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Better Place Enters Electric Car Network Partnership with Ontario

15 January 2009

Better Place has entered a partnership with the government of Ontario to help bring an electric car network to the province and create a model for the adoption of electric cars in Canada. Ontario is one of North America’s largest car producing regions.

Better Place will establish its Canadian head office in Ontario, and build an electric vehicle demonstration and education center in Toronto to lay the groundwork to help get electric vehicles running on Ontario roads. The province has committed to conducting a comprehensive study which will look at ways to speed up the introduction and adoption of electric vehicles. The study is scheduled for release in May 2009. At the same time, Better Place will be developing an electric car charging network plan and timeline.

Under the Better Place model (earlier post), the company plans and installs a network of charge spots and battery exchange stations. Much like the mobile phone model, Better Place installs and operates the network of charging infrastructure, while leading auto manufacturers produce electric cars for the Better Place network. Better Place sources renewable energy to power the network, creating a zero emission solution from generation to grid to transportation.

Better Place provides the batteries to make owning an electric car affordable and convenient. Better Place will install charge spots in parking spaces at home, at work, and at retail locations, which enable the network to automatically top off the electric car. For distances longer than what most people drive in a given day, drivers will pull into battery exchange stations to swap a depleted battery for a fresh one.

Macquarie will partner with Better Place as financial advisor on developing a network rollout plan and investment timeline for Ontario.

The Better Place network of electric car charging infrastructure is built on open standards. One goal of the growing Better Place ecosystem, which includes The Renault-Nissan Alliance, is giving consumers a wide range of choices when it comes to vehicle make and model. The Japanese Ministry of the Environment also has invited Better Place and major Japanese carmakers to participate in a major electric car project there.

Better Place is working with partners to build its first standards-based networks in Israel, Denmark, Australia, California and Hawaii. Better Place will activate networks on a country-by-country basis with initial deployments beginning in 2010.

January 15, 2009 in Electric (Battery), Infrastructure | Permalink | Comments (25) | TrackBack (0)

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In theory, this seems like a good idea. Cars using less gas, jobs based on a new futuristic infrastructure model, electricity sources that are less carbon intensive... what could be better?
but we need to read the small print: 'cost per mile?', exclusivity contracts? subscription services?

Green is more than non-carbon, it is a lifestyle about non-profit, community building, self-empowerment, minimal costs, and choice. If we are paying 2-5x more to be able to have the freedom to use convenient and personalized transport, then we are not much further ahead at all. Travel throughout North America is based on the empowerment of the individual (and group of course) for roadtrips and far-flung family and friend get-togethers.

However, if these stations are about occasional convenience on top of cheap home-based and work-based powering, then I embrace the convenience and the 'first step' that this produces. But we must be vigilant. Companies tend to mask their true heavy-profit intentions under 'green' sheep's clothing.

Well Jer I agree with most of what you wrote, but "non-profit?"

Why?

There should be no reason you couldn't do something good AND make a ton of money.

@ ai_vin:

of course, it'll likely work out being part of the status-quo profit-driven world as we know it, faster and better than any other way, and that's fine...

- but truth be told, given the choice (which I obviously don't have) - i'm as anti-profit and left as you can go...

The profit motive is based on competition. Human beings and others perhaps, enjoy competing for some kind of reward. Without delving into the psyche - the profit monetary reward is little different than the Olympic swimmer who wins five gold medals. Success enhances their personal and communal lives.

So, within some reason, if we were to reject profitability - we should also reject competition. Which means gaming of all kind. Somehow I doubt that'll fly around here.

Project Better Place is an answer to a question no one asked... except politicians, possibly. It is an answer to: "How can I call a press conference, get some great publicity, look Green, and do absolutely nothing?"

Isn't that the aspirations for all Pols? Especially loony, lefty, Greens?

@Jer [and ignoring Stan]

Ah so you're a Red Green are you? Myself, I'm a Blue Green and a Bright Green; I guess that makes me a Cyan Environmentalist. ;^) lol

Ontario is just about the worse place for electric cars. It's -30 outside right now, which means that batteries have roughly 1/3 of their normal capacity. That doesn't leave a whole lot to move a car after clearing the windshield, heating the cabin and turning on the headlights.

