The Newsletter of Electric Vehicle Society

August 2020

Welcome to the third issue of the new EV Surge! This month we have a guest editorial from Doug Vowles, Northumberland Chapter Lead. Like the rest of us, Doug has had to respond to a lot of questions about his decision to embrace electric mobility. His take on the persistent old chestnut about so-called "range anxiety" focuses on the facts and dismisses the persiflage. It's a great read in Chapter Notes.

Thanks, Doug!

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Matt Stevens is Vice President of Electric Vehicles at Geotab. He has been working on hybrid and electric vehicles for 15 years, ranging from cars to trucks to lunar rovers.  Matt is responsible for Geotab’s efforts to help fleets successfully transition to electric mobility and to ensure utilities are prepared for widespread vehicle electrification.  He is a former Chair of Electric Mobility Canada and was Canada’s representative on the IEC ahG81 working group focused on electric vehicle and infrastructure standards. Matt was named to Waterloo’s Top 40 under 40 and in 2018 he received the Al Cormier Award for his contributions to electric mobility in Canada. Matt holds a Ph.D. from the University of Waterloo, with a focus on electric powertrain design and battery degradation.



If you are unable to attend the webinar on July 7, it will be recorded and available for viewing on the Electric Vehicle Society’s Youtube channel.

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Vans in the Vanguard at GM?

GM CEO confirms that commercial vans are under consideration.

Fully electric commercial vehicles, like the electric van for delivery fleets that was first reported earlier this month, are “a huge opportunity” for GM, CEO Mary Barra said in a Bloomberg interview recently.

Barra nodded when asked about the project—reportedly code-named BV1—and added plenty of supporting reasons why the company is considering commercial electric vehicles a part of its future.

As companies look at what their carbon footprint is and what environmental pledges that they’re going to make, if they have any part of their business that’s delivery or has a fleet need, having commercial vehicles that are all-electric to meet those needs are going to be very important,” Barra said to Bloomberg’s David Rubenstein. “And we think we can also provide a good value equation with the cost of ownership.”

It marks the first on-the-record acknowledgement of the project from a GM executive. Such a commercial program might help the company reach the economies of scale possible under its BEV3 architecture and the Ultium propulsion toolkit,which includes a modular battery system and exclusive cells co-developed with LG Chem.

According to Ken Morris, GM’s VP for autonomous and electric vehicle programs, speaking to Green Car Reportslast month, the company has fast-tracked the program, ushering one vehicle ahead on its timeline and adding “a lot of things that were not even talked about at EV Day.”

The van project was one of those things not yet revealed, and it might have been the vehicle that was pulled ahead in its timeline.

If so, the vehicle is expected in the U.S. before the end of 2021. That would beat the all-electric Ford Transit to market—and compete with vans from Rivian and others.

Article by Green Car Reports

Volvo Values Renewables (in China)

The Volvo Cars manufacturing plant in Chengdu, the company’s largest in China, is now powered by 100 percent renewable electricity. This takes the company’s global renewable electricity mix in its manufacturing network to 80 percent.

The 100 percent renewable electricity mix in Chengdu is the result of a newly signed supply contract and will reduce the plant’s CO2emissions by over 11,000 tonnes per year.

It is the latest concrete step towards Volvo Cars’ ambition to have climate neutral manufacturing by 2025, part of a wider climate plan that aims to reduce the overall carbon footprint per car by 40 percent between 2018 and 2025. By 2040, Volvo Cars aims to be a climate neutral company.

The new electricity contract is also in line with broader ambitions in China to reduce carbon emissions from industry and reduce the carbon footprint resulting from energy generation.

Until recently, the Chengdu plant already sourced 70 percent of its electricity from renewable sources. The new contract addresses the last 30 percent.

Under the new contract, around 65 percent of the electricity supply comes from hydropower, while the remainder comes from solar power, wind power and other renewable sources.

Volvo Cars is constantly working to reduce the carbon footprint of its manufacturing network and has reached a number of milestones in recent years. All its European plants have had a climate neutral electricity supply since 2008, while the engine plant in Skövde, Sweden was the first in the company’s network to become completely climate neutral in 2018.

