Waterloo firm charging ahead with electric vehicle stations

The Ontario government is leading the charge, so to speak, to expand facilities for electric vehicles. By next March, a network of nearly 500 charging stations will spring up at more than 250 locations across the province — in cities, along highways and at workplaces and condo buildings.

May 10, 2016
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Waterloo Region Record

By Brent Davis

WATERLOO — The Ontario government is leading the charge, so to speak, to expand facilities for electric vehicles.

By next March, a network of nearly 500 charging stations will spring up at more than 250 locations across the province — in cities, along highways and at workplaces and condo buildings.

Six of those stations will join three already in place at the Waterloo headquarters of FleetCarma, a company that produces a connected-car platform with a focus on electric vehicles.

FleetCarma's in-car dongle — a small piece of computer hardware — gathers driving and charging data from electric vehicles, and can communicate with smart-charging stations that allow utilities to adjust the charging speed to accommodate broader demands on the power grid.

"For us, it's really a chance to refine and showcase our smart-charging system," said FleetCarma chief executive officer Matt Stevens.

The company has conducted demonstrations in such places as Germany, the United Kingdom and California. "It's really nice to be able to showcase this at home," Stevens said.

The government is footing the capital and installation costs of the $20-million charging station project — adding the six 7 kW chargers at FleetCarma's building on Northland Road will cost just over $61,000.

"Part of this is going to be having a living lab," Stevens said, adding his new stations could be installed by the end of the summer.

The charging stations will be available free of charge to FleetCarma employees. Currently, three of the 25 employees drive plug-in vehicles.

The public will also be able to access the stations at a cost of $1 per hour of charge. At least one station will be available at all times for the public and will deliver a full-speed charge.

Two types of stations are being installed in the provincial project — 213 will be level three or fast-charging stations that can charge many electric vehicles to about 80 per cent capacity in about half an hour, while 280 (including the ones at FleetCarma) will be level two stations that can charge most vehicles from empty in about four to six hours.

"Getting 213 fast-chargers in there dramatically changes the landscape for Ontario," Stevens said. "This program will actually make owning a full electric possible."

It's estimated there are more than 18,000 electric vehicles on the road in Canada.

While plug-in hybrids have the flexibility of falling back on a gasoline engine once their batteries are depleted, all-electric owners don't have that luxury and need to be thinking of their vehicle's range and charging availability.

Right now, there aren't many fast-charging stations in place in Ontario, Stevens said.

Adding charging stations at workplaces is also incredibly important in getting more electric vehicles on the road, he said. But charging vehicles can add considerable demand to a business's power supply, and that's where FleetCarma's smart-charging technology comes in.

Vehicle owners can indicate when they need a charge to be completed by, and the charge can be portioned out accordingly. Moderating this electricity use can keep a business's peak demand charge down and it can help utilities better manage demand on the grid.

"We want to make sure that electric vehicles aren't making the grid less reliable, but actually making the grid more reliable," Stevens said.

FleetCarma was founded in 2007 and was originally known as CrossChasm. Its connected-car technology has been sold in 23 countries and the company counts fleet operators, leasing companies, researchers and utilities among its customers.

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