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03/22/2021

Age of electric: new charging stations set for Manitoba

Thirty-one new electric vehicle charging stations are soon to be rolled out across southern Manitoba.

A funding partnership between municipalities and the federal government will result in a total of $155,000 doled out from Natural Resources Canada's Zero-Emission Vehicle Infrastructure Program. The agreement splits funding 50-50, up to a maximum of $5,000 per charger.

Eco-West Canada, a not-for-profit focused on greening the economy of rural municipalities, is co-ordinating planning and construction.

Eight stations will be placed in Winnipeg, four each in Stonewall and Niverville, and one or two chargers will be installed in the communities of Matlock, RM of Tache, Pinawa, St-Georges, Ile-des-Chenes, Grande Pointe, Ste. Agathe, St. Adolphe, and St. Pierre-Jolys.

All stations will be Level 2 chargers, or 240-volt outlets (the same power needed for a clothes dryer). It takes six to 14 hours to charge a car fully from empty.

Investments in zero-emission vehicle infrastructure is a component of the federal government's plan to address climate change.

"The government of Canada is committed to working collaboratively with local organizations to achieve Canada's goal of net zero by 2050. Eco-West's infrastructure project will make EV charging easier and more accessible for Manitobans, while helping to reduce their carbon footprint,'' Liberal MP Terry Duguid (Winnipeg South) said.

Dany Robidoux, chief executive officer of Eco-West, said he's excited to see progress being made in the province, which lags behind other jurisdictions in developing EV infrastructure.

"A major reason is that it's difficult to access funding on the consumer side for the purchase of electric vehicles (in Manitoba), but also on the supply side for the EV charging stations. It's kind of a chicken-and-egg scenario. What do you invest in first? But we've not invested in anything, so we're not going anywhere fast,'' he told the Free Press.

Only 138 battery electric vehicles were newly registered in the province in 2019, according to Statistics Canada.

Winnipeg has approximately nine EV charging stations per 100,000 people, compared with 31 in Toronto, and 96 in Montreal, according to figures released by the non-profit Climate Reality Project.

Robidoux said the COVID-19 pandemic threw this project a curveball in the homestretch. Eco West had applied for the funding in 2019 with sign on from municipalities, but after the pandemic hit, municipal budgets needed to be revised.

All of the sudden, 10 of the 31 planned EV locations needed new homes, he said.

The City of Winnipeg dropped from wanting 12 chargers to eight; other municipalities on board initially dropped out altogether.

Robidoux said he's still committed to installing 31 stations, but four locations still need to be finalized.

Since the funding announcement was made this week, there have been numerous requests for partnership from communities across the province, he said.

"It's garnering a lot of political interest at the municipal level right now, which is also a key component of moving anything environmental forward. You need political buy-in.''