At the Ghent plant in Belgium, Volvo Cars installed 15,000 solar panels in 2018, the first large-scale introduction of solar energy in its global manufacturing network.

These and other measures are part of the climate plan Volvo Cars launched late last year, one of the most ambitious in the automotive industry. The centrepiece of the plan is Volvo Cars’ambition to generate 50 percent of global sales from fully electric cars by 2025, with the rest hybrids.

Yet the plan goes beyond addressing tailpipe emissions through all-­out electrification and also seeks to tackle carbon emissions in the company’s wider operations, its supply chain and through recycling and reuse of materials.

Green Grow the Busses, Ho!

Electric Buses Green Transit

Halifax council approves plan for 210 electric buses.

Halifax Transit is an important step closer to replacing more than half of the city’s current bus fleet with electric buses.

On May 26, Halifax regional council unanimously approveda motion that would see city’s transit service add 210 electric buses to its fleet as part of the Bus Rapid Transit Strategy. The project — which still requires funding from both the provincial and federal governments — is scheduled to be completed at a cost of $780 million by 2028.

The city of Guelph, Ont., has also announced plans to electrify much of its public transit bus fleet with support from the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario.

The electrification strategy involves replacing 35 currently operational diesel buses with EVs, as well as commissioning 30 new electric buses and installing on-route charging stations. The city of 120,000, located an hour’s drive west of Toronto, also plans to build a new bus storage facility that can store up to 200 vehicles, which would include charging stations for the electric buses.

Guelph will invest $104 million in the fleet’s electrification, while the provincial government is providing over $33 million.

The federal government is investing more than $40 million in the initiative. That money comes from the Investing in Canadainfrastructure program, through which the government is investing more than $180 billion over 12 years in public transit projects, green infrastructure, social infrastructure and more.

Guelph is not the first Canadian city to electrify its public transit fleet. Montrealcurrently has 3 electric and over 260 hybrid and buses on its streets; it is expected to add 40 new electric and over 300 new hybrids to its fleet in 2020.

The Toronto Transit Commission began rolling outboth hybrid electric and battery electric vehicles last summer as part of a plan to become a fully zero-emission fleet by 2040. It has also purchased 60 all-electric buses which are set to arrive in full by the first quarter of 2020.

Other Canadian cities whose public transit fleets include BEVs or hybrids among their ranks include Montreal, Vancouver, Victoria, and Edmonton.

Links to articles:

How About a Lyft?

Lyft announced in a blog post that it will transition every vehicle on its platform to 100% electric operation by 2030. This applies to all cars that use any Lyft platform — including “Express Drive” rental cars, autonomous vehicles, and drivers’ personal cars.

It also announced an end to its carbon-neutral ride program,which will result in a significant increase in Lyft’s emissions over the next decade before reaching all-electric.

Lyft made the case for its change by pointing out that transportation is responsible for more emissions than any other sector in the US. Electrifying transportation is a huge step toward reducing the environmental impact of the transportation sector and tackling climate change.

The company also pointed out that electric vehicles result in lower operating expenses (to the tune of $10 billion total for Lyft’s drivers), and health benefits such as reduced smog and lung disease from atmospheric pollutants.

Lyft will transition its “Express Drive” rental cars to electric first, as those cars are owned by the company. Driver-owned vehicles will lag behind Lyft-owned vehicles, as drivers often own cars that have been in service for several years. But Lyft’s plan aims to ensure that drivers will have the option to buy an electric vehicle with lower total cost of ownership compared to gasoline vehicles by 2026 at the latest, in preparation for kicking all the gassers off the platform in 2030.

Lyft has historically led over its competitors in terms of environmental commitments. While its main competitor, Uber, has engaged in some partnerships to electrify their service,its commitment has not been nearly as strong as Lyft. In 2018, Lyft committed to carbon neutrality across its fleet, and in 2019, it launched a “green mode”allowing riders to request electric/hybrid cars in Seattle and Portland. Uber did not make the same carbon neutral commitment.

