Highway 401 In Canada Now Electrified; EV Travel From Detroit To Toronto To Montreal Now Possible

OCT 11 2013 BY JAY COLE 27

One of the busiest roads in North America has now been dotted with nearby electric vehicle charging stations.

And no we aren’t talking about a road in California or up the west coast this time.  Sun Country Highway, a privately funded Canadian company that has been installing public chargers across that country, has recently expanded its network alongside Highway 401 in Canada.

Sun Country Is Taking A Tour Of Their Network With Both A Tesla Roadster and Model S, As Well As A Chevy Volt...And A VIA VTRUX Van!

Sun Country Is Taking A Tour Of Their Network With Both A Tesla Roadster and Model S, As Well As A Chevy Volt…And A VIA VTRUX Van!

In total, more than 20 public charging stations (including 17 recent ones) have been placed alongside the highway; meaning any fully electric vehicle (currently on sale anyway) can now make the trip from Detroit, through Toronto, to Montreal completely on electricity – a total of 900+ km (560 miles).

Along the route stations have been placed every 50-98 km (31 to 60 miles), making the journey practically worry free;  but not all that quick, as all the stops are Level 2/240V stations.  On the upside, all Sun Country stations are completely free for the public to use.

President of Sun Country, Kent Rathwell talked to the Seaway News while using a charging station at a Best Western Parkway Inn in Cornwall, Ontario and told the publication:

“We proved you can travel long distances with zero emissions. This year our goal is to green 90 per cent of Canadian highways.”

Sun Country President Kent Rathwell Explains Why L2 Is The Charger Of Choice Along The 401 Corridor

Sun Country President Kent Rathwell Explains Why L2 Is The Charger Of Choice Along The 401 Corridor

As to why all level 2 chargers are in play, and not DC fast charging units that can give most EVs a 80% top-up in less than 30 minutes, Mr. Rathwell told the Globe and Mail that L2s bring the most availability to the most plug-in car buyers, and that the L3 landscape protocols are still changing.

Well, that and L3s cost a lot of money,  they are hard to install, and they want to still be able to give away charges for free.

“Level 3 chargers have cost too much in the past, take too long to permit and install and most cannot justify or afford to give the power away for free.  In the future, I see level 3 becoming more viable but there is no way that we could have implemented what we have done in such a short time with level 3 – speed of proving the impossible is absolutely vital: the majority of people will not buy an EV if they cannot drive long distance, even if they never do.”

Plenty Of Time For A Photo Opportunity With An Appropriately Clad Tesla Model S

Plenty Of Time For A Photo Opportunity With An Appropriately Clad Tesla Model S


Sun Country just wrapped up taking the 900 km route promoting their stations.  The road trip, which left Montreal on Monday finished up in Windsor (just across from Detroit) on Thursday afternoon at the Comfort Inn.

On that journey with Sun Country was a Tesla Model S and Roadster, Chevrolet Volt, and a full-size VIA V-Trux plug-in van; which incidentally goes on sale to the public next month for early 2014 delivery.

Separately, CNC News reported on the electric highway:

Categories: Charging


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27 Comments on "Highway 401 In Canada Now Electrified; EV Travel From Detroit To Toronto To Montreal Now Possible"

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Boy it’s a long wait for a charge @3.3 kw= roughly 10 miles/hr.

Depends on what you’re driving. Here in WA state Sun Country Highway is installing 80 and 90Amp units.

I think he was referring to the L2 chargers along this route.

That’s what I’m referring to also.

Just because you install 90-amp units doesn’t mean the car will be able to use it.

SunCountryHighway is to be congratulated for installing mostly 70 ampere ( or larger ) chargers all over the place near me (unfortunately, they are near me but I can’t easily go there unless I bring my passport), but they are all over the place in the Niagara Peninsula. These are rebranded ClipperCreek units, the smallest being the rare 30 amp (cc40) model.
Meanwhile 15 and 30 amps is the faire here in Western NY. We don’t have a single thing larger to my knowledge, other than possible 40 amp or larger charging arrangements in private homes.

Jesse, you’re right about the 3.3 kw limitation, however, Tesla seems to be pushing the envelope here seeing as around 2/3 of the Model S’s sold I’m told have the 80 amp (so called 20kw) option, at least for sales in Canada.

The important thing to calculate is the total trip speed in mph. For instance, east Tennessee is *lousy* with Chademos along the interstate and elsewhere, so you can go between every major population center in E. TN in a LEAF at a speed X. What is X? I kind of left you hanging. If I say “quickly” I’m lying because I’m implying that you can go as fast as you would in a gas car. So I absolutely need to do this quick calculation. 1.) I take the miles I can drive while going from 80% charge down to 20% charge, and the cruising speed of the car. So, in a LEAF I can go 70mph for 45 miles. The amount of time to drive 45 miles at 70mph is 45/70 = 0.64 hours. 2.) Next, I add half an hour (assuming all the DC chargers have a kW rating as high as the max charging rate of my batter–e.g., a Chademo at 25kW maxes out a LEAF but not a Model S 60). 0.64 hours + 0.5 hours = 1.14 hours. The distance traveled over that time is 45 miles. So, 45 miles / 1.14 hours = 39.5 mph.… Read more »

For 6kW chargers:

1.) 0.64 hours.

2.) Time to charge 20-80% at 6kW: 2.5 hours.

3.) 45 miles / 3.14 hours = 14mph.

Maybe you should have just cycled?

