range anxiety

Retail leader buckles down on EV range anxiety

Fast charging stations at CF shopping malls a first for some regions in Canada
Tuesday, May 2, 2017
By Rebecca Melnyk

Cadillac Fairview (CF) is ramping up its newest low carbon initiative – a national electric vehicle (EV) charging program that will add 45 networked chargers at 15 major shopping centres across Ontario, Quebec, Winnipeg and New Brunswick, with some regions welcoming universal fast chargers for the first time.

Unavailable charging stations are a barrier for many drivers in provinces like Ontario where there are currently 10,000 EV car owners. That number is ripe for growth.

With this trend in mind, CF partnered with Quebec-based FLO, the largest network of charging stations in Canada, to roll out installation over eight months, with more stations slated for 2018. Chargers will be connected to a mobile app on the FLO network, so drivers can instantly locate them and track charging sessions in real time. There’s also a 24/7 bilingual customer support service for drivers seeking immediate assistance. CF currently has 60 chargers at existing sites. Some have converted to FLO; others will in the coming months.

EV users don’t just want to plug in at home, and this amenity will ultimately ease range anxiety many feel when on the road and help accelerate new EV purchases. Above all, it sets a standard in the retail sector to champion sustainable services that contribute to a low carbon future, while catering to bricks-and-mortar tenants and all the shoppers who use EVs.

“When we started launching this project and putting together a steering committee, people were really excited about it,” says John Massey, vice-president, operations, Ontario portfolio, Cadillac Fairview. “It’s smart to do from a corporate, environmental social governance perspective, but also smart from an employee engagement perspective. People are really keen on being a part of the project, and properties are excited to get these stations at their assets.”

Currently, FLO has more than 3,000 charging stations deployed coast to coast. These new sites will support a minimum of three chargers, operating at two different capacities: Level 2, which need three to four hours to replenish 80 per cent of a EVs capacity, and universal fast chargers, which need about 30 minutes to reach the same.

Regions seeing fast chargers for the first time will include downtown Toronto (CF Toronto Eaton Centre), Kitchener (CF Fairview Park), Hamilton (CF Lime Ridge), London (CF Masonville) and Winnipeg, Manitoba (CF Polo Park). As it stands, there are 150 fast chargers in Canada, so this project will increase that number and boost the overall EV ecosystem.

FLO president and CEO Louis Tremblay says it’s great to work with a company who has several locations across Canada, since most EV charging stations are found in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia. Those provinces now account for 95 per cent of EV sales in the country.

“In Quebec, we started to deploy charging infrastructure before anyone else, and to make sure we’re not only implementing charging stations, but charging stations with reliable service,” says Tremblay. “For CF, they didn’t just want to bring charging stations to parking lots, but value to customers, with something that was reliable and well-supported.”

After an extensive due diligence process that involved looking at major EV charging players, including many in the U.S., FLO prevailed.

“Not unlike our approach to retail merchandizing where we’re always looking for the best and smartest and innovative retailers, we used the same approach for this aspect, and really looked for a company who was aligned, who was leading edge, had the best network and who was able to provide the best experience for customers who come to our properties,” says Massey. “Everything about them was extraordinarily professional, and the fact that they are Canadian was a great, too.”

For properties owners looking to add EV stations to their portfolio, Tremblay suggests taking a broader approach.

“This is something you start that will never stop. Some understand it; others take years to discuss it,” he adds. “If you’re not committed and you want to do something quick, you will regret it. When it’s a national approach, you will have a lot of success, visibility and marketing. Your customers will be happy and more customers will shop while they charge.”

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