Hospitals and health care networks send a message: EVs save lives
Jun 18, 2020
Kent Waddington

Green health care coalition ZEV-awareness partnership is helping Canadian health care campuses add EV infrastructure — as new data quantifies health and social benefits of electric transport

Green health care coalition ZEV-awareness partnership is helping Canadian health care campuses add electric vehicle infrastructure — as new data quantifies health and social benefits of electric transport

There’s good news on the health care front as Canada moves toward a more environmentally friendly transportation network.

A recent Canadian Coalition for Green Health Care study of Canadian hospitals found that 76 per cent of responding hospitals have installed electric vehicle charging stations and 26 per cent have preferred parking for low-emission vehicles.

This growing network of zero-emission electric vehicle charging stations on health care campuses reflects increasing recognition among health care leaders of the opportunities and benefits inherent in transport electrification — benefits quantified in a report released this month by the University of Toronto’s Transportation and Air Quality Research Group, the Ontario Public Health Association (OPHA), and Environmental Defence.

According to that research, if all cars and SUVs in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area were electric, it would prevent 313 premature deaths annually and provide $2.4 billion per year in social benefits. Electrifying all public transit buses would prevent an additional 143 premature deaths per year.

Given results like that, it’s no wonder health care organizations are embracing the transition to EVs. Their experiences are also a helpful guide for those still catching on.

Benefits and goals

Along with the health and social benefits, a sound transport electrification plan can help health care organizations achieve the following goals:

  • reduce their ecological footprint
  • bolster corporate sustainability
  • enhance perceived “brand” in the community and among current and potential employees
  • increase employee satisfaction which often leads to improved employee retention.

Nationally, according to Clean Energy Canada, the transportation sector is currently responsible for 23 per cent of Canada’s GHG emissions and offers tremendous opportunities for significant emissions reduction. Helping achieve those reductions by promoting the use of zero-emission vehicles among health care workers is seen by the Coalition as a way in which the health care sector can show leadership in reducing GHGs. 

In January 2020, the Coalition introduced the Zero-Emissions Vehicle Awareness Initiative (the ZEV Project). Working with seven partner organizations — Plug’n Drive, Toronto’s University Health Network, Sunnybrook Health Sciences, DCL Healthcare Properties, the Canadian Healthcare Engineering Society (National and Ontario chapters) and the Canadian College of Health Leaders — the team set out to increase the sector’s understanding and capacity with regards to charging infrastructure and to provide resources to assist those working to introduce electrification in their organizations. 

Changing the mindset

According to Dr. Pascal Gillrich, a Nova Scotia native and vocal ZEV champion, “Many hospitals in this country are in the dark ages when it comes to the adoption of ZEV technology. Changing the mindset in the health care community will take time but at the end of the day, it just makes sense. All of us in health care have a responsibility to engage senior leaders, together with our friend and colleagues, in the conversation and urge the opening of minds.”

Gellrich encourages everyone to step out of their conventional gasoline-fueled comfort zone and investigate ZEV technologies.  

Saleh Daei, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre’s manager of energy and sustainability knows a thing or two about installing chargers in a health care setting. Since 2017, Daei has been helping to orchestrate the growth of Sunnybrook’s charger network — with 24 chargers currently in use and 20 more planned when funding is available.  

Daei cautions organizations to do their homework by confirming sufficient consumer demand and the presence of adequate facility infrastructure to support the chargers and draw on the power grid.

“You might find yourself digging up pavement, and needing to install electrical infrastructure such as transformers, power panels and heavy-duty wiring. The chargers themselves are only part of the total cost. And don’t forget to plan for the human behavioural element, maintenance program as well as an ongoing awareness campaign.” 

Cost breakdowns

The ten Level 2 dual charger units recently installed at Sunnybrook for staff use, using funds from Ontario’s Workplace Electric Vehicle Charging Incentive Program, cost $67,000. That represented approximately 30 per cent of total project cost, which also included $24,000 in design fees and $110,000 in installation and infrastructure upgrade charges. 

