Posted by: jmtoriel | November 5, 2015

Shifting Up the Gears Towards More Electrification in BC

Earlier this year, I purchased my first electric vehicle. No, not a golf cart nor a Tesla Model S (though it’s a wonderful luxury sedan that I’ve been fortunate to test drive on a number of occasions) but a BMW i3. It’s fully electric, has no tailpipe and a range of about 130km on a full charge. It is redefining urban mobility as I thought we knew it.

As far back as 2006, I bought my wife a Motorino electric scooter that we share and love for short trips around town, going to business meetings (as we both mostly work from home) when we don’t have to shuttle the kids around. As my wife doesn’t have a driver’s licence (not required in British Columbia to operate and max speed is 42km) it has been highly useful — and helped significantly in our car upgrade decision as we were already accustomed to charging habits, range, etc. I say upgrade because the common notion people have towards EVs is that the limited range makes it a lesser car.

The reality is that the i3 is FAR better than any car I’ve ever owned and I can now experience driving without the guilt.

Solutions for a Smarter Commute

Solutions for a Smarter Commute

But beyond the car itself, let’s focus on the merits from a systems perspective:

  • Clean and getting cleaner: as our power grids support more renewables and less coal and power generation from dirtier fossil fuels, the small footprint will get smaller. EV owners are much more likely to put PV solar on their rooftops to further reduce their reliance on fossil fuels as well.
  • No tailpipe means 0 GHG emissions and better air quality. As no internal combustion engine (ICE) vibrates under the hood, these cars have an unrivalled smoothness – and they are incapable of idling. Emissions reductions can be reduced by approximately 60% with potential reductions of 8.8Mt with aggressive penetration of EVs (or about 10% of new on-road vehicles) by 2025. Similarly the City of Vancouver has just published its
  • EVs and PHEVs are much more efficient than ICE vehicles: Electric vehicles convert about 59%–62% of the electrical energy from the grid to power at the wheels—conventional gasoline vehicles only convert about 17%–21% of the energy stored in gasoline to power at the wheels.
  • No pipelines required – nor tankers or railcars or trucks transporting oil and gas products from refined crude. All infrastructure needed to bring tar sands bitumen to tide water will not be required to run this vehicle or any EV.
  • 1/3 cost of maintenance – not only does EVs not run on gas (thought Plug-in hybrids or PHEVs have a back-up ICE when the battery is expended), they do not require oil changes or lube maintenance reducing maintenance costs significantly.
  • Silence is a virtue — noise is pollution too

As for the drawbacks, I can’t dismiss range anxiety but will settle any judgements dismissing this with the forging of a change in behaviour to generate range confidence that occurs over a relatively short span of time. EV owners quickly get used to plugging in overnight (which meets about 80% of charging needs) at home — much like most of us already do with our smart phones. Wherever there is charging while on-the-road, EV drivers will be drawn like moths to a flame. It’s so easy to navigate to a destination that will get you a free charge while you run errands, shop, eat, etc. Of course, if your place of work has charging, your commute is breeze — and if you have access to HOV lanes like in California, Norway (the Mecca of EVs), Georgia and other jurisdictions, you can literally pass around the poor ICE vehicles locked in traffic mayhem. This will likely happen in BC shortly, so fingers are crossed.

Basically, the general rule of thumb is that the more powerful/faster the charger, the better — as it gives you more freedom and flexibility to drive without the wait. So, it’s a relief to many EV newbies to know that BC now has over 650 public chargers and an increasing amount of DCFC (Direct Current Fast Chargers) throughout the province linking major HWY networks and servicing densely populated urban areas to a total of 50 with the implementation of the next phase of installations.

The biggest factor to consider once you’ve chosen your preferred EV or PHEV is how well-suited your desired location for a 240V charger is (over simply plugging into a regular 110V plug outlet) and some important considerations that need to be mentioned:

  1. How much space do you have in your current electrical panel? A 240V charger will need at least a 30A breaker.
  2. How close are you to the panel? The closer, the less the installation will be on materials and labour.
  3. Do you rent or are you in a strata? If you are in a single detached home, you’re in great shape to move quickly without having to ask for approval from anybody. In the other 2 scenarios, you’ll likely have to contend with a strata or landlord that likely need to be educated on what your consumption will be.
    1. If you are in a strata without charging facilities, there are a few ways to convince the board on getting approval: pay a flat rate of approx. $20/month for your contribution to BC Hydro rate
    2. Put a non-revenue meter on the plug to measure within about 5% accuracy the consumption so the strata can provide a flat rate for the service (they are legally not allowed to collect money for kWh consumption — ONLY BC Hydro has that privilege)
    3. Convince the strata/landlord to provide a networked charger (like Chargepoint or AddEnergie) that track consumption via a network and provide customers with billing and collect data like emissions reductions, etc.

Friends, it is becoming easier to join in the rEVolution and it starts with a test drive. I suggest you get into your dealer of choice and go on the guilt-free ride of your life!

Enjoy the ride!

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