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Free EV chargers installed along the Trans-Canada highway
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Kent Rathwell (left) and Christopher Misch (right) are crossing Canada in a Tesla Roadster. Bert Hickman, president of Hickman Chevrolet Cadillac in St. John’s, joins them at the launch. (Sun Country Highway)

The Globe and Mail – November 21, 2012

Executives of a Canadian company that distributes electric vehicle chargers are crossing the country in a Tesla Roadster to show off the network of free 240V chargers the company has installed along the Trans-Canada highway.

Kent Rathwell, founder and president of Sun Country Highway, set off last weekend from St. John’s, carrying a jar of Atlantic sea water to be deposited in the Pacific when he and SCH vice-president Christopher Misch complete their journey in Victoria around Dec. 20. The jar of water substituted for the original plan of dipping of the car’s wheels into the Atlantic after the two men checked out the slick ramp to the Atlantic. “We didn’t want the drive to end before it started,” Rathwell said in a phone interview this week.

The wet weather and slick ramp were not the only potential hazard the two encountered in Newfoundland in Rathwell’s low-slung electric Tesla Roadster, which has an EPA rated range of about 356 km, or more than double most “mainstream” EVs like the Leaf or Ford’s electric Focus. “We managed to make it through before a rock slide came down that hit the road with rocks the size of pickup trucks.”

A map for the entire network is under wraps until its official unveiling when the month-long journey is completed in Victoria just before Christmas, though a company release about the drive launch noted that SCH partnered with “over 80 leading Canadian businesses and tourism destinations.”

But since the Level Two stations donated by SCH are now up and running, many have been identified, mapped and discussed among EV owners already, including one at the Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa and another at the Hilton Garden Inn in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., which is about a 10-minute drive from Niagara Falls.

“We haven’t focused on the urban cores,” said Rathwell, which is where most electric vehicle infrastructure is currently located or planned. “Our model is to do the tough stuff first, and with no [direct] provincial and federal government funding.”

He credits the host locations for picking up the costs of installing the chargers SCH donated, which surprised him, as his plan was originally to fund it all. “Many of the people we spoke to had never seen an electric car, and some didn’t know they were already available at dealers.”

Rathwell says the 60- to 90-amp chargers help charge vehicles like the Tesla quicker than most L2 chargers, while it also future-proofs the stations to be able to charge faster in the years to come. He’s hoping the growing network will encourage more manufacturers to come out with more advanced EVs that can take advantage of these higher capability chargers, and more plug-in vehicles in general, and consumers to consider taking their own cross-country drive with their own plug-in vehicles as well.

“I can’t think of a better Christmas present I could give to Canada,” said Rathwell. “With this highway, we’re trying to help folks discover their country in an economically and environmentally responsible way.”

Read the article at The Globe and Mail