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thinkenergy looks at the energy of tomorrow, today. Every two weeks we’ll speak with game-changing experts to bring you the latest on the rapidly evolving energy landscape, innovative technologies, eco-conscious efforts, and more. Join Hydro Ottawa’s Dan Séguin and Rebecca Schwartz as they demystify and dive deep into some of the most prominent topics in the energy industry.

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Jul 19, 2021

---Join us for our Summer Rewind series as we feature past podcast episodes!---


Canada’s Electric Highway is now a reality. Petro-Canada recently made a bold move to equip 50 of its retail outlets along the Trans-Canada Highway with electric vehicle fast chargers. This is a great start, but EV owners need a consistent, convenient, reliable and fast means of recharging their vehicles - wherever they travel. Al Cormier, CEO & President of Electric Mobility Canada, shares his take on the future of electric vehicle adoption.

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Dan Seguin  00:00

Hey everyone. Welcome to the summer rewind edition of the think energy podcast. While we recharge our batteries during these lazy hazy Days of Summer, we're bringing back some blast from our podcast past, we'll be reintroducing some of the most popular interviews that garnered a lot of attention and interest, perhaps not a coincidence. But they're all focused on the future of the energy sector with themes like renewable energy, green innovation, and being eco conscious. So I hope you truly enjoy our summer rewind edition. In the meantime, have a happy summer. And we'll be back September 6 to kick off another exciting season of the think energy podcast. Hey, everyone, welcome to the think energy podcast. Canada's electric highway is now reality. Petrol Canada recently made a bold move to equip 50 of its retail outlets along the Trans Canada highway with electric vehicle fast chargers. EV owners can now drive from the Rockies to the Maritimes. It's nothing short of monumental for Canadian Evie owners. Cities are also investing in infrastructure to facilitate their citizens transition towards electric vehicles. More and more drivers are choosing EV's or electric vehicles, leaving fossil fuel behind and turning to electricity to power their vehicles. EV owners need a convenient, reliable and fast turnaround in recharging their vehicles. So here's today's big question. Canada's electric highway is a great start. But how do we create a favorable environment for Evie adoption? My guest today on the think energy podcast is Al Cormier, CEO and president of electric mobility Canada, here to talk about barriers and opportunities that exist for the future electrification of our cities. Welcome out. Al, please tell us a bit about your organization. And its mandate.


Al Cormier  02:57

Hey, electric mobility Canada is unique. And that is the only Canadian Industry Association dedicated fully to the promotion of electricity and transportation. I founded it in 2005. And I retired from it in 2011. And I'm back at it again. Because the CEO just retired, they're looking for another person. And so it's a fast growing association of about 200 members coast to coast. We represent people from the industry side that build and electric vehicles, product services, software, etc. People on the electrical utility side like hydro hydro, people are the government side, we have several government agencies, federal, provincial, municipal fleet managers, not for profit organizations, EV societies, these are individuals that support EV. So it's a great group. And everybody in the same tent will be addressed all kinds of issues,


Dan Seguin  04:13

National sales of EV's sit at around 3.5%. What are your recommendations to accelerate the deployment of electric vehicles in Canada?


Al Cormier  04:25

Yeah, 3.5% is the percentage of new light duty vehicles sales that are electric. So there's over 20 million light duty vehicles in Canada. And at the end of the third quarter of 2019. We had about 150,000 electric vehicles in Canada. So it's a long way to go to replace those fee but that's not impossible down the road. So The market shares two and a half percent. But the percentage of sales was great greater in Quebec and British Columbia, which are very supportive programs for electric vehicles. The three and a half percent is a national number. British Columbia was 10%, Quebec was 7%. So you have to look up but those provinces are doing to promote electric vehicle sales. But they both have a federal financial incentive program. For the buyers of EVs, they have programs to install all kinds of EV charging stations or infrastructure, a lot of public awareness programs. They have bylaws at the local level that require homes to be built rarely for EVs provincial regulations mandating the auto sector to sell a percentage of the sales being newbies, so a host of actions that can help the set of market to be in a good condition for the sale of EVs. Now, last March, a federal budget announced a national incentive program for EV buyers that took place in May, was implemented in May last year, at a bump the sales nationally expect the results final results for 2019. And the next week or so. And I expect that the three and a half percent may well be closer to four and a half 5%.


