electric charge station car toronto

How will Toronto's electric car infrastructure be powered?

Although electric cars have yet to arrive in Toronto, given that the Electric Vehicle Technology Roadmap for Canada anticipates "the production and deployment of 500,000 or more EVs in Canada by 2018," the question as to how the country's largest city will power all these cars is rapidly becoming more and more pressing. Due to a whole number of factors -- including cost, charging times, safety, and durability/weather -- the implementation of this infrastructure is not exactly a straightforward proposition.

So far the City has taken small steps to pave the way for the electric vehicle. Notable among these is the Toronto Atmospheric Fund's EV300 Initiative, adopted in April of 2009, which established a goal of getting 300 EVs on the road in the GTA by 2012. The point of the project is to foster infrastructure implementation and prepare for the coming trend in general.

While plugging in an EV at home only takes a 240 Volt plug (the kind your dryer likely uses), because of the generally limited per-charge range -- usually about 130 or so kilometres -- one of the chief questions facing Toronto and other cities on the cusp of embracing this technology is where and how public-use charging stations will be incorporated into the urban environment.

As of July 1, 2010 the provincial government has offered incentive packages between $5000 and $8500 to early adopters of plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles. And along with the cash, drivers also enjoy use of HOV lanes regardless of the number of passengers they're carrying and, when installed, access to public charging facilities at GO stations and government parking lots.

GO expects to roll out the first set of charging stations at the Aurora, Lincolnville and Whitby station parking lots in the early part of this year. Due to the shorter distances electric vehicles can travel on one charge (versus a tank of gas), having such publicly accessible stations is crucial to convincing consumers that these cars are a viable alternative to gas-powered vehicles.

So what about the core (or Toronto-proper)? Well, Sheraton Hotels in Toronto and Montreal recently announced that they'll offer charging stations that will be GPS-equipped and thus easy to find, but the key to ushering in electric vehicles on a grand scale will be wider availability of places to "fill up." Toward that end, a proposal by a group of U of T student engineers sounds like it has promise. They suggest, somewhat naturally, Toronto Parking Authority lots as an ideal place to offer such infrastructure.

On its list of 15 "must haves," Project Get Ready, an organization devoted to helping cities prepare for the adoption of EV technology, notes that private businesses must play a role in infrastructure deployment along with the various levels of government. And with GO and Sheraton's first charging stations imminent, ideas of this nature are likely to come to fruition sooner rather than later. Not only that, they might just provide a reasonable indication of how future implementation will shape up.

Photo by Nscale7 on Flickr.


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