I wonder what the "renewable energy source" will be. The local utility may be called Ontario Hydro, but it mostly runs on coal, nuclear and natural gas. We have some token windmills, but not enough to make a difference (1% of total capacity).

"The profit motive is based on competition."

Competition for dollars, maybe, but not necessarily between vendors. This sounds like a ploy for government controls, which means monopoly, not competition. Still profitable, maybe more so, but not necessarily better for the consumer.

@Bernard:

I think you can relax a little, sir. The following link documents Canadians in Ottowa roller blading in January of 2007. While this is an apparent result of global warming it should also rest your worries about EVs in formerly cold climates.

Er, here's the link:

http://www.archive.org/details/Roller_blading_in_january_inCanada_global_warming_07jan2007

I am happy to see Ontario getting ready for electric cars.

The "better place model" is a bit too much of a monopoly ... but it gets the job done.

And cleaning the electric grid with renewable power is a 'next step' that the plan will make possible.

@Bernard

In colder regions ICE cars come with a plug-in feature called a 'block heater.' For a BEV an alternative to block heaters would a battery warmer - after all, a BEV has to be plugged in when parked anyways.

Ontario may have a small capacity for renewables now but it has a huge resource for them. Biomass from local farms, wind(like that blowing across Lake Ontario) and even solar- http://www.optisolarfarms.ca/index.html -all it takes is time and will.

ai vin,

It takes time and will, but it also takes a long-term energy policy from the provincial government. That last bit is missing for now.

I am familiar with block heaters. The problem with that solution is that you would need to use them during cold winter days when the Ontario grid is already close to full capacity. That's when the dirtiest powerstations come online.

Wouldn't it make more sense to convert biomass into fuel that can be used in existing cars and trucks?

Indeed; here's a little something that shows the road blocks Ontario hydro puts in the way of renewables- http://www.cbc.ca/fifth/2008-2009/the_gospel_of_green/video.html -

As for 'cold winter days when the Ontario grid is already close to full capacity' yes that does happen but not all that much. Do you really want to go with a second best solution to energy in transportation based on something that's only a problem for [at most] 2-3 weeks a year? And only if we stay with the current grid and not upgrade it with more green energy? Electric cars and charging stations are only half of Better Place's plan, they also pledge to buy only clean energy - which promotes the installation of renewable energy capacity.

Yes, it would make more sense to convert biomass into fuel that can be used in existing cars and trucks *in the short term* but over time more and more of the existing cars and trucks will be replaced. Hopefully they will be replaced with EVs and then you can shift the biomass to producing electricity for the grid.

Biomass-to-electricity-to-BEV is more efficient than biomass-to-fuel-to-ICE.

Peak demand in Ontario is for a few hours in the evening, at which point they fire up combined cycle natural gas plants, then shut them down for the night. This is not dirty, and produces about half the GHG's of a regular coal power plant. This isn't ideal of course.

This Better Place plan may not be perfect, but it will help get electric cars out there, which will only be a good thing. I don't think it will be a long term viable way of handling electric cars, since in 5-10 years we may have electric cars with close to 1000 km range that can be charged in 15 minutes, and solar panels on every roof to slow charge your car. So it makes you wonder why someone would want to give up their economic freedom to buy into something like this, when the whole point of electric cars is to free people from the tyranny of the oil industry. But in the interim it works.

Natural gas is hardly renewable energy, in the short term. Plus natural gas is used to supplement coal plants that can not be brought online and offline as quickly.

Someone can chime-in with the maths, but I don't think that there is enough solar energy reaching the average Ontario roof to power a normal winter commute, even at a hypothetical 100% efficency. That same solar energy would go towards air conditioning during the summer months, so it may not be available to run your car.

My point in all this is that the Ontario government hasn't had a long-term energy plan since the 1960s, and putting out press releases about electrifying transportation is just a big exercise in diversion. They hope that the average voter will remember this type of story and not look at the books too closely.

A project like Better Place's may work for a small number of people living in downtown Toronto, but it's a non-starter for the vast majority of Ontarians. Even if the cars could be made to work in our climate (which is unlikely), the Ontario grid would not have the capacity to recharge them cleanly.

The Ontario government has not made plans to build more than a token amount of "green" electricity, so any dreams about having that electricity available within the next decade are misguided at best.