Dan Seguin  06:42

Quick question now. You alluded to light duty vehicles, the category what are the categories are there


Al Cormier  06:51

light duty vehicles, passenger vehicles, pickup trucks, that kind of stuff. Then, of course, we get into commercial trucks, you know, bigger vehicles, different classes of trucks, there's eight classes of trucks. We get into transit buses. We're going into school buses, we get into charter buses. And we get into off road electrification. We have electrification in the Marine side and pleasure boats, and snowmobiles. We have electrification in the farming level agricultural machinery as well. The mining sector particularly helpful in the underground, where the ventilation problems are an issue. So there's electric mobility is spreading out into many, many sectors. We even have an electric airplane in British Columbia.


Dan Seguin  07:47

when can we anticipate to see a shift from major automakers to enhance their EV product lines? Is it starting now?


Al Cormier  07:56

Well, I think it's fair to say that all of them are in the business are setting themselves up for EVs. We have some that are committing to producing only EVs after a few years time. And right now there's over 40 different models available, not always available in every part of Canada. But the auto industry is a complicated business, to introduce a new model is about four or five years cycle time is designed and tested and whatever marketed and so that they line up their productions this year for next year. So if there's a demand for TVs in any part of Canada, it sort of has to wait till the industry is ready. And of course, some people are not patient enough to wait for that. They've been enacting what they call zero emission vehicle mandates. California, Quebec, and British Columbia are saying that we have a supply side problem. And they're requiring the auto industry to produce as electric a certain percentage of the production over time that that percentage increases to 100% by 2040, in some jurisdiction. So they're being pressured by regulators to produce more of these. They're being pressured by the public the water by worries for economic or environmental reasons. And they have a hard job to do to transition their industry so to speak, to meet that demand, but hopefully, they'll catch up the public demand soon. And supplies should not be an issue.


Dan Seguin  09:53

Is there a typical persona to an EV owner in your experience? What Do EV owners care about,


Al Cormier  10:02

I've been watching this now for over 10 years. And I think the early people, early buyers are people that are what we call the early adopters. They like new technologies that want to try it out. And everything else, they'll go to great lengths to make it work. And the next phase of buyers have been those who have been buying it for environmental reasons, because they're getting more and more committed to reducing emissions and transportation, which is not unimportant. At the national level. Transportation contributes about 25% of greenhouse gas emission. And in major cities, it's as high as 40%. So it's a big problem. So then we have the environmentalists have been sort of the next phase, where we're now seeing people buying these for economic reasons, because they save the average user about $2,000 a year in fuel costs. And of course, servicing costs are a lot less because there's a lot less moving parts and ease and require less servicing. So that's attractive as well. So that's sort of the transition. And of course, in the last year, we've seen a lot of public demand for action or climate change a lot of awareness. And I've started to see some TV commercials from auto companies are awarding their electric big. That's good.


Dan Seguin  11:34

I would love to have your thoughts on the following. Getting more EV's on the road is a practical and effective way for Canadians to reduce pollution and fight climate change. But how are we offsetting EV drain on the power grid?


Al Cormier  11:53

That's a frequently asked question. I have participated in evaluation of this topic. In several cities, including yours and Ottawa. whether an organization called pollution probe and Natural Resources Canada, we examine the current capacity of several major cities in Canada. And basically, they can adopt EV growth, you know, with minor adjustments. Obviously, if everybody the same street buys at the same time, they have adjust a transformer at the end of the street and that kind of stuff. But if you look back, I've been around a few decades. You know, we went from clotheslines to house dryers, clothes dryers in the house that it most EVs will be charged at home at the same power level as the clothes dryer. So the utilities survive the transition cost like clothes dryers. Because it didn't happen all at one time. You know, it's a slow period over a few years. And utilities have also survived the demand for air conditioning. Most homes years ago, were not air conditioning. Now they are. So we've adjusted. And I'm confident that utilities will adjust for electric vehicles as well. And I don't see any major technical challenges. It's as minor system upgrade to the


Dan Seguin  13:27

Home charging. Is it a barrier for the first time buyers is mandatory residential Evie chargers for new buildings a potential game changer. In Canada, only cities, towns and municipalities in British Columbia appear to be instituting rules regarding residential chargers.


