Living in the Haliburton Highlands with level one charging.
Why is this important?
First -- why did Ron and I save for 10 years to buy an EV? And why did we insist on driving it across the country in 2021?
I became aware of something called “the greenhouse effect” so long ago I cannot even pinpoint in my memory exactly when it became a concern to me. Looking at the history of the term, I discover that John Tyndal published a series of studies on the way greenhouse gases including CO2 trapped heat in the Earth’s atmosphere in 1859. Other scientists followed up. As a species, we have known what we were doing since 1859. According to Google, it became a major concern and news noteworthy across many disciplines in the 1970’s. That is probably when my concern developed.
Since that date scientists have made increasingly dire predictions of what the effect will be, how to measure the parts per million of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and how fast the impacts are coming. No matter how bad their predictions the actual situation is always worse, but our human response is to ignore it. The reality is that ice in the North is melting much faster, our glaciers are almost gone, and the temperature of the earth is warming at a much faster rate than predicted. We have already surpassed the stabilizing level of 350 parts per million and are now over 415. In spite of many promises, and in spite of staying home for a year in a pandemic, Canada has never actually reduced its GHG pollution. It has only slowed its growth. And we have entered the time of massive negative climate events all around the world. Our response is still totally inadequate. Somehow we believe that our economy is isolated from these events when, in reality, it is totally dependent on what nature gives us.
As an interested but undereducated observer of all this, the only conclusion that I can come to is that the oil and gas industry (which we know has known about the problem for a very long time) has actively infiltrated government policy making, and employed slick marketing techniques to create the illusion that we can keep on living the way we are without making any changes -- especially in our consumption of carbon. We have all bought their lies -- both our leaders and the populations. Everybody knows the problem is serious and is in favour of change so long as it doesn’t affect their lifestyle. The population is still not ready on a massive scale to retrofit their homes, reduce the number of personal vehicles they drive or change the type of vehicle they drive to reduce their footprint.
We started 10 years ago to save for an electric car in the hope that we could buy one for $35,000 by the time we were ready. I had no intention of being an early adopter. I just wanted to do my part, and to be on track with the changes I saw as critically necessary. When we bought the car we took a leap of faith that we could get off of gasoline. We decided to live into the future we wanted to see. We had to “be the change” to make it real.
We managed to do it with the assistance of many government subsidies and it was lucky we were living in BC where the subsidies are highest. BC has made EV’s part of it’s climate action strategy. But truthfully, by the time we were buying our Chevy Bolt, I had realized that if we are going to turn things around the changes will have to be greater than that. Everyone is not going to be able to have a personal vehicle. The importance of making public transit convenient is greater than ever. I actually felt some guilt over our good fortune.
If Canada actually wants to implement climate action and not just speak nice words about our intentions, we have a lot of work to do. According to the Energy Mix, The C.D. Howe Institute says 70 to 75% of Canadian passenger auto sales will have to be zero-emission vehicles by 2030 in order to achieve the federal government’s emissions targets. Sales of EV’s are currently around 3%. That is a huge change in 10 years. It won’t happen if we don’t all do it together. It will affect every aspect of the supply chain in automobile manufacturing and consumers will have to cooperate by taking a risk and buying them. I am trying to imagine what things would have to be like to make that work.
Seth Klein, in his book, A Good War, says there are 4 key points that tell people we are acting on a climate emergency.
· Spend what it takes to win
· Create new economic institutions to get the job done
· Shift from voluntary and incentive motivation to mandatory
· Tell the truth about the severity of the crisis and the urgency. Report regularly on how we are doing.
We know our leaders know how to do this. They just did it for the pandemic.
So my question is: WHY ARE EV CHARGING STATIONS THE BEST KEPT SECRET IN TOWN? Why are they hiding them so that no-one will know they are there unless they have an app that tells them where to look? Why don’t they have signs like gas stations do? Why aren’t they included on Road signs at exit points describing services available?
Canadians will have range anxiety until they can see that there is an infrastructure in place.
And WHY AREN’T OUR LEADERS and our MEDIA TELLING US HOW THINGS ARE GOING TO CHANGE AND WHAT WE HAVE TO DO TO WORK TOGETHER TO MAKE THE TRANSITION? Where are the new rules for zero emission vehicles and how many the companies must sell? And where is the reporting on how we are doing?
Making the Transition
First, let us acknowledge that the high-speed system I was checking out is mainly for people going longer distances. You don’t high-speed charge your car once or twice a day unless you are going on a long trip. But, when 70% of new vehicles sold are EV, they are going to be going longer distances and will need charges along the way. They won’t put up with the infrastructure I found in 2021.
Most people charge their car using a level two charger. It costs $500 to 1000 dollars to purchase a level two charger, plus installation. Soon Chevrolet will be giving you a level two charger with your new car. (The level one trickle charger they gave us can be replaced for a mere $700.) Other cars will no doubt do the same. People who live in apartments or condos can arrange to have a charger for every 5-10 cars because you don’t need to use it all the time. People with large batteries like the Bolt can charge in 9 hours overnight and drive for a week or more. The cost of charging at home is much less than the cost of renting a high-speed charger for an hour. Most people in the city aren’t even worried about having a high-speed charger nearby. Their needs are taken care of.