But today’s announcement also represents a step back from Lyft’s previous carbon-neutral pledge. Since 2018, Lyft has purchased carbon offsets to balance out the emissions from rides on their platform. Today, it cancelled that program. Lyft states:

So we’re ending our carbon offsets program to allow us to focus our efforts on direct decarbonization through the switch to EVs. While this means net emissions from cars used on the Lyft platform may increase in the short term, shifting to 100% EVs will lead to dramatically lower emissions over the long term.

The language here is a little weaselly, as Lyft states that emissions “may” increase over the “short term,” when just last year they posted a celebratory blog post touting how big their first year of carbon neutrality had been. Lyft said their commitment had saved as much carbon as 2.4 million acres of trees in just one year.

So in the next 10 years of rides now without carbon offsets, Lyft’s emissions would be the equivalent of more than 10 million acres of trees (assuming they do reach zero emissions in 2030 with a roughly linear decrease).

It is unfortunate that Lyft will not continue their purchase of carbon offsets during their transition.

Article by Electrek

Unifor Unanimous for EV Production

Unions are strong allies for electric vehicles

Unifor, Canada’s largest private-sector union, wants the Canadian government to build an aggressive plan to produce and sell more electric vehicles. The union’s proposals come as it prepares to negotiate with the Detroit Three – and as the Canadian government makes plans for a post-pandemic economic recovery.

All too often and for way too long, a false narrative suggests that corporations, labour, and the environment can’t work toward common goals. But that myth is outdated, especially when it comes to electric vehicles.

In a new union-produced report, Unifor wrote:

The government must accelerate the conversion of passenger and commercial vehicles to ZEVs by providing financial support and tax credits to firms engaged in the manufacture of EVs, for instance, including final assembly and the production of EV component parts in Canada.

Unifor wants to see “targeted subsidies and investment” into consumer incentives, fast-charging infrastructure, and battery technologies.

Unifor is not alone. The conversion of the General Motors Detroit-Hamtramck plant to produce only electric vehicles is another shining example of how car companies can be pro-EV and pro-labour. Union members celebrated the conversion of the Hamtramck plant for EVs to preserve high-wage jobs and produce greener cars.

Protecting the environment and decent jobs should be a two-way street for automakers. While Tesla is the undisputed leader in EV technology, the company undermines its brand with questionable workplace practices.

In its new report, Canada’s Unifor tied decent wages to zero-emission vehicles:

Government support must be accompanied by firm commitments to hold large companies such as automakers to account. This matter is of particular concern when automakers profess their interest in manufacturing green technology such as electric vehicles but simultaneously shift production to low-wage jurisdictions.

Article by Electrek

Electric Car Range Anxiety Is An Obsolete Concept

If you’ve driven a gasoline or diesel vehicle you’re probably in the habit of “filling up” once a week, or when you’re below a quarter of a tank. You know that you can drive 400 to 500 kilometers “on a tank” and always find a gas station when you need one.

When considering the pros and cons of an electric car, the idea that how far you can go on a full charge may be only half as far as a gas car could go on a full tank might be off-putting and makes for a quick reason to nix the idea of ever going electric.

If you view “fueling” through the lens of a gas/diesel driver, I would agree with you. However, driving electric comes with a paradigm shift that involves more than just swapping carbon for electrons.

In a gas car, every morning when you leave your driveway you have less range than you had the day before. (Unless you’ve made a trip to the gas station the previous day). But charging your electric car overnight in your garage allows you to leave each morning with a full “tank” (battery) – if you choose. The process of charging your car has taken perhaps 20 seconds in total – 10 to plug in, and 10 to unplug. The charging takes place over night, and no, you don’t have to stand there with your hand on the plug while electricity flows into the battery.

Most people’s daily use falls within the available “range” of an electric car. In my family’s case, our weekly use falls within that range, and so we too may refill only on a weekly basis. The difference between us and the weekly refueller is that we don’t have to stand in the sun, rain, wind or cold at a gas station for five or ten minutes to do so.

Some folks with cars that have less battery capacity may also take advantage of the chargers increasingly available at retail locations and municipal lots. The car charges while you shop or dine. Not to “full”, but enough to continue the journey or return home.

