Johnny Beckett plugs his 2015 Nissan Leaf into the fast charger now installed at the Petro-Canada station in Stewiacke. Suncor is installing 92 such chargers throughout Canada, and Stewiacke is the most eastern location to come online. Raissa Tetanish – Hub Now

STEWIACKE – Johnny Beckett can breathe a little bit easier when he travels to school on the daily.

Beckett, 36, lives in Halifax but travels to the Dalhousie Agricultural Campus for schooling. He may soon be spending a little more time in Stewiacke, however, thanks to the installation of two fast chargers for electric vehicles.

“It’s great,” said Beckett, who is studying business at the campus in Bible Hill. “Now I have a spot to charge along the way. This gives me some peace of mind.”
Beckett has been the owner of a 2015 Nissan Leaf since 2017, however has been driving electric vehicles for another year prior to obtaining the Leaf. There is a charging station in Elmsdale, however Beckett says it’s currently not in operation.

“This is actually my business,” said the Leaf owner. “I’ve been in the electric vehicle industry as an entrepreneur since 2013-2014.”

Beckett is involved with the Electric Vehicle Network, based out of Etobicoke, Ont., which has number of electric vehicles readily available for rent or purchase. He’s soon hoping to bring the brand to Nova Scotia.

He was one of a number of electric vehicle owners on hand for the opening celebration of Suncor Energy’s two EV fast chargers at the Petro-Canada in Stewiacke.

Patrick Ritchie, the general manager of strategy and development with Suncor, said customer needs are evolving, and a transition to a low carbon future is happening.

“We recognize that when we designed our network, that we not only needed to be in major cities across Canada, we needed to be throughout Canada and connect the entire country,” he said, adding Suncor is calling their network the “Electric Highway.”

The chargers in Stewiacke are the first most-eastern chargers for the company, which plans to have 92 chargers installed coast-to-coast. The chargers have two connectors – CHAdeMO and CCS, which will charge the majority of electric vehicles on the road.

“We will be charging for this in the future, but until this fall, this will be free for EV users to trial,” said Ritchie.

While the chargers are considered fast chargers, it still could take about 30 minutes for a vehicle to get to about an 80 per cent charge, according to Ritchie. Which means, drivers will still have a chance to explore Stewiacke, which will make Mayor Wendy Robinson happy.

“In the last two years, council has taken on the project of becoming more sustainable and we have tossed around having an electric charging station,” she said, adding council members were thrilled Petro Canada was able to bring two chargers to the town to help them on their way.

“I was a little disappointed when I found out it was the ‘fast’ charging station, because I wanted it to be the slow ones so you’d have time to look around. As you can see, there’s lots of things to see and do.

“When you’re charging and you’re looking for a little bit more to see, just follow the sidewalk and you’ll see the rest of our wonderful town.”

The chargers offer up to a 200kW charge on vehicles compatible with level 3 charging. While they’re free to use until sometime in the fall, it will be switching to a paid usage.

Ritchie says the company is still working out the cost, but says users will be charged based on the amount of time used.

“That’s very common within the industry,” he said. “Most of our competitors are charging by the time.”

When it switches from the free model, users will be able to use the tap feature on their debit or credit cards. No cash option is available. In the future, an app will be available for users as well. Users have the option of including a phone number, which sees them receive a text message following use of the charger with their vehicle’s information.

“This is embedded in the community, and it’s quick,” said Beckett. “It’s using interoperability, so I can go up and press my card to it, and know I’m good to go.”

Doug Cleland, manager of engineering and construction with Suncor, says they chose locations for station installation based on a number of criteria, including the range of typical electric vehicles.

“We also wanted to look toward amenities as well,” he said. “A place like Stewiacke is fantastic.”

Ritchie said stopping points, such as Stewiacke, are critical to their network.

“We wanted to make sure we could connect coast-to-coast to the highways,” said Ritchie, noting the average range of an electric vehicle is about 200 kilometres.