Tom Odell, manager of EVs for Toronto Hydro Electric Systems, notes, “We still have a lot of challenges in adopting electric vehicles. We see the smart grid as part of the solution.” Ontario anticipates incentives will ensure that one out of every 20 vehicles will be electrically powered by 2020.
The Ontario Power Authority (OPA), the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), and regional utilities are collaborating with Mercedes, Toyota, General Motors, and Nissan to prepare for the introduction of plug-in EVs. A smart grid pilot program with Mercedes is studying the driving and EV charging patterns of 15 Toronto Hydro customers over four years. Customers are provided charging stations, power meter, and free charging and maintenance.
The United States government has set aside $11 billion for smart grid research and development and American as of 2010 utilities had installed at least 21 million smart meters across the country. According to the Ontario Smart Grid Forum, more than 90 United States utilities plan to introduce nearly 60 million additional meters.
Currently, Canada has approximately 19 million cars but Phil Petsinis of General Motors of Canada says up to 1 million electric vehicles could be added without impacting the grid.
“It would consume less than one percent of the total grid generation. The total energy these vehicles would take from the grid is very insignificant.”
Petsinis added that the Chevrolet Volt consumes about 2,500 kilowatt hours per year, roughly the equivalent of an air condition unit. He anticipates lower impact if EV owners charge vehicles overnight during off-peak hours. But utilities are still concerned that rapid deployment of EVs could overheat transformers in neighborhoods with clusters of plug-in cars.
Cara Clairman, Ontario Power Generation’s vice president for sustainable development explains, “We’re ready for the number of EVs that will probably be out in the next short while, but are we ready for thousands of EVs right now? No, there’s work that needs to be done,”
EVs can be charged at home over eight hours with a 120-volt outlet. Canadian officials are developing a financial assistance program to help homeowners with the costs of installing 240-volt stations capable of charging cars at home in less than one hour.