Have you ever been to Ontario in February? 🙂


You can look up the charger specs on the sun country map. That corridor has a mix of 24 amp to 72 amp chargers. Personally I don’t know how useful this is. Highway chargers are meant for long trips. How often are you going to take a long trip planning to wait hours at a charger? And then run the very real risk that the SINGLE charger at a location already has a car at it, or is out of service? Honestly, this looks like a PR move to me, not very useful.

It is only useful because most of those chargers are located at hotels and malls. It is useful for customers of those places, but it doesn’t make sense to talk about using this for traveling on the highway.

That’s how I take it. Very handy if you are driving something with a range extender like a Volt or Energi. You want to exit to get food for an hour or so. You pick the restaurant with the L2 charger. You get a free charge, and the restaurant gets your business. Another situation may be that this works for commuters or car-poolers. I wish more (any) car-pool lots had L2 chargers.

They’re no customers right now for L3 on highways, that’s the real problem. Who wants to stop 30 minutes after every hours of drive? May be a Leaf driver can do it once, but they won’t make money with those rare customers. Add to this the war between ChaDeMo and CCS, and you get why there is so few L3 on highways.

The game changer is the new Tesla adapter. Finally, a car can drive 2-3 hours and then connect in a ChaDeMo plug. But Tesla will soon build superchargers on the 401 highway, so is it a good investment to build ChaDeMo stations now?

We will see L3 on highways when we’ll be able to drive 2-3 hours, then charge for 30 minutes, and again.

Here’s Tesla’s projected supercharger stations for Ontario. I don’t know how much they will compete with L2 chargers. To me they have different purposes.

Great map! Thank you! Making Montréal-Toronto with 2 stops is totally acceptable. But that’s strange that no supercharger are plan in Toronto and Montréal. This force a night in those cities, which is not really convenient if they aren’t your final destination.

OH, ok, so there never will be a SuperCharger in Buffalo. It will be in Niagara Falls, Ontario?


“Better Than Nothing” and almost nothing!

Yeah, I agree with the sentiment – it is essentially a PR move. Once regular would be EV converts realize a 3.3 or 6.6kw charger only gives 10/20 miles of range for every hour, they’ll be mightily disappointed. If I wanted to take my iMiev from Windsor to Montreal, it would take something like 45 hours of charging (9 stops of roughly 5 hours each) … and that’s probably driving around 50 mph so I can get closer to the full 62 mi EPA range out of it AND assumes I could hit the stations somewhat ideally (meaning it’s at least another 5 hours or so where that’s just not realistically going to happen). So, 50 hours charging and probably 12 hours driving. That’s 62 hours, to cover 560 miles, for an average of 9 miles an hour! I think I’ll take my bicycle for that trip instead ;). A Focus EV would be better, maybe cutting the charge time in half and drive time down a little (because of better highway efficiency and a bigger battery than the iMiev), but still, unless you’ve got a Tesla or are trying some experiment, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Where… Read more »

I don’t think it’s meant to be a comprehensive solution to long distance travel in an EV. It’s a grassroots effort to install SOMETHING in places that no corporate/govt entities have bothered with. But you are right, it’s mostly psychological. Most people do not need more than the current 80 miles range or so for their typical commute, which is all those EV’s are for. Of all the people I talk to, none of them need anywhere near that much range for 95% of their driving. But all of them say they don’t see anywhere to charge publicly, so they would never consider an EV. It’s chicken and egg, and somebody has to make the first move. This will open up regional travel and allow people to visit the next town over and in their minds this might be the tipping point for them to think an EV might be practical for them.

Long term I think the answer is a combination of longer range batteries, range extenders, consumable metal-air range packs, or EREV charging.

L2 chargers can also be a lot like vending machines. Do I need that snickers bar? No, but i’m here anyway, and I could eat, so why not.

I opportunity charge whenever I can.

Yes … I agree. I came off tad negative, sorry.

Public charging is definitely a good thing and this will hopefully encourage some EV sales and EV use that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. I’d love to see some L2 (or even L1) at restaurants and shops I go to for a little more range/comfort. Though a “highway” EVSE is sort of hard to justify, if it’s more integrated into a normal person’s medium range travel, then it’s more of a place to stop and sleep, have a bite, shop, or whatever EVSE… not a “road-trip” EVSE.

I applaud Canada in general and Sun Country specifically for doing this – it’s a really good development!

Any hotel/motel less than 5 miles away from a major highway would benefit from the installation of free L1 or L2 chargers for their customers. It’s basically a convenience that can be added to the nightly room charge. The only issue would be finding these hotels since no online charging station map lets you search for hotels/motels with charging stations.


How does Sun Country Highway make money if the chargers are free for the public to use? What’s their business model? Are they a nonprofit?

I don’t know this for sure…so don’t quote me, but looking at their model it seems revenue is recognize from government/municipal funding/incentives, public charger sponsorship, and re-selling Clipper Creek chargers as their own.

Tesla builds in part of the cost of free charging into the cost of the Model S and installs solar panels to offset some of the cost as well.

Maybe they’re doing the same. With a name like SUN Country it would kind-of make sense.


Tesla generally doesn’t position the superchargers in urban areas on purpose, as they don’t want a large population using them for their everyday charging. In places like Toronto and Montreal they would be jammed with locals, and the person actually travelling a long distance would be stuck waiting. Also, real estate is WAY more expensive in urban areas, and traffic can come into play. Positioning the superchargers on major highways roughly halfway between major destinations ensures that most of the charging will be done by the people Tesla wants. Those taking long trips. If people can see that longer trips are indeed possible in an EV, without a whole lot more effort, range anxiety will dissipate, and EV sales will skyrocket. Especially when a product like Model E is available.