy program received six applications in its first year and 16 in year two.

“Most of those are still in Yellowknife, but also in Behchokǫ̀ and Hay River,” Cull said. “So people around the territory are starting to buy them.”

‘Can I drive to Edmonton?’

Jay Mauchan organized the session in Dettah as the final day of an environmental training course he had been teaching through the First Nation.

He collected many questions from his students about the feasibility of using electric vehicles in the harsh climate of the NWT, where long highway drives are an almost unavoidable part of life.

Students asked about everything from battery life to tax rebates, subsidies and insurance costs.

One student, Kashton McMahon, raised concern about what zero-emissions really meant – and whether that label accounted for the environmental impact of building the car.

Kashton McMahon and Jay Mauchan ask questions about aspects of EV technology and its suitability for northern living. Sophie Kuijper Dickson/Cabin Radio

But Mauchan said the main question from his students was whether an EV could get someone to Edmonton.

The plan to install more charging stations along that route is meant to make EV travel to Alberta possible.

But Pete Liske said for him, the issue is less about charging stations and more about battery life.

He drives to High Level, Alberta, at least once a month to visit family.

He said he wouldn’t buy an electric vehicle until the battery range increases to at least 700 kilometres because he does not want to prolong what is already a long drive by stopping to charge his car along the way.

According to PlugShare there are currently six EV charging stations scattered across the NWT,. Two are in Yellowknife. The remaining four are in Fort Providence, the Lady Evelyn Falls campground, Hay River and Fort Smith.

A GNWT report published in 2020 suggested a handful of additional spots, including two more than 100 kilometres from access to the power grid. The plan in those locations, the report stated, would be to use off-grid solar technology.