Al Cormier  13:48

It's a complex arrangement of rules and regulations. We have the National Building Code that recommends that buildings adopt be ready for EVs. And then in most provinces, we have a provincial building code that regulates everything provincially and illicitly. But in BC they have local building codes as well. So what we're saying in British Columbia is that these municipalities again, because of promotion by the government and EV groups and so on have adopted bylaw changes, and amend their code so that a new home being built should be pre wired not pre wired but preset for EVs. That means running the conduit from the electrical panel in the basement to the garage. So it's very inexpensive to do at the time of construction. Go back and do it later. It could be in the 1000s of dollars. Now we propose that for instance to the Ontario government, and it was well on the way to being legislated the change in the internal code last year, the current government listened to the construction industry, who maintained that there was an expensive thing to do, they would add hundreds of dollars to the cost of new home and should not do it. So the Ford government says, okay, we won't require it. So we hope that that will change in time in Ontario, I believe it's required in Quebec. In other provinces, we'll review that as well. Now, the big issue, of course, are condos, multi urban residential buildings. And we're fortunate that as we do a lot of work and research into that, and the solutions have been identified for condos. In Ontario, we have a law that requires condo boards to cooperate if a resident wants to have an EV charger in the garage, and because prior to that, we had some condo boards that said, we can't be bothered or say no. So a lot of residents of citizens live in condos and a lot more will come in the future. So it's important for them to accommodate that. Our conference coming here at the end of April, we have an all day workshop on that how to do EV charging in condos, the role for utilities, condos and municipalities and so on. So that's sort of the next round of challenges to make it easier for on charging.


Dan Seguin  16:34

Hydro Quebec has for a number of years invested significant amounts of work, effort and money into building a network of fast charging stations in the province, including in areas where they don't necessarily expect that those charging stations would be getting a high adoption on their own. The result. A more even distribution of EV ownership between urban and rural areas. Is a better city charging infrastructure the key to increasing Evie ownership. What are your thoughts on that?


Al Cormier  17:11

I think the main key is quite a lot of public high speed charging stations. Most EVs have ranges now that go all the way up to nearly 500 kilometers per charge. So at most people probably just drive 30-40 kilometers a day. So they might charge once a week. And most charging is done at home. I imagine you have any recharge at home yourself for your car. So but if you want to venture out of Ottawa, you need to assurance that on your trip to Cornwall, or Montreal or Toronto that you'll have these charges on the way. So those have to be public charging station, they have to be level three, the high speed charging, so you can charge most of your batteries within within 15-20 minutes. So and of course we're seeing that being adopted now by canadian tire and selling it at their stores, Petro Canada's doing it cut back on the lot in their province. And you bought two activists closer to that a BC. So it's becoming an accepted practice. And the federal government is looking for another 5000 such stations on major highways in Canada. So I think that the the best strategy to promote EV growth is an extensive network of EV fast charging stations across the line. Because private static charging be largely done at home or at work. And so it's when you mentioned the longer trips that you need that assurance.


Dan Seguin  18:57

At least 1/3 of Canadians live in a multi unit residential building today. And that number is not likely to decline. Increasingly, the residential real estate industry is moving towards multi tenant construction. In Canada, two out of three homes built today are multifamily. In Ontario alone, nearly 700,000 households live in condos. Are there solutions for Canadians discouraged from buying electric vehicles because they have no easy means of charging them either in condominiums in apartment buildings or homes that lack a driveway or even a garage.


Al Cormier  19:41

Yeah, yeah, all of these things are being looked at. And as I mentioned for condominiums, there are technical solutions out there. A lot of companies will come in and set up a charging system in the condo manager and so on so forth. And electric utilities are good on how to deal with condos, assess the condo electrical system capacity and come up with an easy process for the EV owner, the condo to buy and use and charge and EV. It gets complicated because when you buy a condo in the building, you're assigned a parking spot, typically underground or on this side parking lot. And that parking spot is tied by law to your suite. So you can't say move your car to a parking spot near the electrical panel. So you have to run power to the car parking spot. But it's not insurmountable, not all that expensive. So the condo solutions are there. There are companies promoting and assisting condos to do that. They are legislation in some provinces encouraging or requiring condo boards to collaborate and help out. And then we have the other issues and older parts of cities we have people that have cars that park on the street, no driveways, no garages, Some out of Montreal, some out of vancouver, even parts of Toronto, and probably even parts of downtown Ottawa as well. And in those areas they are technology where a charger can be placed on the sidewalk or next to the sidewalk on the street side of the sidewalk so to speak. And people can charge then pay for their electricity depends on the parking arrangement on the street.


