Northwest Territories works to encourage more residents to choose electric vehicles

“Even though it currently seems like the adoption of electric vehicles is limited and some barriers seem somehow insurmountable, we have to plan to start doing it because in five years it will be too late.”

The federal government has committed to achieving a mandatory zero-emission vehicle sales target of 100% by 2035 for all new light-duty vehicles. It has set intermediate targets of at least 20% of sales by 2026 and 60% by 2030.

A study commissioned by the Government of the Northwest Territories projects that electric vehicles could account for 2.9 to 11.3 percent of all annual car and light truck sales in the territory in 2030.

The study estimates that the planned charging corridor, alongside incentives to purchase electric vehicles, could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 260 to 1,016 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent that year.

Sexton said it will likely take a few years before the charging corridor is complete. For starters, the territory recently awarded up to $480,000 to the Northwest Territories Power Corporation to install a Level 3 electric vehicle charger in Behchoko.

The Government of the Northwest Territories expects the charging station to reduce gasoline consumption by 61,000 liters and carbon dioxide equivalent by up to 140 tonnes per year. It is expected to be completed in the spring of 2024.

There are other initiatives to increase the number of electric vehicle charging stations in the North.

Earlier this month, the federal government announced $414,000, along with $56,000 in territorial funding, to install up to 72 mostly Level 2 electric vehicle charges in public places, streets, multi-unit residential buildings, workplaces and facilities with light-duty vehicle fleets in the NWT by March 2024.

In the Yukon, the territory has committed to developing electric vehicle infrastructure in all road-accessible communities by 2027. It has already installed 12 electric vehicle charging stations with seven more planned.

Only a few people in the NWT currently own electric vehicles.

Patricia and Ken Wray in Hay River have owned a Tesla Model 3 for three years. Comparing the extra electricity costs to the gas savings, Patricia estimates that they spend 60% less to run the Tesla compared to a gas-powered vehicle.

“I don’t mind walking past the gas station,” she said.

Despite some initial hesitation about the car’s performance in winter, Wray said she had no problems with her Tesla when it was -40C, although charging took longer. She added that it “really hugs the road” in snowy and icy conditions.

“Northerners need to understand that these cars are wonderful in the winter,” she said.

Wray said that although she and her husband regularly drive their Teslas, it is not possible to travel long distances through the territory. However, as the number of electric vehicle charging stations increases in the NWT, this may change.

“I’m just very, very happy to hear that the charging infrastructure is now starting to be put in place,” she said.

Andrew Robinson of the YK Care Share Co-op is more skeptical of the potential success of an intercity charging corridor. He said while the government’s support for electric vehicles is positive, he believes there is a need to focus more immediately on adoption in NWT communities. He cited local taxi services as an example.

“It’s long,” he said of the drive from Alberta to Yellowknife. “It’s 17 hours of intense driving and when you have to recharge, whatever lengthens that, people aren’t really going to be into it.”

The car-sharing service, which offers a 2016 Chevy Spark dubbed “Sparky,” says on its website that a Level 2 charger can typically charge a vehicle in six to eight hours, while a Level 3 charger takes about a half hour.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 2, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of Meta and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Emily Blake, The Canadian Press

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