To make EV road trips easier, these businesses are adding chargers

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This week:

  • To attract tourists, these businesses are adding EV chargers
  • The G7 emissions picture since 1990
  • Rise of solar energy, EV sales gives hope for climate goals

To attract tourists, these businesses are adding EV chargers

Lars Hirch and Rachelle Fiset installed an EV charger in 2019 while building Pivot Spirits Craft Distillery in Rolling Hills, Alta. (Submitted by Lars Hirch)

You’ve probably read many articles about the challenges of road tripping through many parts of Canada in an electric vehicle, including one by What on Earth? editor Andre Mayer last year.

There still aren’t as many chargers as many EV drivers would like. But more and more businesses are seeing this as an opportunity and installing EV chargers to encourage tourists to stop by. The trend could help drive the adoption of EVs and charging infrastructure locally and across Canada.

Lars Hirch installed an EV charger in 2019 while building Pivot Spirits Craft Distillery in Rolling Hills, Alta., partway between Dinosaur Provincial Park and Waterton Lakes National Park. 

Hirch produces vodka, gin and rye from grains grown on his own farm with regenerative farming practices. The distillery was built with the highest energy efficiency in mind, and during full production, Hirch’s solar panels generate more power than the business uses.

“Since we produce lots of electricity, we thought we would have that available for our [EV-driving] customers,” he said, “so that it gives them extra incentive … to come out and see what we’re doing out here.”

While charging, people can do spirit tastings, eat at the distillery’s seasonal restaurant or even get an informal tour of the farm.

Aerial view of a rural building with solar panels
Pivot Spirits Craft Distillery in Rolling Hills, Alta., generates more solar power than it uses, even while in full production, so it offers free EV charging to use some of that surplus. (Submitted by Lars Hirch)

The charger isn’t part of any network — Hirch paid for it himself, even though he doesn’t yet have an EV of his own. And he offers the service for free not just to his customers, but also to the local community and people coming to play hockey at the arena next door.

“Teams from Calgary will book tournaments out here on weekends, and especially January and February, and so we actually get a lot of traffic from cities on weekends in the winter,” Hirch said.

Other Canadian business owners have been approached by companies or local governments looking to expand their own charging networks.

About two years ago, Tesla asked Falcon Beach Ranch in Falcon Lake, Man., if it would be willing to host a charger, since it was near the Trans-Canada Highway. Tesla would cover the cost of the equipment and installation, which co-owner Kendra Imrie said was a big incentive.

In the first year, she said, not a lot of people stopped by to charge. But in the past year, and especially the past six months, “the uptake in usage has been quite large,” Imrie said.

While a few people have done a trail ride at the ranch or rented a cabin for the night, most just make a quick stop to charge, Imrie said. She suggests EV chargers might bring in more business for shops and services that have cheaper offerings than trail rides, such as a coffee or snacks.

Man in a t-shirt and sunglasses gives a thumbs up beside a car charging at an EV charger
A happy visitor uses the EV charger at Pivot Spirits Craft Distillery. (Submitted by Lars Hirch)

Imrie also thinks that EV charging is a good selling feature for those offering accommodations. She hasn’t advertised or promoted the charger much to her customers, but she plans to and thinks it will bring in climate-conscious tourists.

“It also increases your appeal to visitors that have those values, but might not necessarily have an EV yet,” she said.

Her charger has made other local businesses more aware and interested in EV charging. Imrie is a member of the local chamber of commerce, which is now trying to get chargers in town and in the local provincial park to attract more visitors to shop or take advantage of nearby activities.

Simon Ouellette is CEO of Mogile Tech, which runs an app and website called ChargeHub to help drivers find charging stations and charge more easily. He has noticed more charger installations by hotels and gas station chains, but not a big increase in installations by businesses in general.

While he thinks it’s “great” for businesses to install chargers if they believe in electrification and want to help out their customers, he cautions that it’s a big responsibility — and sometimes a big cost — to constantly check if the machines are working and fix them if they’re not. 

Too often, Ouellette said, businesses fail to do that, and EV drivers face the frustration and anxiety of planning their trips around chargers that are out of order — something that can undermine a business’s desire to be EV-friendly.

