Lack of chargers around NL hold EV drivers ‘captive’, says tourist

A couple stands on a sidewalk in downtown St.  John's.  A row of colorful jellybean row buildings are behind them.
Vincent Couture and Élyse Peloquin spent three weeks driving around Newfoundland in their electric vehicle, but say they faced challenges due to a below par charging network. (Patrick Butler/CBC-Radio Canada)

A man from Quebec who is touring Newfoundland in his electric vehicle says a below par charging network made for a challenging drive, echoing a call shared by local drivers — a need for more chargers.

Vincent Couture and Élyse Peloquin have spent the last three weeks in Newfoundland visiting from Rivière-du-Loup, QC They came to the province in their Chevrolet Volt, a hybrid vehicle that holds an electric charge of about four hours.

The car was able to work off of its battery on the Trans Canada Highway, where dozens of fast charging stations have been established, but Couture says going to tourist areas like L’Anse aux Meadows and the Burin Peninsula presented a challenge.

“There’s almost no chargers in villages, it’s pretty hard to find,” he told CBC News Monday, adding he needed to use gasoline about 95 per cent of his time driving.

Coture said the problem was highlighted in St. John’s, where there were only three chargers compatible with his vehicle in the city — at Signal Hill, a hotel and a parking lot he couldn’t find.

He called the charger locations “misplaced,” saying more attention should be put into bringing chargers into accessible spaces and areas with high foot traffic.

“You have to spend time around the chargers. It takes up to four hours with our car and eight to nine hours with some other cars,” he said.

“You’re captive, so I don’t want to be captive on the Trans Canada Highway. I want to be captive in St. John’s, I want to be captive in Quidi Vidi.”

Jon Seary, the co-founder of the not-for-profit group Drive Electric NL, says he’s heard similar concerns from tourists.

“We spend a lot of time with people who have contacted us wanting to tour the province in their electric cars, to help them find routes and places that would be good for charging,” he said.

A man stands in front of his red Tesla Model X. Behind him is a black building and a sign that reads "Drive Electric NL Resource Center."
Jon Seary is the co-founder of Drive Electric NL, and has been driving all-electric vehicles since 2016. He says the province’s EV infrastructure has grown in recent years, but still lags about five years behind places like Quebec. (Patrick Butler/CBC-Radio Canada)

Seary hopes the issue of charger placement will be solved as municipalities and the province work to add more stations in the coming months.

Nineteen more fast charging stations will soon be added across the province by the provincial government, while the City of St. John’s has recently approved a proposal to add 22 new level-two chargers to their infrastructure.

It’s also important for businesses and communities to keep electric vehicles in mind when it comes to planning for tourists, Seary said, as drivers who already use electric vehicles will likely bring their own vehicle to the province.

“Chargers are going to be used by the visitors to your property, your province, visitors to your town,” he said.

“Where would you like them to stop and explore, and spend, you know, 15, 20 minutes, 45 minutes? Would you like them out on the highway? Or would you like them into your city, into your town where you have your restaurants, your parks, your recreation areas, the places you want to show off?”

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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