EV Update 2021

EV Update 2021

By Suzanne Goldberg

Fuelling and convenience operators across Canada are committed to or have already started to invest in EV charging, including Parkland, 7-Eleven, Irving Oil, Petro-Canada, and Co-Op.

Some of my fondest childhood memories are of summer road trips across Canada. My dad used to call them “mystery tours” because my sister and I were not told where we were going, just to pack a bag. Although the destination was the main event, stopping at the convenience stores where we gassed up was definitely a highlight of the trip. We were allowed to stock up on chips, candy and pop – items we did not regularly have around the house – for our car ride. My father called it our “junk food buffet.” 

This year, with pandemic restrictions limiting our summer travel plans to domestic adventures, it seemed like a good time to bring back the mystery tour and pass the family tradition on to my nieces. However, unlike the mystery tours of the past, which were taken in some version of a wood-paneled van or station wagon, my partner, nieces and I will be driving an electric vehicle (EV).

The magic of the mystery tour is both the journey and destination, so planning fuel stops to raid the convenience store isles for our requisite junk food buffet is a must! The good news is that more and more fuelling and convenience stores are offering charging to road-tripping EV drivers like me that need a “fast fill” along the way.  

More than most industries, fuelling and convenience has always evolved to satisfy its customers’ needs and preferences. Today, providers understand they will increasingly need to cater to EV drivers, since many of the new vehicles hitting the road in the coming years will be electric. Fuelling and convenience operators across Canada are committed to or have already started to invest in EV charging, including Parkland, 7-Eleven, Irving Oil, Petro-Canada, and Co-Op. 

EV sales in Canada are growing rapidly. In 2020, in the middle of a pandemic, EV sales were 3.5 per cent of total light-duty vehicle sales. That’s expected to grow to 17 per cent by 2025 and to 40 per cent by 2030, according to the latest BloombergNEF Electric Vehicle Outlook 2021. Close to 70 per cent of Canadian new vehicle buyers say their next vehicle will be electric. With automakers committing over $300 billion to produce EVs, including electric versions of Canada’s best-selling pick-up trucks and SUVs – including the FI50 and RAV4 Prime – there is no denying that fuelling and convenience brands will need to be prepared. 

While the shift to EVs will not happen overnight, the trajectory is clear: more and more Canadians are choosing electric. Fuelling and convenience operators that take early action will have an advantage. 

Fuelling and convenience operators have an important role in supporting their customers who drive electric. The business does not change with growing EV adoption, just the fuel itself.  Fast fill charging at fuelling and convenience can support long distance travel, road trip stops, community charging in rural and remote communities, and charging for those who do not have access at home. For the 33.5 per cent of Canadians that live in apartments or condos, fuelling and convenience locations are an ideal and familiar place to fuel up. We are, after all, creatures of habit. 

Evidenced from a growing number of press releases, news stories and sustainability reports, the advantages of EV charging for fuelling and convenience operators is clear: maintaining existing customer loyalty, expanding service offerings, attracting new customers, and supporting sustainability, climate and environmental, social, and governance plans.  

What may be less clear to fuelling and convenience operators that have not yet decided to invest in electric vehicle charging infrastructure is the how. The questions we typically receive from fuelling and convenience operators are: How do I do it? How do I make money? How do I connect with my customers? 

How do I integrate EV charging into my business? 

Gasoline customers fuel up, but they also might get a carwash and grab a burger. How do you replicate that experience for EV drivers? As a fuelling and convenience operator, you are no stranger adapting to meet the market where it is at. When customers wanted dairy-free milk for their coffee, you stocked soy milk. Providing electric fast fill fuel will be like that soy milk. Customers will plug in and come in to grab a coffee and a snack while their car is charging. Because charging takes longer than traditional fuelling, they’ll even stay longer and spend more than gasoline customers!

How do I make money?

The key is understanding your costs and utility rates, as well as the funding mechanisms you can leverage to support your investment. You have two main buckets of costs. The first is your site development costs, which are one-time expenses related to charging equipment, engineering and construction, as well as any utility service upgrades. The second is your operating costs, which are ongoing expenses including utility charges, software subscription costs and warranties. On the revenue side, you have charging fees and can leverage funding such as incentives. 

To ease costs, funding and policy can help! Funding is available at the federal and provincial level in the form of grants and accelerated capital depreciation. For example, the federal government has a grant program for public chargers, and provinces like BC offer incentives, while utilities in Quebec (Hydro Quebec) and Alberta (ATCO) offer specific EV charging utility fees to support the fast fill charging business case. There is also clean and low carbon fuel standard policies, which can provide annual revenue from the sale of carbon credits.

How do I connect with my customers?

ChargePoint provides fuelling and convenience operators with an integrated suite of hardware, software and services to enable a seamless integration of electric fuelling options into your multi-fuel mix. That could be everything from station branding and tools to manage customer communications both at the station and within the app. 

ChargePoint is designing the tools and technologies to support businesses’ integration into the new fuelling network, working with operators across Canada’s urban and rural communities. With more than 13 years in the business, ChargePoint brings experience, scale, quality and expertise to the market and customers interested in electrifying.  As I embark on my road trip this summer with my nieces, I am comforted to know that the road-tripping, roadside stop junk food buffet of my childhood can be passed on to a new generation, only this time, powered by electricity! 

Suzanne Goldberg, director, public policy, ChargePoint, is an energy, climate, and electric vehicle (EV) policy professional with over 10 years of experience. She is currently the director of public policy in Canada for ChargePoint, a world leading EV charging network, with access to hundreds-of-thousands of places to charge in North America and Europe. In this role she covers federal, provincial and municipal affairs, managing engagement on electric vehicle policy across Canada.

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