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UOIT hosts Electric Vehicles in Ontario Workshop

Posted by Michelle Cholak on January 18, 2016

With the world promising to limit global warming to less than 2°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century, we need to explore options that will reduce the greatest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Ontario – transportation.

On January 7, 2016, members of the academic and business communities, along with representatives of municipal government and non-governmental organizations, participated in a workshop on the need to electrify transportation in the greater Toronto area. Presented by the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) and Durham Strategic Energy Alliance, the workshop focused on electric vehicles as a means of reducing emissions, boosting economic development, creating grid stability and providing links to cap-and-trade programs.

In the first segment of the workshop, the current state of affairs of electric vehicles in Ontario was described by industry experts Michael Angemeer, President & CEO, Veridian Corporation; Cara Clairman, President and CEO, Plug'n Drive; Brian Kelly, Manager of Sustainability, Region of Durham; Josipa Petrunic, Director and CEO, Canadian Urban Transit Research and Innovation Consortium; and Laura Zizzo, Founder and CEO, Zizzo Strategy Inc.

In 2008, there were no electric vehicles on the road in Ontario, at least none available commercially, explained Clairman. But with Ontario producing locally-made, low-cost, low-emitting energy with a surplus available at night, she knew there was a sweet spot in the market for a program which could help accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) and maximize their environmental and economic benefits. Thus, Plug’n Drive was established and “became a coalition of the willing”.

Since 2011, the non-profit organization has become a trusted source of information about electric cars, charging stations and the electricity sector. According to Clairman, there is a large cost benefit for switching to an electric vehicle. “You pay a bit more up front, but save in the long run – it costs about $350-400 dollars per year to ‘fill’ my car with electricity.” The problem, however, is “getting people to go from ‘oh, that would be great’ to actually going out and purchasing an EV as their next vehicle.” It takes time to persuade people to do something different, said Clairman, but there is a “huge opportunity coming” for Ontario to be at the front of the pack when it comes to EV implementation.

"The future of automotive is electric mobility," said Josipa Petrunic, who has extensive research and consulting experience in the field, both in the public and private sector. "Without electric mobility, we - as Canadians - stand no chance of achieving our GHG-reduction goals or stopping climate change from radically altering the world within which we live." Dr. Petrunic believes we have "the brains and the clusters of expertise in Canada to play a leading role in designing, developing and manufacturing the next generation of advanced motors, batteries, fuel cells, power conversion devices and light-weight materials that are going to get us there. The question is whether government realizes this is the case, and whether government will co-invest in this sector as it has in fossil fuel sectors in the past."

The Ontario government is looking for leaders in the low-carbon economy, explained Brian Kelly, and with the unique combination of resources and expertise available in the Durham Region – General Motors of Canada, UOIT and Durham College, and OPG to name just a few – could make the community the centre of EV manufacturing, advanced battery production, electricity storage and smart-grid applications in Canada, not to mention the leading jurisdiction of EV use in North America.

"A Durham-wide EV strategy would involve charging stations at all regional and municipal facilities, EVs in municipal and regional fleets, electric buses in DRT fleet, fast-charge DC stations along highways 401 and 407, charging stations in all new homes and condos, and charging stations in places such as malls and shopping centres," he said.

Laura Zizzo, the founder of Canada’s first law firm focused on climate law and a thought leader on the evolving legal and advisory landscape surrounding sustainability and climate, provided an overview of the legal framework for the future of electric vehicles. She believes that with growing implementation of cap-and-trade systems and carbon pricing for all types of fuel, “EVs will likely continue to grow in market share and Ontario is well-placed to be a manufacturing hub for these new cars if proper policy parameters are put in place.”

In the second part of the workshop, academics from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology provided an overview of the innovative research they are conducting in the field.

Daniel Hoornweg, Associate Professor and Richard Marceau Chair, Faculty of Energy Systems and Nuclear Science, is exploring alternative transportation options in the GTA, including electric and natural gas vehicles. He explained that the transportation sector accounts for 50% of the GTA’s GHG emissions and congestion costs $6 billion dollars each year. According to his research, an integrated, rapid transit system consisting of natural gas buses and EVs would reduce fuel costs by $76 billion and provide cost savings and health benefits, lower GHG emissions, strengthen our economy and productivity, and improve our connectivity and resilience.

Hamid Akbari, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Business and Information Technology, has developed a user-friendly mobile app called BlancRide that encourages people to carpool together. According to Akbari, Canadians spend $82 million dollars to drive to work. His app provides a way to cut down on the costs of transportation or earn some extra cash by taking passengers to their desired locations and reduce the number of cars on the road, traffic and emissions.

Khalil El-Khatib, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Business and Information Technology, is researching the impact of EVs on the grid. EVs are additional load profiles on the grid and impact system components, voltage profiles and, ultimately, grid stability.

An expert in the field of life cycle assessment, Jennifer McKellar, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Energy Systems and Nuclear Science, outlined the environmental impact of electric vehicles from resource extraction to manufacturing to end of life.

Lastly, Vijay Sood, Associate Professor, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, presented the research he is conducting on EV chargers and the impact EV chargers have on the electrical grid.

The final segment of the workshop involved a facilitated discussion led by Michael Angemeer with all participants. The conservation focused on next steps for EV integration in the GTA and Ontario including public policy requirements and priorities for research.

The UOIT Electric Vehicles in Ontario Workshop was generously sponsored by Veridian Corporation, Covanta Durham York Renewable Energy Limited and Metcalf Foundation.

Filed under: Sustainability 101