Interview with Toronto Hydro: Grid gets ready for EVs

2013.08.16

Toronto Hydro Smart Car EV

Being condo electricians in Toronto requires us to understand the city’s electrical grid and the work of Toronto Hydro. We were so pleased when Toronto Hydro’s Tom Odell agreed to answer all of our questions about how they plan to adapt to a growing number of EVs in the city. Previously a Product Manager for the Chevy Volt, Tom moved over to Toronto Hydro and started its EV department in 2010. The EV department studies the impact EVs have on the grid in order to plan and deploy future electrical infrastructure, and assisting and educating customers on EV technologies.

Signature Electric: What is Toronto Hydro currently doing to prepare for the impact EVs will have on the grid?

Tom Odell: We start by providing EV information to new drivers. We also offer EV owners the opportunity to participate in our EV Usage Study. This study will research EV owners to fully understand the impact of EVs on the Toronto electrical grid. We inform drivers about the study and assist them with their EVSE (Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment, sometimes referred to as a charging station) installation and use the AMI (Advanced Metering Infrastructure) technology to collect EV energy consumption data.

SE: Why would EV drivers want to be part of the study?

TO: EV drivers are given a chance to help shape the electrical infrastructure of the city in order to support EVs and also influence future developments in the EV industry. For example, future charging station locations. In agreeing to be a part of the program, they will have access to their EV charging data.

SE: Do you find that there is an increase in Toronto residents asking for EV charger installations (Level 2 and Level 3)?

TO: Most people installing a charger are asking to have Level 2s installed, but many Chevy Volt owners stick with a Level 1. Chevy Volts are hybrids and have gas engines, which could explain a Level 1 charging station preference.

SE: How are these installations of Level 2 and Level 3 chargers affecting the Toronto grid?

TO: It varies. Level 2 chargers are typically 3.3 kW, which is like powering another one or two homes, whereas a Tesla S Level 2 Twin charger is 20 kW which can be up to 10 homes during the charging session.

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SE: If they are affecting the grid, how does Toronto Hydro plan to adapt to a growing electric vehicle community?

TO: When there’s only one EV in the neighborhood, it’s not much of an impact right away. When you get more and more cars, it starts to become a problem. Right now, we’re studying how people are charging and where they’re charging to understand the impact first. The risk is that transformers that used to cool in the evenings aren’t being given a break with most EVs charging in the evening. Ideally, we’d like to know where all chargers are installed so that we can monitor the infrastructure around that area accordingly.

SE: Is it possible to allocate renewable resources specifically to power EVs?

TO: There are opportunities to apply renewable resources to supply the grid during on-peak hours. Right now, most EV charging is done at home in the evenings, so solar would not be the best solution for this.

Wind, on the other hand, blows best at night and contributes to the grid during off-peak hours. Since most charging happens at night, this is the perfect coupling.

SE: Many of our readers are property managers and might like to know about EV charging in condo buildings. Would a pre existing older condo need to change their electrical infrastructure to accommodate EV charger installations?

TO: Yes, they would need to change their electrical infrastructure.

Because the condo board is in complete control of what happens in the building, they would need to be the ones to consider these questions:

  •  Is there an existing power supply in the garage?
  •  Is it a common element?
  •  Is the condo suite metered or bulk metered?

If you’re a condo property manager and would like more information about EV chargers in condo buildings, check out our post “How to Charge for Charging”.

It’s great to hear from Tom that Toronto Hydro sees not only the challenges of integrating EV chargers into the grid, but also the opportunity to introduce more renewable resources to compensate for the extra energy needed. We look forward to their continuing strategies as they learn from the results of their EV Usage Study.


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