City plan for more electric car charging stations could cost you

People in Ottawa could soon be paying more to charge their electric vehicles at city-run charging stations. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Proposal likely to mean price differences between stations across city

By Kimberley Molina, CBC News

The city's plan to build more charging stations could make it more expensive for people to charge their electric vehicles.

The City of Ottawa wants to start charging people to charge cars at stations installed after December 2017.

Currently, the city operates three free charging stations at John G. Mlacak Community Centre, City Hall and the Glebe Parking Garage. It also operates a pay station at the Goulbourn Recreation Complex.

There are also many more privately operated stations and some installed through a provincial program, all with varying rates.

"In a sense, there's a bit of a hodgepodge until now of different unpredictable availability, free, not free, different rates," said Coun. David Chernuskenko, chair of the Environment and Climate Protection Committee. But that hodgepodge will likely continue.

The proposal being presented at Tuesday's Environment and Climate Protection Committee would see the city build more charging stations, but with different rates than what it currently charges.

Variable prices have some concerned

The variable pricing will be tied to the 'level' of charge your vehicle takes. So called Level 1 stations, at 120 volts, are currently free and will remain free.

Level 2 stations, which operate at 240 volts, will have a $3.50 flat fee at future Park and Ride parking lots and $2.00 per hour at other city sites. The third level of charge is the DC Fast Charger station. The city would charge 28 cents per minute at these stations, which connect directly to the car's battery and essentially super charge it in as little as 30 minutes.

The president of the Electric Vehicle Council of Ottawa, Gerard Gavrel, isn't impressed with the plan.

"They've got different fees depending on where you are. So, what that's going to do is at the expensive charging stations, nobody will go to them. They'll all go to the cheaper ones," said Gavrel, who called the plan ridiculous.

"If you figure out a fee structure, the fee structure should be the same for every station," said Gavrel, who adds electric car drivers could cross into Quebec where prices are standardized across the province.

"People will come and use the charging stations in Quebec because they're cheaper."

But Chernushenko disagrees.

"They're far enough apart right now that I don't think you'll get anyone flocking because you'd be crossing town just to get somewhere to plug in your vehicle and we're really talking cents here," he said.

"Often what's not well understood by a lot of people is a fully charged vehicle is about $5 in most cases and really people are just looking to top up for a dollar or two so I don't think you're going to get people travelling across town just to get a slightly different rate."

Adding more stations will also help cut down on range anxiety, the fear you could run out of juice before being able to charge up, he said.

However, he does think the city rates should be comparable to other charging stations. Electric Circuit, a subsidiary of Hydro Quebec, charges $1/hr for Level 2 chargers and $17/hr for its DC fast chargers.

Electric Circuit charges $1 per hour at some Level 2 stations and a $4 flat rate at others, along with $17 per hour at DC fast-charging stations.

The report will be presented at the Environment and Climate Protection Committee on Tuesday and at council on December 13.

A map of most charging stations can be viewed here.