Working Paper

Assessing charging infrastructure needs in Québec

(Version française ici.)

Québec is leading the electric vehicle transition in Canada: it is home to more than 45% of Canada’s electric vehicles, but only 23% of Canada’s overall car fleet. The province passed the mark of 100,000 electric vehicles on its roads in April 2021. In its 2030 Plan for a Green Economy, published in 2020, Québec set a goal of having 1.5 million light-duty electric vehicles on its roads in 2030, which would represent about 30% of the light-duty fleet. To achieve this target, Québec has implemented many measures to spur electric vehicle uptake including offering financial incentives, establishing charging infrastructure deployment programs, creating electric vehicle consumer awareness initiatives, and setting a 2035 government target of ending sales of new fossil fuel passenger cars and light commercial vehicles. The Government of Canada also requires that all new light-duty cars and passenger trucks be zero-emission by 2035, accelerating Canada’s previous goal of 100% sales by 2040. Québec’s pursuit of transportation electrification is part of a larger strategy to promote climate resiliency and energy savings through increased use of domestic clean energy; indeed, more than 99.7% of Québec’s electricity is produced from renewable sources.

In order to reach its ambitious transport electrification goals, Québec will require significant expansion of its public and private charging infrastructure network. Up to the end of 2021, most of the public charging network had been developed by the public utility, Hydro-Québec. In 2018, the Québec government passed Bill 184, which became a law, to promote the establishment of a fast-charging network as a public service for electric vehicles, mandating that Hydro-Québec be responsible for its deployment.
The objective of this study is to assess the electric vehicle charging infrastructure needed in Québec’s 17 administrative regions by 2035 to support future electric vehicle uptake. This is the first analysis to estimate charging and energy needs across 6 charging types (private home, depot, and workplace, and public normal AC, fast urban, and fast highway chargers) for all light-duty vehicles (private passenger cars, light commercial vehicles, and taxis) in the province. These results are provided at the regional level, with a specific focus on Montréal, enabling targeted policies to make progress toward meeting these public charging needs. The Figure below displays the number of public normal (left, blue) and public fast (right, green) chargers needed in Québec regions by 2030.

Figure. Estimated number of public normal (left and blue) and fast (right and green) chargers in 2030 per administrative region

Based on the analysis, we draw the following conclusions:

Québec will require 8 times more public chargers in 2030 compared to 2020. As the electric vehicle stock grows from 92,000 electric vehicles in 2020 to above 1.5 million on Québec roads in 2030, public chargers will need to increase from about 5,700 to 45,800 normal and 700 to 6,300 fast chargers. This number of fast chargers exceeds Québec’s government mandate for 2,500 fast chargers to be installed by Hydro-Québec by 2030, suggesting that other stakeholders, including the private sector, will also need to contribute to the charging network. Reaching this target for public chargers represents a 23% annual growth rate from 2020 to 2030. Additionally, 1.1 million private home chargers, 23,700 private workplace, and 18,900 depot chargers will be needed by 2030. Montréal city represents a unique situation within Québec: Since more than 80% of households live in multi-unit dwellings in the dense city, only 38% of EV owners are expected to have private home charging in 2030. Therefore, public curbside and urban fast chargers will be of greatest importance.

Growing energy demand for electric vehicles over time can be beneficial if properly planned. Transportation electrification offers Québec an opportunity to dramatically reduce its energy imports and create economic benefits by leveraging its extensive hydropower production. Annual charging energy demand from electric vehicles will grow from 340 gigawatt-hours (GWh) in 2020 to 5.8 terawatt-hours (TWh) in 2030. The projected 2030 EV electricity demand amounts to about 2.7% of Québec’s 2019 electricity production of 212 TWh, indicating that electric vehicles will not challenge the province’s electricity generation or transmission infrastructure. However, charging may require localized upgrades in distribution infrastructure for areas with high EV uptake. This is particularly the case for Montréal, where we forecast EV electricity consumption of 570 GWh in 2030. A disproportionate share of that energy in Montréal comes from commercial settings (including fast charging) and multi-unit dwellings, whereas most other parts of the province will see the greatest energy demand in single-family residential areas.

The most-urban and most-rural areas require the greatest increases in public charging, but local needs vary, with DC fast charging playing a major role in enabling urban access to electromobility. The regions with the lowest share of 2030 public charging infrastructure in place through 2020 are the mostly rural areas of Nord-du-Québec, Outaouais, and Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean and the heavily urbanized area of Laval. These four regions have less than 10% of 2030 public charging infrastructure in place as of end of 2020, below the provincial average. However, the different settlement patterns across the province mean that charging will happen in different settings: in 2030, 79% of charging at Nord-du-Québec happens in private settings, compared to 74% for the provincial average and only 49% for Montréal city. Urban fast charging will play a particularly important role in enabling access to electromobility in cities. While Québec province had built 11% of its 2030 fast charging needs through 2020, this share is only 5% for Montréal city.

A coordinated charging infrastructure deployment approach could galvanize investments. Reaching the needed charging infrastructure deployment requires coordination between many private and public stakeholders and guidance from the provincial government. Governments can send a signal for investment by setting targets for the number of chargers, or total public charging power (in kW), to be deployed in different regions. A charging deployment strategy could assess demand based on drivers’ requests or suggestions while ensuring equitable infrastructure access through tenders in lots. Tendering in lots involves pairing, in tender processes, vendor commitments to supply low- and high-utilization locations. The government could also potentially provide subsidies for chargers installed in areas of low demand during early market phases. This strategy could encourage the private sector to step in.