Increase In Electric Cars Raises Concerns

Electric car

Today, it is clear that more and more Canadians are turning to electric cars as an alternative form of transport to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The CBC reports that Canadian roads are currently home to around 20,000 plug-in vehicles — a figure which is only expected to increase with time. Because provinces have set their own targets to keep emissions low, it is expected that Canadians could be driving alongside over 500,000 more electric cars by 2020.

While many are quick to applaud efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, there is one critical factor that often remains overlooked: whether Canada’s electrical systems are sufficiently prepared for hundreds of thousands of more vehicles that need to be powered up.

Many, however, find this concern somewhat misplaced and are optimistic about the country’s electrical capabilities. A recent study by the University of Victoria’s Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions found that British Columbia’s electrical grid could charge around 2.4 million light-duty vehicles. Not only does this figure make up a majority of the nearly 2.8 registered vehicles in B.C, but the study found that the province’s grid was able to charge all of these vehicles in the winter — the time when electricity demand is generally the highest.

B.C. isn’t the only province that has faith its electrical system could handle the added load of plug-in vehicles. Hydro-Québec estimates that an electric car would only require the same amount of energy as a hot-water heater for an entire year, making them confident that the province could support a million plug-in vehicles without a large strain on the electrical system.

Issues could arise, however, if electric cars all need to be charged at the same time. Oftentimes, transformers within the same neighbourhood are not equipped to handle the large amount of electricity required by multiple cars at the same time — creating the potential for a power outage. In order to prevent this kind of scenario, many electricity companies are suggesting that households reduce their electrical usage to save more energy for charging cars. Alternatively, companies have proposed time-of-day pricing, which would make it costlier to charge a vehicle during a peak time. Ultimately, it is clear that as the amount of plug-in vehicles on the roads increases, there will likely need to be some trial and error in order to accommodate the needs and wants of consumers, and abilities of electrical companies.

For more on this story, visit CBC News.

Featured image source: CIO

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