Emily Chung

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Reader feedback

Responding to Benjamin Shingler’s story on California’s recent lawsuit against Big Oil, Linda Brown wrote:

“I sure hope that Canada does the same here, as we need to stop [the oil companies] from continuing to destroy our climate and putting profits ahead of people.”

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The Big Picture: G7 emissions since 1990

Recent announcements by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak that the country would slow its move to net zero as well as open up one of its biggest new oil and gas projects in years — Equinor’s North Sea Rosebank field — have resulted in a storm of criticism from environmental proponents. But when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions over the last 30-plus years, the U.K. has been a beacon compared to other G7 countries.

Since 1990, Britain has reduced emissions by 46 per cent, according to the OECD, thanks in large part to shuttering many coal plants. Germany comes second, with emissions cuts of 39 per cent. Canada is the outlier in this scenario, having increased emissions by nearly 14 per cent since 1990, mainly as a result of greater oil and gas production.

A graph of emissions since 1990.

Hot and bothered: Provocative ideas from around the web

Rise of solar energy, electric vehicle sales gives hope for climate goals, report says

Electric vehicles stacked
Electric vehicles produced by Volkswagen Saxony park before on the Zwickau plant premises in Zwickau, eastern Germany, Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023. The Zwickau plant has been a pioneer of electromobility at Volkswagen. In addition to the ID.3, ID.4 and ID.5 models, two models for Audi and one of the Cupra brand are also produced there. (Hendrik Schmidt/dpa/The Associated Press)

The rapid growth of clean energy technologies such as electric cars and solar energy could mean it’s possible to keep global warming to the international target of 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels, according to a new report.

The report, published Tuesday by the Paris-based International Energy Agency, projects that demand for coal, oil and natural gas will all peak this decade even without any new climate policies — and, as such, there is no need for investment in new fossil fuel projects.

That’s even as global carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector reached a new record high, one per cent above their pre-pandemic level.

Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA, said Tuesday that the pathway to the 1.5 C Paris Agreement target is narrowing on one hand, but on the other, the “spectacular increase in clean energy is keeping the door still open.” 

Solar power capacity worldwide increased nearly 50 per cent in the last two years and electric car sales increased by 240 per cent, the report found.

“The global climate continues to change at a frightening speed,” Birol said at an online news conference, but added, “we see that there are legitimate reasons to be hopeful. Mainly, we are seeing that a new clean energy economy is emerging around the world.”

The report shows Canada needs to move quickly to implement its promised policies on clean electricity and an oil and gas emissions cap, said Janetta McKenzie, senior analyst of oil and gas at the Calgary-based Pembina Institute.

“It’s not just about bending the curve on global emissions — that is obviously first and foremost — but it’s also about setting Canada up to thrive in a net-zero economy,” she said in an interview.

“As the energy marketplace shifts globally, Canada needs to keep up because our trading partners will start making long-term purchasing decisions based on what their own climate targets are and how they’re going to meet those.”

She said the policies in Alberta, which has put a pause on renewable energy projects, are “out of step” with global climate goals. 

The report stressed that failure to slash emissions would make achieving the 1.5 C goal dependent on a massive deployment of carbon removal technologies, which are expensive and unproven at scale.

In 2022, carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector reached a new record of 37 gigatons.

“Instead of starting to fall as envisaged in our 2021 report, demand for fossil fuel has increased,” the report said.

According to the report, renewable power needs to triple by 2030, the sale of EVs needs to rise much more sharply and methane emissions from the energy sector need to fall by 75 per cent if global warming is to be curbed to the Paris Agreement goal. 

Investments in climate action also need to rise, from $1.8 trillion in 2023 to $4.5 trillion annually by the early 2030s, the report said.

Environmental Defence, a Canadian advocacy organization, said federal and provincial governments must stop approving new fossil fuel projects — and close some oil and gas fields early. 

“We can’t afford any more fossil fuel expansion, nor can we afford to rely on speculative technologies, like carbon capture, that have a long history of failure,” the group said in a statement.

Benjamin Shingler

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