Electricity distribution systems were originally designed primarily to supply power for homes, commercial and industrial buildings. But, as consumer interest in green modes of transportation increases, electric utilities like Alectra Utilities (formerly PowerStream) are being called upon to modify their systems to ensure they can also accommodate the growth in electric vehicle use that many experts are predicting will take place.
Alectra Utilities recently completed a unique pilot study that will provide data from the electric vehicles in its corporate fleet to help automotive engineers, municipal planners and governments gauge what will be needed in order to support the large-scale use of electric vehicles in Ontario.
Usage data from Alectra Utilities' electric vehicles is helping engineers at Nissan to understand the limitations of current batteries in hopes this will assist them in designing the next wave of electric vehicle battery. The data is based on ‘wear and tear’ resulting from trips that Alectra Utilities staff make back and forth between the company’s work locations in Vaughan, Markham and Barrie.
This same data is also being used to help planners understand the types of services that will need to be in place on various highways in order to accommodate electric vehicles, especially on long distance drives. While there are currently service centres for filling up on gasoline, there are no charging stations available to the public for electric vehicles on major Ontario highways.
Whether Alectra Utilities charges its electric vehicles during the day or at night, it is providing smart grid planners with information about the impact of this technology on the electricity distribution system. This is valuable information that will help engineers to further develop the electricity distribution system.
Consumers expect their electric utility to deliver reliable, safe electricity and to support clean transportation options. Alectra Utilities is working to help consumers to achieve these goals by partnering with other industries and governments, preparing itself for what’s coming, rather than reacting to potential challenges after they appear.
Using smart meter technology, Alectra Utilities is making the most of its existing electricity distribution infrastructure by charging its electric vehicles during residential off-peak times.
As electric vehicle technology advances, Alectra Utilities plans to take advantage of related technology such as vehicle-to-home energy transfer (using the battery in the vehicle to power the home) and energy transfer (where vehicle batteries are charged at night and discharged during the afternoon peaks on the distribution system).
Lithium-ion Battery Technology Case Study (556KB PDF)