Federated Co-op’s electric vehicle charging network expands across Western Canada

Seven of the 16 Co-op Connect DC fast-charging stations under an initial pilot program are now open in Saskatchewan and Alberta, with the rest slated for this fall and next spring for drivers in the three Prairie provinces.

From wholesale food and gasoline to agricultural products and building materials, Federated Co-operatives Ltd. is already a one-stop-shop, but it can now add an electric vehicle charging network to its list of services.

Through Natural Resources Canada, Co-op received $ 1.4 million in funding to help start the Co-op Connect program EV charging network – a pilot project for a charging station with 16 locations – in 2019.

“[The idea] formed from a combination of demands and interests of members and clients at the local level [Co-op] clubs, as well as our overall commitment to a low carbon economy and this transition, ”said Cam Zimmer, Co-op communications director, in an interview with Autonomy Electric Canada.

Cam Zimmer, co-op communications director. PHOTO: Cooperative

“I think cooperatives and electric vehicles go well together…[and] Co-ops are known to be sustainable and really invest in their communities and so we think there will be a lot of interest in the future on this.

Originally slated for a 2020 launch, COVID-19 has delayed the pilot, Zimmer says. But, in March 2021, the project was back on track and the first charging stations opened in Saskatchewan.

A total of seven locations are operational (six in Saskatchewan and one in Carstairs, Alta.); five are under construction (three in Manitoba and two in Alberta) and are expected to open in the coming weeks; while four more are expected to be completed by spring 2022.

Separate regional request

All Co-op Connect sites will offer both CCS or CHAdeMO connections, which are compatible with most EVs, and Tesla users who have adapters. Users can pay on the spot using a credit card or get Co-op’s specific Connect app which shows the location of chargers and allows users to make payments and monitor their progress. remote charge.

The 16 stations are all located near the Trans-Canada Highway to assist electric vehicle drivers on the highway. Most offer fast 100kW charging speeds, with 50kW chargers in a few places, Zimmer explains.

“[The] maximum charge speeds are set locally and may vary by location, ”the company’s website read.

Matthew Pointer, founder of Saskatchewan Electric Vehicle Association (SEVA), said in an interview with Electric autonomy that he expects there will be an increasing number of electric vans on the roads sooner rather than later in Western Canada and hopes that Co-op decides to develop charging sites near agricultural centers and rural areas as well.

Matthew Pointer, founder of the Saskatchewan Electric Vehicle Association. Photo: LinkedIn

“As for the type of long-term play with agriculture and electric vehicles for farm trucks, [people] are going to need access to these DC fast chargers in these rural areas, ”says Pointer.

“The good thing about Co-op, in particular, as opposed to some of the other gas stations… is that… the areas they serve with their gas stations are province-wide. They therefore have a tremendous opportunity in front of them to electrify themselves.

Increase exposure to EVs

In Saskatchewan, the co-op’s six charging stations are located in Whitewood, Moose Jaw, Swift Current and Maple Creek, while two charging stations are located in Regina.

“[It’s] been a huge addition to our province, as well as to Western Canada, for many different reasons. Because there are starting to be a lot more cars now, but also geographically having more stations in more neighborhoods is also a benefit for many different EV owners, ”Pointer explains.

“The advantage of having the cooperative charging network is that it really justifies the movement of electric vehicles and makes it more accessible for residents of small centers. As the network continues to grow, it will be easier for people to adopt and switch to electric vehicles. “

Pointer believes the addition of Co-op Connect stations will ultimately increase exposure and curiosity for electric vehicles in Saskatchewan – a province that caught the heat earlier this year when the provincial government announced that the EV drivers would be required to pay a $ 150 highway user fee – and will direct people to research, speak with SEVA and other EV drivers to learn more about the benefits of switching to the ‘electric.

It’s a ripple effect that Co-op hopes to spread as well.

“In the Prairies, the market is still growing, it is still quite small. But even then, we got a lot of expressions of interest from members of the various local co-ops asking when will my co-op have an electric charging site available, ”Zimmer explains.

Future expansion in British Columbia

And Co-op listens to comments from the public. In addition to the 16 chargers slated for entry into service over the next 16 months, the company also plans to add other provinces to its network.

After construction of the charging sites for the initial pilot project is complete, Zimmer says Co-op’s next step is to focus on expanding its network in British Columbia, where the company is seeing increased interest in the electric vehicle market in Canada.

Co-op plans to build a mix of Co-op Connect branded charging stations and stations in partnership with various utilities and suppliers from other provinces.

“We are delighted to see how the pilot is going. It is still in its early stages, but we look forward to developing and helping more co-ops and their members get connected through the co-op and various electric vehicle charging stations, ”Zimmer said.

How does it feel to charge an EV on the 1,725 ​​km trip between Vancouver and Regina?

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