News

Taking charge of the electric vehicle process

February 22, 2013

Josh Tzventarny, Director of Operations for Plug’n Drive shows off the organization's new ChargeMyCar initiative at the 2013 Canadian International AutoShow. The initiative, which simplifies the process of purchasing and installing a charger for Electric Vehicles, was supported through OCE's Social Innovation program.

As plug-in electric vehicles (EVs) continue to grow in popularity, so does the demand for home charging stations and potential impacts on electricity distribution systems.

With the support of an environmental award from Ontario Centres of Excellence’s Social Innovation program, Toronto-based nonprofit Plug’n Drive is steering consumers and utility companies toward solutions.

ChargeMyCar.ca is an online portal launched this month with a booth at the 2013 Canadian International AutoShow (which runs through Feb. 24). It’s the first time consumer-level electric car chargers have had a dedicated display at the show, signalling the growing mainstream awareness of EVs.

According to Josh Tzventarny, Director of Operations for Plug’n Drive, ChargeMyCar is being fuelled by the desire to both simplify the selection, purchase and installation of home charging stations for EV owners and to provide early analysis of the impact of charging stations on local electricity grids.

“We can simplify the process connecting homeowners to contractors and installers reducing the perceived complexity of having a home assessment done, finding the right charger, purchasing it and having someone install it,” says Tzventarny. “This is the part people don’t always think about when they’re buying an EV and we’re trying to make it a bit easier and a bit more competitive.”

Already most large automakers have some form of plug-in EV whether it be fully electric or hybrid. Ultimately, he says, the simpler and cheaper it becomes to own an EV, the more likely they are to grow in mainstream acceptance and the better that will be for the air we breathe.

For local utility companies, the impact on neighbourhood transformers could be significant as it means additional draw on the system. ChargeMyCar is already partnered with 10 of Ontario’s 80 local distribution companies – with more on the way. The partnerships allow for better information flow to the electric companies.

The Federal Government has set a target of 500,000 EVs on the road by 2018 and 80 per cent of charging of those vehicles will be done at home. In most cases, local electricity companies have no way of knowing where electric cars are located.

“This is a new area and it is growing,” Tzventarny notes. “By informing local utilities when there are charging stations being installed, we can reduce the wear and tear on transformers and prevent a failure. This is an inexpensive way for them to identify where electric cars could impact the grid.

“By taking this small step, that’s one less potential power disturbance down the road.”

ChargeMyCar has many different chargers available and has also partnered with the Electrical Safety Authority to connect EV owners with licensed home assessors and installers.