The final instalment in our “New to EVs?” series highlights the growing number of made-in-Canada EV innovations — from QR-code charging outlets to a buddy network for new EV drivers — that are helping to make the EV driving experience and our EV ecosystem more complete
Every year, there are more bright ideas and innovations molding the EV market and EV driving experience in Canada — many of them homegrown.
Seven years ago, Canada began a historic investment to increase charging infrastructure and make EVs more affordable that now exceeds $1 billion. Since that time, ZEV registration has steadily increased across the country — hitting an all-time record in the first quarter of 2022.
Along the way, companies, municipalities and pioneering individuals have strived to make transportation electrification easier for businesses and individuals. Beyond EVs themselves, these innovations are helping to define the Canadian EV driving experience.
To help get you up to speed, Electric Autonomy Canada compiled the following sampling of eight such ideas, applications and policies worth knowing about.
EV parking everywhere (almost)
Last summer, Vancouver approved a bylaw that requires all new hotels and non-residential buildings built after June 2022 to have EV parking and charging infrastructure in place. Hotel parking lots are required to have all of their stalls equipped for EVs, and non-residential buildings must have 45 per cent of their parking lots ready for EVs. The policy is part of Vancouver’s “Climate Emergency Action Plan” which aims to have 50 per cent of travel on the city’s roads be zero-emission by 2030.
In an interview with Electric Autonomy Canada, Ian Neville, senior sustainability specialist at the City of Vancouver, said the city was “the first to do it” in Canada.
Vancouver is also the headquarters of Plugzio, maker of a “micro-utility platform” incorporated into an EV-customized electrical outlet. Accessible through a QR code and mobile app, it’s a tool that parking operators the world over are learning to love.
Although Plugzio looks and physically operates like a regular outlet, when you go to plug in there is a QR code on the face of the outlet that takes customers to an app where they can track their EV’s charging specs. Rather than spending thousands of dollars to retrofit a parkade with new EV chargers, operators use these outlets for easy installation in popular public parking locations because it charges with “scalable low power solutions” (ie. a regular outlet). Founded in 2016, Plugzio is already being used in over 20 cities including Victoria, Los Angeles, and New Delhi.
EV info on “The Rock”
As far as Jon Seary and his family are aware, theirs was the first EV-only household in Newfoundland and Labrador when they made the switch in 2016. Lack of education is consistently a barrier for people to transition to EVs, and Seary always dreamed of sharing his love of electric vehicles with a wider audience.
In 2018, Seary and his business partner Joe Butler launched Drive Electric NL online — an EV resource hub for information regarding price, charging and range for folks in Newfoundland and Labrador. The website has a large following online, but, with the help of federal government funding, Drive Electric NL opened its first physical location in St. John’s in April.
SARIT hitting the streets
In June, Canadian businessman Frank Stronach, founder of the auto parts and vehicle assembly giant Magna International, partnered with York University to develop and manufacture a vehicle called SARIT (Safe, Affordable, Reliable, Innovative Transit) in an Aurora, Ont., factory.
It’s essentially a combination of an e-bike and a golf cart.
SARIT, which is expected to retail between $6,000 and $7,000, is a single-seat electric vehicle with a trunk for luggage and has a range of 100 kilometres. With a max speed of just over 30 km per hour, it can be used in bike lanes. Stronach views it as a tool that will alleviate congestion in downtown streets and become the future of micro-mobility.
The first 10,000 to 20,000 SARIT vehicles are expected to be delivered by the end of 2022.
Converting light-duty vehicles with a kit
Ecotuned is a Quebec-based company that, more than a decade ago, pioneered the development of a conversion kit to electrify combustion-powered light and medium-duty vehicles including trucks, vans, and small buses. The kit, the first universal and reusable one of its kind, consists of a transmission, drive train, and battery system that is developed and manufactured in Canada.
Last year, in a testament to the technology’s value, school bus manufacturer Micro Bird (a joint venture between U.S. school bus manufacturer Blue Bird and Canadian bus distributor Girardin) bought a controlling interest in Ecotuned with the hope of using its EV powertrain in their buses.
Using light poles as chargers
In Europe, light poles are used as a reliable source for EV charging. Vancouver is now in the feasibility process of replicating that model. The plan would see sockets installed on light poles across the city. The city hopes to pair the sockets with light poles connected to the 5G network and piggyback off the available excess energy. Residents would then bring their own removable cable to hook up to the pole and charge their EVs.
London retrofitted its first light pole with an EV socket at 200 volts in 2016. As with most urban centres across Canada, many London residents don’t have the ability to charge their EVs from home. This idea taps into an already strong power reserve — light poles — and makes it easy for drivers to charge locally.
Successful buddy network expansion
The Quebec Electric Vehicle Association’s Jumelage program is a peer-to-peer initiative that pairs an experienced EV driver with an interested individual. Jumelage began in 2015 but recently expanded its services to offer interested consumers a one-year paid mentorship deal.
The expansion is a key component to addressing education barriers in Quebec in a unique grassroots and community-minded way as new drivers will be able to ask questions and lean on experts in their inaugural year of owning an EV.
Canada: a Drive to Zero pacesetter
In 2019, Canada was the first country in the world to join the Drive to Zero program. The Drive to Zero pledge, which aims to grow the usage of zero-emission vehicles across the globe, partners manufacturers and governments together to speed up the process of developing and deploying zero-emission trucks, buses, and technology.
Drive to Zero hopes to make zero emission technology commercially viable by 2025 and dominant in specific vehicle segments worldwide in 2040.
While the pledge had the commitment of fleets, manufacturers and fuel suppliers in 2019, Canada’s enlistment broke new ground for national governments. Since then, 19 other countries have followed suit and signed the pledge — including China, Finland, and the United Kingdom.