September 24, 2023

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Adapting to electric vehicles: Hugh Holland | Commentary

By Hugh Holland


Rapid escalation in the frequency, severity, and cost of extreme weather events in Canada and around the world demands immediate action on many fronts.  One change that will affect most of us is adapting to EVs (electric vehicles).

Fifty-two per cent of Canada’s carbon emissions come from the oil and gas production sector and the transportation sector. Every global manufacturer of transportation and mobile equipment is fully engaged in the development of zero-emission products. The gasoline engines in light-duty vehicles and mobile equipment are being replaced with battery-electric systems. The diesel engines in heavy-duty vehicles and mobile equipment are being replaced by hydrogen-electric systems. Our oil and gas sector has all the expertise and resources needed to become a major player in the production of clean electricity for BEVs (Battery Electric Vehicles) and clean hydrogen for HEVs (Hybrid Electric Vehicles). Hydro Quebec and Newfoundland-Labrador Hydro already have contracts to export green hydrogen to Germany. 

Many countries including Canada have mandated that zero-emission vehicles must comprise 60% of sales by 2030, and 100% by 2035. To facilitate the transition, Canada will rebate $5,000 off the price of buying a qualifying EV. Some people still have concerns about electric vehicles, but those who have already made the change find the concerns are manageable, and the benefits outweigh the concerns.  

The main benefits of EVs are the elimination of harmful emissions,  a 70% reduction in energy cost, and a healthier and quieter community. The Fuel Consumption Guide published annually by Natural Resources Canada rates every vehicle sold in Canada for annual energy cost and CO2 emissions based on the average use of 20,000 km per year or 55 km per day, and prevailing energy costs. (The link and some sample NRC data is included at the end of this article). The data below shows energy cost savings for comparable vehicles:    

Honda Civic (Gas) $1,775 Cadillac XT5 (Gas) $2,813 Ford F150 (Gas) $3,000
Kia EV6 EV $540 Cadillac LYRIQ EV $702 Ford F150 EV $918
Savings per year $1,235    $2,121 $2,082
Savings per month $103 $176 $173
6-year savings $7,410 $12,726 $12,492

The most common concern is EV charging.  Most EVs come equipped with an onboard charger that can be plugged into any standard 120-volt outlet. A seven-hour charge provides an average of 55 km (34 miles) while charging for 14 hours will get you approximately 110 kmIf you add 110 km per day but only use 55 km, you will accumulate 330 km in 6 days for a trip on the 7th day.  For occasional longer trips, most owners will want to access faster 220-volt chargers and public DC fast chargers that can now add up to 125 km (78 miles) in a 10-minute coffee break.   

Single-detached homes can easily be equipped with a 240-volt charger, but 50% of the people in Ontario live in multiplex dwellings and will face the dilemma of wanting the benefits of an EV but being unable to charge it.  Most existing multiplex dwellings and office buildings will require more complicated retrofits to their electrical systems, and that will take some time. BC rebates $350 for single-detached home chargers, up to $1,400 per charger for apartments and condos, and up to $2,000 for workplaces. Ontario needs to do more to facilitate the adoption of EVs. 

Meanwhile, until building electrical systems can be retrofitted to accommodate 240-volt chargers, what is needed is a practical no-cost way for condo associations to enable members to enjoy the substantial energy cost savings of EVs, and to maintain the saleability and value of their condos. Condo owners should be allowed to use the many existing 120-volt outlets in and around parking areas, in return for paying the condo association upfront for the annual energy cost of the EV ($549 for a Chevrolet Bolt). This could be an employment perk for employees in office buildings. Some reassignments of parking spots may be required. Most vehicle owners will also need to access public chargers occasionally, but this will satisfy everyday charging needs for most people with just a bit of simple accounting until permanent solutions are implemented.  Here are some examples to show how a temporary solution could work.

Example A – The owner drives 20,000 km per year. Condo electrical is renovated by 2029
Trades Honda Civic for Kia EV6 and keeps it for 6 years. Saves $1775 x 6 yrs =$10,650 on gas
Pays Condo $540 x 6 years = $3,240 + buys 1/3 rd of energy outside = .33 x $540 x 6 =$1069.
Net savings with EV is $10,650 – ($3240 + $1069) =$6,341 or $1057 per year or $88 per month
Example B – The owner drives 30,000 km per year. Condo electrical is renovated by 2029
Trades Cadillac XT5 turbo for Cadillac LYRIQ EV and keeps it for 6 years. Saves $2,813 x 3/2 x 6 yrs = $25,317 on
gas Pays Condo $702 x 6 years = $4,212 + buys ½ of energy outside = .5 x $702 x 6 years = $2,106
Net savings with EV is $25,317 – ($4,212 + $2,106) = $18,999 or $3,166 per year or $264 per month
Example C – The owner drives 40,000 km per year. Condo electrical is renovated by 2029
Trades Ford F150 for a Ford F150 EV and keeps it for 6 years. Saves $3,000 x 4/2 x 6 years = $36,000 on gas
Pays Condo $918 x 6 years = $5,508 + buys 2/3 rd of energy outside = .66 x $918 x 6 years = $3,635
Net savings with EV is $36,000 – ($5,508 + $3,635) = $26,857 or $4,476 per year or $373 per month

An interesting observation is that the benefits of owning a zero-emission EV increase with the size and utility of the vehicle, and the distance driven per year.  Condo Boards, office building owners, and homeowners should be thinking now about upgrading their electrical systems.  From now on, it will be increasingly difficult to sell or rent a condo or an office that cannot accommodate its resident’s or employee’s EV charging needs. 

To initiate a temporary solution, condo owners would apply to their board by submitting a form stating their estimated usage per year, and the NRC fuel cost for the intended vehicle. 20,000 km per year is the national average. Some will drive more, and some will drive less, so condo revenue will average out. 

This proposal satisfies the following requirements and could help to resolve a major looming dilemma.      

1. Provides a temporary solution and time for a Condo Board to tender and implement a permanent solution. 

2. Protects the saleability and value of condos for those who need to sell before a permanent solution is done.  

3. Enables condo residents to enjoy the benefits of an EV whenever their current vehicle is due for replacement

4. Enables condo boards and residents to contribute to the mitigation of climate change in a timely manner. 

5. Supports Ontario’s biggest industrial sector. 

Data from the Natural Resources Canada fuel consumption search tool:

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Hugh Holland is a retired engineering and manufacturing executive now living in Huntsville, Ontario.

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