For the long-distance travel market, hotels are one sector that really need to wake up. To service this emerging market, hotels will need to include level-two charging as a standard service as Wi-Fi is now.
The electrical companies will have a new product line to install and to service. Special training may be required to prepare to serve this market. There have to be people who care that the charging machines are working. They are an essential service. We wondered if we could get a charge in Peterborough. We found 4 high speed chargers on Plugshare and when I looked at the comments, three of them were not working. The people who put these chargers in either can’t access the resources they need to fix them or they don’t see their charger as part of a network of chargers that make up an essential service.
As electric cars become more common, what will happen to gasoline cars? As Ron and I studied the layout of the various service stations we visited we imagined how these centres might transition. The best examples had the EV centres close to the washrooms and concessions for good pedestrian access. The worst examples had people walking through truck traffic to get to the conveniences.
One by one the gas pumps will come out and EV charging stations will go in. They will need more of them since people have to sit for 30-60 minutes at the station. We will have to think about traffic flow, and what to do with the number of people who are waiting around the centre. There would be identified pedestrian pathways to make your way through the cars. Maybe these centres will become more like ferry terminals in BC, with a better variety of food choices, and some opportunities for personal shopping. Maybe a bank (machine) or a pharmacy. Of course, a few gas pumps will stay open as long as older gas vehicles are on the road. But the emphasis will change.
For trucks, service centres will have to be even more flexible. In addition to charging EV’s and to servicing gasoline vehicles, they may have to offer hydrogen for fuel cell vehicles. Will gas stations become obsolete, or will they reimagine themselves as the energy service centres of the future?
Ron thought perhaps A&W might consider a retro move. Re-institute car hops and serve you your lunch or dinner right in your car as you are sitting at the charger. You don’t even have to get up and move around.
Wouldn’t it be fabulous if they ensured there would be a grassy park area with places for picnic tables in the shade and a place for animals to be walked.
BC Hydro treated the importance of having high speed chargers in critical areas as an essential service. This government-sponsored crown corporation had the power to either negotiate local partners (municipal or commercial) or just put the chargers in on BC Hydro property at the critical locations. The location of the stations appears to be quite planned to facilitate travel by EV in BC. They all looked the same and I could tap a card I had received in the mail to pay. It was easy. I just had to keep my account topped up.
The approach of Hydro One/OPG (with Federal support) on the surface seems similar. They created a new company, IVY Charging Network, whose goal would be to put in 160 charging stations at 73 locations so that they would not be further than 100 kms apart. So far they have about 27 up and running. They covered the remote areas of Ontario first as the most in need. They hired Greenlots (a member of the Shell family of services that was experienced in EV charging) to manage the system. I experienced confusion in payment. I was told by one operator that I had to register with Greenlots to pay so I downloaded their app and opened an account. That didn’t work. Then I was told I had to download the IVY app. I’ve done that now too, but I did have difficulty loading money on to their electronic card system. The Ivy machines are located anywhere, in front of whatever business wants them. When I use the phone support system, I really have no idea who is actually supporting me. Is it Hydro One? Is it Ivy? Is it Greenlots? I have now used 3 IVY stations and I finally managed to get connected and charged without having to phone for support.
What I like about the IVY stations is that they are intentionally put in places where there is other commercial activity or a place to go and rest and possibly eat while waiting for a charge. To me, this is the way of the future. Charge while you eat or shop or give me a place to have a nice walk.
The businesses hosting charging stations usually know little about them. I felt more like an inconvenience than a customer. On all of the systems, the place to lay a complaint is with the phone support system. The person on the end of the phone is your lifeline when you need a charge. They notify their manager if a machine needs repair. Having someone in charge of keeping them in repair is critical for the ultimate maintenance of the system.
For the Level Two chargers the system is much more complex. Any electrician can install one. You can buy them on Amazon or from an on-line hub that specializes in EV chargers. For $1000 you would expect them to work and to last, but people have had problems with the hardware connections, and with the cords as well as with the software that runs them. How do you get them repaired? Who repairs them? Or are these one of those systems that you just have to replace the whole unit if they break? I was heartened to have a good chat with the person responsible to support EV’s for the City of Ottawa. He says they should be easy to repair and this should not be an issue. So why is it?
The Last Best Kept Secret
Electric vehicles are fun to drive. I have not talked with an EV owner who does not love to drive their car. They would never look back. EV’s are peppy. They are responsive. They have extremely good handling and control. They are a delight, and they have the added advantage that they cost very little to service and maintain. Once you’ve got one they are very good for the pocket book.
This transition is a no-brainer. Let us work together to ensure the goal of 70% EV sales by 2030 is met and exceeded, and get this transition under way. It’s about time!
FOR THOSE WHO HAVE RECEIVED THIS BY E-MAIL, PLEASE CHECK MY FACEBOOK PAGE OR MY WEBSITE FOR BLOG 7 (https://www.francesdeverell.com/post/ev-blog-7-july-9-2021-lake-superior-range-anxiety-nanaimo-to-eagle-lake-ontario ) AND BLOG 8 ( https://www.francesdeverell.com/post/ev-blog-8-july-9-10-2021-eagle-lake-range-anxiety-nanaimo-to-eagle-lake-ontario ). I RAN OUT OF E-BLASTS IN MY WEBSITE PACKAGE SO THIS ONE WILL COVER ALL THREE.