Charging EVs by kWh Instead of by Time

As electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure expands, we can expect to see more discussions over the best way to charge up, including how charging should be billed. Let’s look at how charging is currently billed in Canada, what the difference is between charging by kWh vs. time, and when we may see the country’s charging standards change.

EV Charging in Canada

As of October 2022, public EV charging in Canada is typically billed based on how long a customer’s car is plugged in (per minute). Measurement Canada originally set this requirement to prevent EV owners from keeping their vehicle plugged in longer than necessary.

Consumers have Tesla on their side. The automaker has been lobbying the Canadian federal government over the last two years for new charging standards. It believes billing by kWh (kilowatt per hour) is a much fairer practice. Other automotive companies are registered with Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada to lobby for improved EV infrastructure. Although the lobbying registrations of the ones we read don’t mention this particular cause, we can hope they see its benefit.

What’s the Difference

Multiple factors can influence how much energy an EV needs. Temperature, state of charge, and the type of EV will all affect how much electricity is needed to fill your battery. If you don’t always use the same level of charge, the time required to fuel up can change each time you plug in—even within the same day.

Without the right adaptor, not all EVs can use the same charger. Level 1 and 2 chargers use the same universal plugs, but the standards for Level 3 chargers (a.k.a., fast chargers, DC chargers, or Tesla Superchargers) can vary.

Charging by the minute unfairly targets drivers with EVs that can’t pair with Level 3 chargers since it takes them longer to get the same amount of energy at a charger with a lower power rate. Some EVs also charge faster than others, so one driver may end up paying more for the same amount of energy as another at the same charger. Charging by kWh is a much more consistent measure. This means customers are charged based on how much energy they use up, regardless of how long it takes.

Changing the standard of EV charging billing is a gradual process because the technical standards for accurately measuring energy consumption are still a work in progress. Without these standards, both consumers and business owners would be at an increased risk of financial loss.

When Will Things Change

In December 2020, Measurement Canada announced their plan to spend the following 18 months developing new technical standards for EV charging with international authorities and the Electricity and Gas Inspection Act (EGIA).

Starting in fall 2022, the federal government is meant to begin rolling out a temporary dispensation mechanism for existing Level 1 and 2 charging stations to bill by kWh. The government aims to provide the same temporary solution for existing Level 3 chargers before the end of the year.

To further support Canadians interested in moving away from gas-powered vehicles, the government offers various tax credits and financial incentives for EVs.

Conserving Your Budget

Until charging by kWh is common practice, consider other ways to conserve your EV fuel budget. Aside from charging at home, many public charging stations are free to use. If you find one in your area, you can avoid paying to charge on the go.

To get the power in your battery to last as long as possible, you can adapt your driving habits to be more fuel-efficient. Keeping up a regular maintenance routine for your EV will also help you avoid expensive trips to the service station.