Dan Seguin  21:36

Do you believe that EV adoption is directly tied to provincial or federal financial incentives for EV buyers?


Al Cormier  21:44

very strongly tied? Yeah, we saw that in Ontario when they stop incentives. In 2018, the sales dropped by about 40%. So because EVs at this point in time costs more than regular car. These incentives help offset the cost difference. And that's the same with any new technology. As the sales volume go up and production levels increase, the per unit cost will go down. And there are strong predictions that perhaps in five years or less electric cars will charge costs the same as an ordinary car as a gasoline engine car. So these incentives are important in the meantime, to help offset the cost difference. And we clearly see the evidence of where they exist. sales go up where they don't sell. So then


Dan Seguin  22:44

do you think the electric highway will move the needle?


Al Cormier  22:49

Very much so like the electric highway? I guess the term really means highways, we're charging stations along the road so people can travel with the worries of running short of electricity. Yes, it's that's why the major companies like Suncor, Canadian tire and others are investing the government's investing in those facilities along the highways. And that is we'll remove the constraint from the viewers the range anxiety, they're afraid that they'll very rarely choose they get out of town. So the electric highway is very much important. And it is moving the needle already.


Dan Seguin  23:39

Here's a good one for you out. What's your view on the role municipalities play in the electrification of transit


Al Cormier  23:49

well transit across Canada are a municipal responsibility. And of course the municipalities buys the buses or light rail or whatever, or all the rail systems in Canada are already electric, so there's no worries there. And new ones being planned are also coming electric. But on the bus side. The emissions from diesel engine buses is not insignificant. And then major transit hubs like Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal, you have a lot of densities of buses, the city centers that are contributing significantly to pollution. So it's incumbent upon all municipalities to look at alternative technologies. They are hydrogen buses being developed. But that's a little bit down the road. We already have the electric buses we have to two companies, three companies making electric buses and Canada. One making electric school buses as well. So we have a lot transit system buying electric buses and trying it out. And the success rate so far has been quite good. The federal government is hoping to see the end of diesel engine buses in the near future. And a total switch to electric buses, that we encourage that so municipalities obviously have to go along with this thing and plan accordingly. And the funding levels from provinces in federal government, or the purchase of transit buses have to change to accommodate electric buses as well.


Dan Seguin  25:39

Can you talk to me about the EV 2020 conference coming up?


Al Cormier  25:43

Yeah, that would be our 11th annual National Conference taking place in Mississauga at the end of April. And we're already very actively involved in developing the program for the conference. And it's the place to be if you want to talk about automotive learn what's happening is electric mobility technologies, policies, etc. Or what's coming down the road. We have about 500 people from across the country that attend these things, marvelous exchange of information, strategies and policies, particularly among the municipalities and utilities that don't compete with each other. We even have exchange within industry members, some are competing with each other, but they collaborate. And we have speakers coming from universities, research centers, industry members be talking about I would say 1520 major project types dealing with policies, dealing with technology, dealing with trends, and we'll have 15 technical sessions, but about 45 to 50 speakers, seven or eight major plenary sessions, a trade show, where you see the latest and the greatest. So it's the place to be out.


Dan Seguin  27:16

Thank you for joining me today. If someone wanted to reach out to you and connect, what should they be doing?


Al Cormier  27:23

Well then go to our website, or just click Electric Mobility Canada and they'll take us to our website, lots of information there. Or anyone can call me 416-970-9242.


Dan Seguin  27:41

Again, thank you very much. I hope you had a lot of fun. Cheers. You're welcome that thank you for joining us today. I truly hope you enjoyed this episode of The think energy podcast. For past episodes, make sure you visit our website hydro backslash podcast. Lastly, if you found value in this podcast, be sure to subscribe. Anyway, this podcast is a wrap. Cheers, everyone.