Christmas Holiday in Europe

We spent the last couple of weeks visiting Germany and the UK to see friends and family.  Though this was not an EV related trip we did see some things of note.

In Germany we saw an e-Golf in a dealer showroom. We drove by on a Sunday so we could not check to see if it was sold or not, but it might point to better availability in Germany than we have here in Canada.  We saw a few EVs on the road, Teslas mainly.

We headed to the UK for Christmas with family.  We picked up my sister from Liverpool airport and on the way to my parent’s place we stopped at Burtonwood Motorway Services on the M62 between Liverpool and Manchester.  As with most services in the UK, Ecotricity has installed a pair of L3 chargers supporting CHAdeMO and CCS, with a side of Type 2 AC.  The standards as Renault has high power Type 2 charging on the Zoe, rather than the CHAdeMO of the Leaf, despite Renault owning a controlling interest in Nissan.  There is great video on how the Ecotricity chargers work here.  There is a new 8 bay Supercharger on the other side of the car park that is about to be commissioned.  Installing charging at service areas is an obvious and needed addition, sadly, despite all the service areas in Ontario being owned by the province, there has been no progress on this here.

The UK has fines for ICEing, which is great.  Quebec now has similar rules.

We saw our first electric bus in Manchester. Manchester has a free shuttle bus service in the city centre with at least 3 pure electric buses joining a fleet of diesel-electric hybrids in 2014.

Electric buses make so much sense, Shenzhen has a 16,000 strong fleet of electric buses, more cities should move away from diesel.

In addition to free electric shuttles, Manchester also benefits from the Brompton hire system.  For £3.50 a day you can rent a Brompton, which is a great deal. This dock is at Manchester Piccadilly rail station.  The Bromptons act as the last mile solution.

Seeing integrated transportation options like this in the UK, which has a far more complicated model with many private companies and funding agency shows how far behind we are in Ontario with a much simpler political landscape.

We rounded out our trip to Manchester to two monuments to Vimto, ruiner of many carpets and to Alan Turing, founding father of Computer Science.

A Response from the Ontario Ministry of Transportation to our EV Program Review

I received the letter below from Jamie Austin, the Director of the Transportation Policy Branch MTO. The original letter is here, I have made the text available below and I have added links to the programs Mr Austin discusses.  I am very grateful to Mr Austin for taking the time to respond and I think he is offering some insights into how the Province will address the issues we see with the EV programs.  As a community we still have a lot of work to do to address some of the policy gaps.

Our review is here, I suggest you read it first if you have not seen it before.



Dear Mr. Eglin,

Thank you for your email to the Honourable Steven Del Duca, Minister of Transportation dated October 5, 2017 and your emails regarding your review of Ontario electric vehicle programs. I appreciate your interest and enthusiasm for electric vehicles, and assure you that we share your ambitions for the electrification of transportation in Ontario. As a follow up to our brief discussion on these matters at the ITS World Congress in Montreal, I am happy to respond to you in greater detail on behalf of the Ministry of Transportation.

Electric Vehicle Incentive Program (EVIP) and Electric Vehicle Charging Incentive  Program (EVCIP)

I appreciate your positive feedback of EVIP and EVCIP, and acknowledge that there have been unfortunate delays in processing applications for these programs. While I am happy to report that demand for these programs has significantly increased over the last year, this led to a backlog in processing applications and making payments to program recipients. The Ministry of Transportation has recently committed new resources to the management of these programs in order to address both the current backlog and ongoing increased demand, and I’m pleased to say that this issue should be mitigated in the near future.

Electric Vehicle Chargers Ontario (EVCO)

EVCO was an application-based program that received an overwhelming response of over 200 applications. Applicants identified what they felt were good locations for the deployment of EV chargers. Because program recipients are responsible for the ongoing maintenance and operation of the chargers it is important that they themselves choose the locations, giving due consideration to the business plans under which they operate. Through the evaluation process, cost efficiency, appropriateness of the site and the number of stations per site were carefully considered, with a focus on the greatest possible connectivity of the network from among the eligible applications received.

As you have noted, there are a number of chargers that are planned under the EVCO program that are not presently listed on our website/program map. For a number of reasons, such as site conditions or host business decisions, some sites originally planned under the EVCO program have been determined to be unsuitable. In these cases wherever possible, EVCO program recipients have been proposing replacement sites to the government for consideration. These sites are added in to the EVCO map as they are approved for inclusion in the program. Where alternative locations cannot be found, projects will be modified to a smaller number of chargers/locations and the government will recover a portion of the funding that was allocated. The program is currently tracking towards the installation of nearly 300 level 2 chargers and over 200 level 3 chargers at approximately 250 locations across the province, and is currently two-thirds complete.

I note you have also observed some customer service issues with EVCO recipients. We do expect that EVCO recipients, and particularly operators of level 3 chargers, operate a 24/7 toll-free customer assistance number so that drivers can report outages and malfunctions, obtain assistance with point-of-sale and customer authentication, or to request assistance operating the charger. We are working with EVCO recipients to ensure they are meeting these expectations and we believe the issues that you have observed will improve over time.