Similarly, in downtown Toronto, University Health Network has taken on its own EV charger installation projects. For Phase One, Tesla donated 36 charging stations for the Toronto General and Toronto Western hospital sites. The charging stations can accommodate all types of EVs and are available in both staff and visitor parking areas at no cost other than regular parking fees.

UHN’s energy steward Lisa Vanlint worked closely with parking management, business operations, security, facilities management, IT, Infection Prevention and Control, and the Tesla Destination Charging Program to make the project a reality.

“We in Energy & Environment covered the extras such as painting the zones green and installing electricity submeters to track the energy impacts and operational costs” says Vanlint. “Funds saved from other energy conservation projects were committed to the EV project because we felt this was a very effective way to bring down greenhouse gas emissions.”

Written policies key

Sparked by requests from physicians, Phase Two was initiated and involved the installation of six additional donated Tesla chargers in a Toronto Western Hospital parkade.

Vanlint advises organizations to develop a sound written policy to govern electric vehicle charging stations which should include a clear articulation of fees (if any), consequences of inappropriate use by non-EVs, length of permitted charging time and common charging courtesies. 

While retrofitting a charger network into an existing health facility can bring unexpected challenges, designing a new build also brings challenges and frustrations, says Frank Deluca, chief imagineer at DCL Healthcare Properties, developers of an innovative green medical arts centre in Niagara Falls, Ont., with a focus on being both environmentally and economically sustainable.

Says Deluca: “[The new centre] was designed to conserve natural resources and have a low carbon footprint with electric car chargers seamlessly integrated as part of the project. However, the chargers certainly posed a challenge for us.

“More confusion than frustration” says Deluca. “Revelation number one was that not all public charging stations are the same. Some are free, some are not. Some charge much faster than others. And of course, most importantly, different electric cars need different types of charging ports.”

Weighing options

To incent EV buy-in, Deluca favoured offering free charging but he had to be fiscally responsible at the same time. He considered contracting with one of the many third-party North American EV charger firms that would install/manage/operate the network. He and his team debated for weeks over whether to buy or lease equipment, and both the types of chargers and the brand names to install. 

At the end of the day, the design team opted to rough-in 15 charging station locations with five servicing the general public and 10 for tenants of the building. A fee will not be levied for use of the chargers and tenants will be able to choose the type and brand of charger they require. 

Deluca suggests health care organizations determine answers to eight basic questions before venturing too far down the path to EV charger installation:

  1. How many charging stations do you want on your site?
  2. Who will own them? Organization, developer or third-party operator?
  3. How many will be Tesla and how many will be generic?
  4. Will they be Level Two or Level Three chargers? Remember that costs go up as does charge speed.
  5. Is charger use going to be free or will there be a charge?
  6. Who will own or manage the chargers; the organization or a third-party company? 
  7. Who will be responsible for repair and replacement and how will these costs be factored into the plan?
  8. How do you control the length of time an EV occupies the charging station?

Moving forward

Dr. Gellrich believes the health services sector must do more to help accelerate the adoption of electric vehicle technology. He says that just the mere presence of ZEV charging stations in hospital locations can help raise awareness in the minds of the general public and sway public opinion in favour of electric over gasoline-powered vehicles. “People see the chargers, they get curious, and hopefully they get engaged,” he says.

“Electric vehicle charging stations are a visible demonstration of an employer’s commitment to sustainable business practices,” adds Cara Clairman, president and CEO of Plug’n Drive. “The biggest barrier to more widespread adoption of EV technology and the associated charging grid is the lack of understanding about the significant environmental and economic benefits of using electricity instead of fossil fuels.”

The ZEV Project website is updated regularly. Resources include leader profiles and fact sheets on such things as equipment selection, charging cost considerations and the benefits of workplace charging. All materials are available for free download. While many have a health care focus, all contain valuable information for those in other sectors and geographic locations wishing to embrace electrification of their organization. 

The time has come for Canada’s health services sector to put new meaning to the words primum non nocere — first, do no harm. 

Kent Waddington is the Communications Director and a co-founder of the Canadian Coalition for Green Health Care.

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