Critics of electric cars may grant their utility in providing short local trips but always claim that they’re no good for longer trips. If the ideal is to drive for four hours before stopping to re-fuel, then eat, and bio-break, then electric cars may not measure up. But again, the electric paradigm is different. I’m more likely to drive two hours and then stop to recharge. While the car is charging (I don’t have to stand beside it) we go to washrooms and may get some food. Depending on the car or charging network, you may also be notified through your smart phone when the car has finished charging to the level you specified.

On a recent 570 kilometer trip from Brighton to Niagara-on-the-Lake and back we stopped three times to charge and use washrooms. This added approximately 45 minutes to a 5 ½ to 6 hour journey. Driving a gas vehicle would have required one refueling stop with subsequent washroom visit, and at least one other washroom stop. (Your bladder range may vary.) So in net, driving the electric car may have added 10 to 15 minutes. However, gas expense would have been roughly $55, and the electricity we used cost $10 to $15.

Finally, there are the folks that say “but there aren’t enough charging stations where I want to go!” That was certainly true years ago when driving electric was often an early adopter adventure. But today many of those gaps have been filled in and plans to fill those still remaining are largely in place and progressing quickly.

Whatever your concerns are with driving an electric car, question them and speak with electric car owners. Organizations like The Electric Vehicle Society and many brand specific forums and groups are there to help you make informed decisions and welcome you to the advantages and pleasures of driving electric.

---Doug Vowles

Chapter Lead, EV Society Northumberland

Energy storage is a hot topic in EV discussions and the rapid and on-going improvements in battery technology is front page news in EV circles. Hydrogen is another option that continues to attract investments of money, time and research. These two storage options generally overshadow other technologies, some promising and some...not so much.

Here’s a quick review of some of the “other” green methods that have been or are being used (or proposed) to store energy:

Springs – In 1478 Leonardo da Vinci drew plans for a full-sized spring-powered cart. Hobbyists have been building models of it for years. Research has filed to find a major player who has jumped on the wind-up bandwagon.

Compressed Air – “Fireless” locomotives using compressed air (or steam) have been used for decades in operations where fire danger or noxious fumes were a big consideration (factories, tunnels, etc.). The Canadian Pacific railway used one at a coal mine near Banff (,_Alberta). Among other things, compressed air storage also can be used to enhance the evolving clean, green electric grid. More on that in a moment.

Are there compressed air powered automobiles in our transportation future? Maybe. India’s Tata Motors Ltd. have been experimenting with compressed air motors in cars. As with any developing technology, there are a lot of hurdles to be dealt with. Time will tell whether or not air-powered personal vehicles become part of our transportation mix.

The Gravity of the Situation

There are also ways to “store” gravity for grid-level energy generation:

Rail storage uses clean electricity to power a heavy train up an incline, then gravity pulls the train downhill at night using regeneration to produce electricity to be fed into the grid. (Photo from ARES North America).

Pumped storage hydro pumps water up a hill to a reservoir where it is stored until power is needed, when the water is released to run power generators that feed the grid.

A Different Spin

Flywheel storage – Put a big flywheel in a sealed, evacuated container, magnetically-coupled to a motor-generator. Spin it up to speed using electricity, then reverse the process and let the flywheel turn the generator to produce clean energy that can be used to power an EV. In 1946 nn experimental flywheel powered bus designed by the Swiss Oerlikon company was tested in Europe. In the 1970s ideas for a flywheel powered car were featured in the popular press.

While we may not have flywheel EVs, you don’t have to go far to find an example of flywheel energy storage. NRStor, a Canadian company, designs energy storage solutions that use a variety of technologies including battery, compressed air and flywheels. There is an NRStor flywheel storage facility in Minto, ON, and a compressed air energy storage (CAES) facility in Goderich, ON among the many projects the company is involved with. A visit to their website provides a fascinating introduction into the many facets of the new green energy landscape that is taking shape right here in Canada.

-Bill Bruesch

EVs are everywhere:

  • Personal EVs
  • Commercial EVs
  • Public Transit
  • Trains
  • Aircraft.
  • Ships and boats

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