Moving forward, we will be working to implement actions in the Climate Change Action Plan (CCAP), such as the rapid deployment of charging in government facilities, workplaces, multi-unit residential buildings, downtowns and town centres. CCAP includes up to $80 million over four years, for the continued deployment of EV charging infrastructure. We will be launching the first programming with these additional funds in the near future. As part of our program planning, we are monitoring the use of EVCO charging stations to better understand remaining service gaps. As we move towards our future plans, we will be sure to keep your suggestions in mind and welcome any additional suggestions that you may have.

I should also acknowledge the investments that the federal government is making in charging in Ontario, including projects under the Electric Vehicle and Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Deployment Initiative (EVAFIDI) and the Energy Innovation Program (EIP). We are also working closely with Natural Resources Canada to identify other opportunities for investment in Ontario.

Reduced Output Fast Chargers

Your observation about some level 3 chargers having reduced output in your review and your email addressed to Minister Del Duca is correct, as is your assessment about the root cause – that 50 kW is the threshold after which higher demand fees are incurred. This is in part associated with local distribution company (LDC) policies across the province, many of which will not permit secondary electrical services to a property for safety considerations. Accordingly, some EVCO recipients have reduced the total output of fast chargers to between 30 and 40 kW. Under a program like EVCO, the only alternative would be significantly fewer chargers or to have level 2 chargers installed. We understand your concerns about this matter and are currently determining the best approach to ensure that this information is communicated to the public transparently.

Cost of Charging

Recognizing that EVCO program recipients are responsible for all operating and maintenance costs of the chargers installed as part of their projects, the province did not specify the rate that would be charged by public charging stations. Fees are set by the owner/operator of the charger, and you will find a variety of fees across the province ranging from free to $17/hour, depending on the charging speed and other factors (i.e. parking included, etc.). We are monitoring the pricing for EV charging in Ontario at both EVCO and non EVCO chargers and reserve the right to intervene where the province determines fees at EVCO chargers are unreasonable.

With regard to kWh pricing for EV charging, there are additional regulatory considerations which fall under the authority of Measurement Canada, specifically under the Weights and Measures Act. The province of Ontario has had an open dialogue with the federal government on this through work related to the upcoming national Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Strategy, and we are monitoring the federal government for any regulatory changes or developments. Chargers installed as part of the EVCO program were required to have the capability to charge by kWh, so if and when these federal rules are changed EVCO recipients will have the flexibility to use kWh pricing if they choose.

EV Supply Management

Ontario has not opted to proceed with establishing a ZEV mandate, such as the approach taken in Quebec, as Ontario believes that a collaborative approach with a province-wide sales target that represents a collective goal will be the most effective approach. Through the Electric and Hydrogen Vehicle Advancement Partnership (EHVAP), the province is working closely with automakers, unions and other interested stakeholders to ensure that there is an adequate supply of EVs available in Ontario to meet demand over the next few years. We are also monitoring EV policies from other jurisdictions, including Quebec, with a particular interest on any potential impacts in Ontario.

In closing, I would like to thank you again for your feedback on Ontario’s electric vehicle programs. We are continually looking for opportunities to improve and adapt our programming to meet a fast evolving sector. I believe that we share the same enthusiasm for electric vehicles and optimism for the potential they offer to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve air quality, and lower transportation costs for all Ontarians. Thank you for your commitment to the electrification of transportation in Ontario.


Jamie Austin Director

  1. Darryl Soshycki, Manager, Sustainable and Innovative Transportation Office, Ministry of Transportation

The Cost of EV Public Charging – The Untold Story

What if I told you that from now on, in order to fill up your gas tank you had to pay $5 to put the nozzle in, and then pay per minute to get some random flow of gas. You have no control over how fast or slowly the gas comes out of the nozzle, but when your time is up, if your tank is not full yet, you will have to put in another $5 to get more minutes of flow, and repeat until full. Sounds crazy, right?! Well, this is exactly what we have at the worst of the EV chargers. Over the summer we carefully logged our travels in our new e-Golf, and discovered that road-tripping costs at least as much in an EV as it does in a fossil. In fact, gas costs could actually be cheaper, depending on the chargers you use, and the time savings per fill-up are substantial.

How can that be true, you ask? Everyone knows it only costs a few dollars to plug into a public charger, where it costs $40 or $50 whenever you go to the gas pumps. Well, if you are like me, and amps and kilowatts are a foreign language, it’s easy to be fooled into a false sense of economy.

There is no standardization in the current charging infrastructure, so sometimes you can charge your car for free, sometimes you are quoted an hourly rate, sometimes a fixed fee, and sometimes a combination, such as a connection fee and a per minute rate. Is that confusing enough? It gets worse, because even if you could do the math to compare those rates, the big unknown is how much power the individual charger will put out (this is the technical part about amps – refer to Matthew’s recent post Ontario’s EV Program, a User’s Review” if you want a full explanation of that).

