Going electric

Tesla vehicle owners Lloyd Fehr (at left) and Bob Armstrong at the Petro-Canada fast charging station in Swift Current, Sept. 20.

Electric vehicle owners will soon have an option to stop at a fast charging station in Swift Current during a road trip.

Petro-Canada is building a network of electric vehicle fast charging stations along the Trans-Canada highway and the one in Swift Current will open in early October.

“We’re just about in our testing phase of that one,” Suncor Energy spokesperson Nicole Fisher told the Prairie Post. “We have them open for about a week, have drivers test them to make sure everything is working properly and then they become open to the public. So that one is due to become open at the beginning of October.”

Electric vehicle owners will initially be able to charge their vehicles for free at these charging stations, but that will change in late fall.

“The ones that are open are free to use right now,” she said. “We do anticipate starting to charge for the charge kind of late fall. That will be a subject of a further announcement, but for the time being they are free.”

These charging stations offer DC fast chargers with both CHAdeMO and CCS/SAE connectors to ensure that a wide variety of electric vehicles can use the service. The chargers can provide up to a 200-kilowatt charge, which will mean that most electric vehicles can be charged in 30 minutes or less. These units will be capable of 350 kilowatt charging with future upgrades.

“All the chargers that we’re putting in are Level 3 chargers, so those are what we call fast charge,” she explained. “Depending on when you come into our site, you will be able to charge your car in approximately half an hour. Every car is a little bit different. They take power a little bit differently, they come in at a different rate of power, but it’s kind of that fast charge situation in terms of what’s there.”

The intention is to make these charging stops at a Petro-Canada facility as easy and convenient as possible for electric vehicle owners.

“There’s a number of amenities on our sites,” she said. “So the majority of these sites are going where we have an A&W available to you or there will be a convenience store. So really it’s kind of that full-integrated offer that we have when you’re travelling across the country.”

Petro-Canada, which is a Suncor business, is adding more than 50 of these electric vehicle fast charging stations to Petro-Canada stations along the Trans-Canada highway from Nova Scotia to British Columbia.

“Keeping people moving is what we do, as a fuel company that is what we’ve done,” she said. “So we know that Canadians’ needs are evolving. We wanted to be part of those future journeys across the country. One of the things that we have heard was that the ability to drive from coast to coast in an electric vehicle was very difficult, because you didn’t know where your next charge is coming from. The electric vehicle community refers to it as range anxiety, and so this really eliminates that range anxiety for Canadians as they’re travelling across the country in an electric vehicle.”

These charging stations are located strategically between 200 and 250 kilometres away from each other to accommodate the average range of an electric vehicle. The construction of these charging stations started in the spring and it is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year. Eleven are already open, and the others are at different points of construction.

Swift Current is one of four locations in Saskatchewan. The charging stations at Petro-Canada sites in Moose Jaw and Regina are already open, and there will also be another station at Whitewood.

Two electric vehicle owners in Swift Current visited the new charging station in the city on Sept. 20 to take a closer look at the site while the final site work was completed. Lloyd Fehr owns a 2017 Tesla Model S and Bob Armstrong received his 2019 Tesla Model S just a month ago. They were joined by Jean-Marie Blanchette from The Pas, who owns a 2017 Chevrolet Volt. He was visiting family in the area and was curious to see the new fast charging station.

“This is awesome, it really is amazing,” Fehr said. “The fact that Petro-Canada is putting in these charges across Canada makes driving to Winnipeg or driving to Calgary a lot easier.”

He felt Swift Current is a good location for a fast charging station, because it is midway between Moose Jaw and Medicine Hat, where Petro-Canada is also constructing a station.

“For Swift Current here, this will allow anybody coming through to stop and charge, maybe go grab some food, go to the mall, something like that, and they will be on their way,” he said.

For electric vehicle owners the expansion of the charging network will make a significant difference to make travel more convenient. 

“Right now I can travel across Canada, it just takes longer,” he said. “By Petro-Canada putting it in, it allows me to travel a lot faster.”

Electric vehicle owners sometimes need to plan their trips carefully to ensure they stay in reach of the nearest charging station. In some part of Saskatchewan the charging network is still patchy, but it is continuing to expand.

“You can still get anywhere in the province, it just takes time,” he said. “Kindersley at Peavey Mart has one. Saskatoon has 25 locations where you can charge, granted they’re all slower. They’re not like the Petro-Canada fast. Regina has two fast chargers. Moose Jaw has a fast charger. There are about 70 in the province right now, and it looks like it’s going to be over 100 in the next month.”

There are already a number of charging locations in Swift Current. There is a charger at Kal Tire for different types of electric vehicles, while there are chargers for Tesla vehicles at Superior Tech and Kruse Glass and Aluminum. The fast charging station at Petro-Canada will accommodate various types of vehicles and Tesla is also going to install a charging station at the Swift Current Mall as part of the Tesla supercharger network.

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