Feds promise $414K to NWT to install up to 72 electric car chargers

A joint announcement between the Northwest Territories government and the federal government might help solve a “chicken before the egg problem” when it comes to electric vehicle uptake in the territory.

On Wednesday, NWT MP Michael McLeod announced during a virtual news conference that the federal government is putting $414,000 toward a program to install up to 72 electric vehicle charging stations in the territory from its Zero Emission Vehicle Infrastructure Program fund.

“This is how we create a future where vehicles we drive won’t harm the environment we cherish,” McLeod said. He was joined by Diane Archie, deputy premier and the NWT’s infrastructure minister, along with Robert Sexton, the territory’s director of energy.

When asked about the demand for more electric vehicle infrastructure, Sexton said having the infrastructure in place is key to encourage people to make the switch from fuel-powered cars.

“It’s a bit of a chicken before the egg problem. Well, you need the infrastructure to get the EVs in place,” he said.

Sexton said the program will be application-based and the territory expects it “will mostly be focused” in the communities where there’s hydro in place.

“As technology improves, we will look at other methods of how we can provide charging stations to communities that have a higher cost of generating power,” Sexton said.

Northwest Territories MP Michael McLeod pictured at a news conference in February. (Natalie Pressman/CBC)

He said the territory has also looked into charging stations that are viable in very cold climates, and that it is possible to buy charging stations that will work at -40 C.

Sexton said the NWT government is contributing a portion of the funding for the newly announced program — mostly related to the administration of the funding — of around $60,000.

There are currently six level 2 electric vehicle charging stations in the NWT, according to PlugShare, a website that maps out public electric charging stations. There is one each in Yellowknife, Fort Smith, Fort Providence and Hay River. There are two that are “coming soon”: one in Enterprise and the other in Behchokǫ̀.

In a report from October 2020, commissioned by the NWT government, a “reliable and convenient” network would provide charging stations at 100-kilometre intervals at a minimum. That takes into account the average 300-kilometre range of new electric vehicles, 50 per cent range loss from driving in extreme cold, and buffers on either side of the charge, it said.

Archie said the program is currently in development and should be launched in the coming weeks.

“This funding will allow the government of the Northwest Territories to offer a new program that supports the installation of level two and level three electrical vehicle chargers in public places, workplaces, on streets and multi unit residential buildings for light duty vehicle fleets,” she said.

The announcement is one of several financial commitments made by the federal government this week to install more than 6,000 EV chargers from Nova Scotia to British Columbia, McLeod said.

Right now, NWT residents qualify for a $5,000 rebate through the federal government’s nationally available incentives for buying an electric vehicle.

The Arctic Energy Alliance used to offer a $5,000 rebate for new electric vehicles, and a $500 rebate for level 2 chargers, funded by the NWT government, to people who live in communities that get their power from hydroelectricity, and not diesel generators. However, officials are confirmed during the announcement Wednesday that there currently isn’t any funding for this program.

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