For our e-Golf’s efficiency rating of 17.4KWh/100kms, it takes over an hour, and costs more than double the price of gas to get enough KWh’s to drive 100kms! But I needed an app to do that calculation. If only charging was sold by the kWh – then all I would need to do is replace litres with kWh’s in the typical fuel efficiency equation of  “L/100kms” to make my comparison.

Time and Cost to add 100km range at a typical KSI DC Fast Charger

We did a calculation comparing the different charging networks encountered on our trips, and this is what we found when we compared apples to apples. Putting everything into the same units, the cost to travel 100 kilometres, and comparing that to the cost of the gas required to cover the same distance in an ICE vehicle, the costs are all over the place from free right up to “Ouch”.  Because of the wild west nature of EV charging, without careful planning and some inside knowledge  EV charging can cost way more per kilometre than gas!  And to add insult to injury, it takes a lot more time to fill up at a charger than at a gas pump.

To be clear, if you mainly charge at home, the amount added to your electricity bill is definitely way less than the cost of gas. And if you only take a few road trips a year, this is probably not really going to worry you that much. But for anyone who does not have access to a home charger, such as out-of-town travellers, and local condo and apartment dwellers, who must rely on public chargers, the economics of charging an EV are way out of line.

The Electric Vehicle Chargers Ontario (EVCO) program that is providing funds for Level 3 chargers across the province, failed to provide clear specifications for the output, so many of these are way more expensive than gas. The City of Ottawa’s proposed EV Charger Policy risks falling into the same category if it follows the same path. This is counter-productive to all their other programs aimed at promoting EV’s as a more environmentally sustainable mode of transportation. Never mind range anxiety, who would buy an EV if they knew that charging it while on the road might cost two or three times as much as gas, and add two or three hours to the trip?

It’s easy to see how consumers could misunderstand the cost of public charging, and I am afraid that the policy makers are no more clear on the concept than the rest of us. They need to identify their target markets, and provide reasonably priced charging options for each market segment in order to make EV ownership viable for all. The way things stand, city dwellers who do not have access to their own home charger, and tourists or long-distance travellers, both face a serious disincentive to EV ownership. And that is the untold story of EV public charging in Ontario. Who knew?

Something missing from all EV chargers



EVs are Traffic Too

In the before time, when we still had a fossil car we had a rule, we did not take the car out for one errand. One errand was a walk or a cycle to the closest store, not perhaps the cheapest but we saved on gas to make up the difference. We tried hard to make sure we had at least three errands to do in the same end of town before we pushed another dinosaur out into the atmosphere. When we reached enlightenment with Electric Alice that rule went out the window. With no pollution, low costs and even lower guilt, we were freed to drive whenever we felt like it.

In the last couple of weeks and after driving 12,000 km since July, it has become clear to me that this freedom comes at a cost – traffic. Arriving late somewhere we, like most people say we were stuck in traffic, but this a lie, the honest way to phrase this is “we were traffic and traffic was slow”. EVs are great in traffic, quiet, easy to drive and with one foot driving being in traffic is far less taxing than a fossil car.

But we are traffic too, we might not pollute but we can contribute to congestion and by the same measure contribute to pollution indirectly.

With an EV, the personal cost of being in congestion is reduced.  An EV is easier in traffic, and more relaxed generally, so it is more tolerable to sit in a traffic jam. The personal cost gets less as the cars get smarter. Tesla, Nissan and VW all sell EVs that will just follow the car in front in a jam, taking over much of the driving task. If we take this to the extreme with autonomous cars (should this turn out to be possible, more on this point in a later post)  the personal cost of traffic congestion is almost completely removed. You could work, sleep, play just as you might on a train.  You have to wonder if autonomous cars are going to need a washroom and a club car to be really successful.  There is a real chance that the move to more automated EVs will mean more traffic. A lot of the rest of traffic will still be burning dinos, reducing the benefit of electrification through congestion.

Fleets of shared self-driving cars, such as Waymo and Uber are proposing would be catastrophic for traffic if they succeed as a large scale replacement for personal cars.  Each trip with passengers will require an extra trip for pick up.  50% of traffic from these services will be empty.  As a replacement or supplement to transit, the issue of traffic is even worse.

Widespread electrification could impact cities with congestion charges like London. With the current system, EVs are not charged to enter central London, but if significant percentage of all vehicles are electric there is quite the potential for gridlock. Policies will have to be adjusted to ensure traffic can flow and that the streets are not totally given up to cars and trucks, no matter how green they are.  Oslo, perhaps the most electrified city in the world will start to charge EVs to enter the city centre as of January.  The charge is small (€ 1.1 vs € 4.7 for a petrol car) but will rise again in 2020.

So, my plan is to try to go back to the three errand rule, at least when there is a lot of traffic. Walking and cycling are still better for the world, even if you drive an EV.