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Tesla plugs into Sudbury

Electric car company installs charging infrastructure

Sudbury is home to a new Tesla electric vehicle (EV) charging station, and at least one local EV advocate is optimistic the infrastructure’s arrival in the city will spur more people to embrace the technology.

Installation on the Tesla SuperCharger, which has stalls to charge eight vehicles at one time, was completed in December in the parking lot of a SmartCentre retail area in the city’s south end.

While the proprietary technology only works for Tesla vehicles, Devin Arthur said the luxury brand name brings with it a certain cachet that could attract more users to the technology, increasing demand and prompting other companies to set up shop.

“Especially with Barrie or Huntsville, after the SuperCharger’s been installed, you’ll see other companies come in and install their own generic charge solutions,” Arthur said. “I’m hoping it’ll spur development in that sense.”

Arthur, an electric vehicle owner and enthusiast, founded the Greater Sudbury EV Association last fall in an effort to bring together the city’s EV owners and liaise with the car manufacturers that produce electric vehicles to increase awareness.

Electric vehicle use is still relatively nascent in the North, but interest is growing, both among local users and southern Ontarians venturing north.

Arthur said he’s had requests from Tesla owners travelling to Sudbury from Toronto asking where they can charge their vehicles.

But progress in the industry is hampered by what Arthur calls a “chicken-and-egg” scenario: there isn’t a lot of charging infrastructure in place, which discourages people from buying more electric vehicles, but people who do buy the vehicles need charging stations.

“I’m hoping that, with the SuperCharger, that’ll get this into everyone’s mind that we need to improve the charging infrastructure in Sudbury, and not just Sudbury, but in Northern Ontario in general,” he said.

There are a handful of other charging stations in Sudbury, some of which were rolled out as part of the Electric Vehicle Chargers Ontario (EVCO) program in 2016, which provided incentives for private companies to install the infrastructure.

Companies like Koben Systems Inc. – which has installed charging stations in Sudbury, Kenora, North Bay and Timmins, among other communities – strike up an agreement with private companies to install the infrastructure at locations like local coffee shops or banks, which receive revenue for the lease of space.

EV users then use a credit card or phone app to pay for the power they use to charge their vehicle.

“With this unprecedented expansion in new charging infrastructure across the province, electric vehicle owners can now plan longer trips with more confidence because a charging station will be readily available, just like gas stations,” the province said in a release at the time.

Tesla vehicles come equipped with a closed system for payment, all handled through the cars; vehicle owners simply drive up, connect the car, and drive away once charging is complete.

“They tend to put these in locations that are convenient for drivers,” Arthur said. “They want them to be able to have stores and food and shopping areas close by, so they can charge their car and do other things at the same time.”

Tesla Canada did not reply to a request for an interview.

But according to the Tesla Canada website, the company has plans to roll out 15 SuperCharger sites across Northern Ontario, between North Bay and Kenora. The Sudbury station is the first to come online, while most others are estimated to be in service by the end of 2018.

In November, Tesla unveiled plans for its electric semi truck, which will go 500 to 800 kilometres, travelling at speeds of up to 104 kilometres per hour (65 miles per hour), on one charge. It will go into production in 2019 and retail for US$150,000.

Wal-Mart has reserved 15 of the tractor-trailers as part of a pilot program, while Loblaws has pre-ordered 25, so there is a chance Northerners could see these electric beasts travelling on Northern highways within a few years.

Arthur believes if the technology is successful, other corporate clients will follow suit, which could initiate a radical change in the transportation industry.

“The shipping industry has surpassed consumer transit for being the highest polluters,” he said. “So if we can get shipping companies to be zero emissions, that would be really beneficial.”