Electric Avenues

Range anxiety can be frightening. It’s that feeling when you suddenly become unsure if your electric vehicle has enough juice to make it to your destination or a place to recharge.

“Range anxiety is one of the barriers for EV [electric vehicle] drivers,” says Francois Blouin, ATCO’s director of innovation. “We are trying to eliminate that.”

Calgary-based ATCO’s cure for EV owners’ range anxiety is three fast-charging electric vehicle stations connecting Edmonton and Calgary – Alberta’s two biggest cities – 
and the last in the trio was energized in 
October 2018. This was the province’s first EV charging corridor and ATCO – a corporation with a diverse portfolio of businesses that includes electricity generation and distribution — partnered with FLO and Canadian Tire Corporation on the project. An ATCO subsidiary provides power for the charging stations that were delivered by FLO, Canada’s largest provider of EV charging solutions, and installed at Canadian Tire Gas+ locations in Calgary, Red Deer and Sherwood Park.

Each station is located near the Queen Elizabeth II Highway, which is the province’s main north-south artery and includes a nearly 300-kilometre route between Edmonton and Calgary. EVs can be charged to 80 percent in as little as 30 minutes using the universal fast-chargers and costs around $20, according to ATCO’s Blouin, and feedback so far has been positive for the corridor.

“Usage is higher than expected,” says Blouin, who notes that there are more than 1,000 EVs registered in Alberta, which means the province has the fourth most EVs in Canada.

This adoption of EVs has spurred on other infrastructure projects in the province as well.

Alberta SouthWest Regional Alliance, an economic development region that includes 16 rural communities in the province’s southwest, is partnering with SouthGrow, a neighbouring economic region that comprises 24 
communities across south central Alberta, and the cities of Lethbridge, Calgary and 
Medicine Hat to create a “peaks to prairies” EV charging network.

This project calls for 20 installations across southern Alberta, creating a “backbone” of charging stations that will enhance tourism and economic development, providing a network of connectivity for EV travel along nine different highways across southern Alberta.

Representing a true clean energy network, the EV charging stations that will make up the “peaks to prairies” project will be powered by renewable electricity.

“This corner of the province is rich in renewables,” says Bev Thornton, executive director of Alberta SouthWest. “We are excited that this is becoming a more significant part of the Alberta energy story.”
In addition to increasing the adoption of EVs in Alberta and reducing range anxiety, ATCO’s Blouin sees future opportunity in other aspects of the EV industry.

“We expect there will be new jobs in the long-term,” he says, noting opportunities range from installing infrastructure to converting existing vehicles to electric. “This technology is growing around the globe… I think we need to explore it to see what the benefits could be for Albertans.”