HRM says spring timeline for installing 56 electric vehicle chargers won't be met

Kevin Boutilier, manger of clean energy with the Halifax Regional Municipality, says because this set of chargers is the first that will be owned and operated by the municipality, getting the project off the ground has been a long process. (Nicola Macleod/CBC - image credit)

When Suzanne Townsend heard earlier this year that electric vehicle chargers were set to be installed in Clayton Park, she was relieved she would soon be able to charge her vehicle closer to home.

Townsend, a retired technical writer, is often stuck between two choices to charge her vehicle. One is to charge it at an apartment complex about a kilometre away where she's made an arrangement with the building managers.

"Because I am not an apartment dweller there, I have to stay with the car in case other people come along who want to use that charger," said Townsend, noting it takes two to three hours for a full charge.

Or, she drives about three kilometres to Lakeside, N.S., for a faster charging station that takes around 20 minutes.

Townsend said she inherited her Tesla Model 3 from her late husband about a year and a half ago and lost access to an at-home charger after he died and their home was sold. She later moved into an apartment with no charger and no plans to install one.

Installations haven't started

In January, the federal government announced 56 charging stations would be installed across the Halifax Regional Municipality by this spring, but installations have yet to begin.

Kevin Boutilier, the municipality's manager of clean energy, said he hopes that an updated timeline can be provided within the next month.

"There have been delays with that," Boutilier said. "We are very much committed to getting these operational."

Boutilier said because this set of chargers is the first that will be owned and operated by the municipality, the process has been a long one.

The design of the sites is almost complete, he said, and the municipality is in talks with Nova Scotia Power to work out some of the technical logistics.

Boutilier said the municipality is taking steps to ensure people will be able to quickly and consistently charge their vehicles.

"Chat with some EV drivers, they'll say that [the chargers are] not very reliable. They get installed and the maintenance lacks," he said. "So, we took our time to really make it airtight as best as we can so that when these chargers are installed, there's a plan for actual operation and for maintenance."

The original announcement said 10 of the new stations will be fast chargers that can fully charge a vehicle in 25 to 30 minutes, while the other 46 will take between four and 10 hours.

Townsend is 'desperate' for a faster charge

Townsend said she's noticed many existing chargers are slower ones.

"If I were to charge [my vehicle] from 50 per cent to 80 per cent, it would take me three hours," she said. "[I'm] desperate — not just looking forward — desperate, for faster."

In June 2023, regional council passed a bylaw that sets the cost to use the municipality's electric vehicle charging stations. The slower Level 2 chargers are set to cost $1.80 an hour, while the Level 3 fast chargers will cost $45 per hour.

Boutilier added, however, that the municipality is working with Dalhousie University on a tiered payment system that may incent drivers.

"If it's too low, people will sit there for a long period of time, but if it's too high, people won't use it at all," he said. "We're trying to find that perfect sweet spot that's comparable to the other private chargers out there."