Bernard, maybe talk to the guys behind the Target Minus 50 program in Calgary. They want to reduce their "climate change" emissions to 50% 1990 levels over the next three years.

If they put their GHG fears aside an concentrate on converting municipal waste to methane and liquid fuels - they'd accomplish something. Add some wind and solar (at least in summer) and they'd make more progress. Likewise if Ontarians convert to NG-fired utilities and build a biomass gasification project - they might recharge their eventual population of EVs cleanly.

What is unneeded is a series of glorified AC outlets called "A Better Place."

Well I don't know of any solar homes in Ontario but I do know of one in Maine;
http://www.solarhouse.com/

It was built 14 years ago with the PV tech of the time. Keep in mind that not all of their roof has PV (its actually a mix of PV and water heater) because there was no benefit to them to producing more electricity than they used: Maine's net-metering rules deem that any excess power from the system has to be given back to the utility at no cost and any deficit has to be paid at the full retail rate. Had they owned an BEV they might have opted for more panels.

Their "home does not fear the winter snows. In fact, the colder it is, the clearer the skies" and winter also brings stronger winds so you'd get more wind energy if you've got a turbine. [The key word in 'wind chill' is "WIND"]

No matter what the energy storing technology, a
lighter weight vehicle will always get better range
than a heavier vehicle.

I have invented a way to make
cars more lightweight and yet safer.

Please see my website www.safersmallcars.com
and help me promote these ideas.

@Bernard - "Ontario is just about the worse place for electric cars. It's -30 outside right now, which means that batteries have roughly 1/3 of their normal capacity."

One more thing; while it is true lead acid batteries have this problem other batteries don't. EVs that use Li-ion actually need a cooling system for their battery housings in hot climes.

@ ai_vin
I was under the impression that all chemistries suffer from the Peukert effect as temperature declines.

Cooling of Li-ion, on the other hand, may be necessary due to it being susceptible to higher temperatures that could trigger a thermal runaway catastrophe.

In colder climes the installation of battery warmers is mandatory. If they aren't available then no amount battery insulation will protect a battery system from longterm exposure to extreme outside weather conditions.

Importantly the remote charging opportunities offered by Better Place also allow a place for batteries of electric vehicles to be maintained at around 15 deg C after they have completed charging.
T2

"I was under the impression that all chemistries suffer from the Peukert effect as temperature declines."

To some extent, yes, but the degree of the effect is different in each and for some batteries it will be so small that it's not a problem.

Also the effect only slows the chemical reactions in the battery, it does reduce the amount of energy stored in the battery[no matter now longterm the exposure to extreme outside weather conditions; and remember batteries also self discharge when not in use and this reaction is also slowed in cold weather so you batteries may keep their charge longer during longterm exposure to extreme outside weather conditions]. Once the battery warms up your at full power again.

This means if you've got a battery warmer you only need to run it for a couple of minutes before you get in and go, how long it stays warm will be due to the amount battery insulation. This means if your battery pack is big enough [ie: good for a few hours of use] you could even use the trickle of output from the pack itself and the cost in range of using the first couple of minutes is minor.

Finally, that some battery chemistries produce heat in use and need cooling means they'll be keeping themselves warm once you've driven a couple of kilometres.

I still can't charge my PHEV anywhere in Ontario - what's with the monumental leaps that won't go anywhere - give me a charge plug on the street damnit!

I take it partially back - I was responding to this article out of a radio news article talking about our premier encouraging Better place to set up neighbourhood "battery swap" depots - nothing about street level charging.

In Canada - my BEV would run dry every 2 hours in the dead of winter - so give me a plug for my PHEV - and you got my vote. Unless it cost a dollar for a kWhr - in that case - cya

2 points which may have already been mentioned.
The cold issue is in regards to lead acid batteries. Do not for a minute think that is the technology proposed. The new batteries and those coming shortly operate just fine to -20C (rare enough in Canada these days).
Secondly, Better Place brings partners which produce clean energy in the deal. Even if the source is coal powered, it is much easier to clean up a power plant than a million cars.
Lastly, bravo to your leader in Ontario. I am from Quebec where we have tons of electricity and yet your leaders are showing more vision than ours. We still use petrol based buses on Ste-Catherine street while Calgary (from the oil patch) uses electric trams.

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