8 min read

Canadians are Ready for EVs - Are Our Power Grids Ready?

As the sales of electric vehicles grow year over year the demand for the power to charge these vehicles is growing at the same pace. Are our power companies ready? Canadian electrical companies are making strides to ensure when the time comes for everyone to have their own EV, that they plug into their homes to charge, our electrical grids are capable of withstanding the extended demand.

Electric Vehicles Integration in the Grid

Electric vehicle users charging their vehicles at home will put enormous strain on a power system that is, in many cases, unprepared. Meanwhile, the number of individuals charging at public stations may soon outnumber the number of available places, putting additional strain on the grid. According to a Concordia University researcher working on vehicle charging protocols to maximize energy consumption, existing uncontrolled charging might result in a power outage if millions of these vehicles charge simultaneously.

According to a study, new zero-emissions vehicle in Canada registrations rose to 4.9 percent of overall vehicle registrations in 2021, an increase of 89.2 percent over the same time in 2020. These figures are projected to rise as petrol prices rise again. The Canadian government has required that all new car sales be electric by 2040. The cost of electric vehicles is steadily falling due to improved technology, greater demand, and various generous provincial subsidies.

There are already 200,000 electric vehicles on Canadian roadways, but it is expected that by 2030, there will be half a million in Ontario and 635,000 in British Columbia. Between 2022 and 2040, Ontario's Independent Power System Operator forecasts a 15% yearly increase in electricity consumption, the equivalent of six months of nuclear reactor production.

Best Time to Charge your Vehicles?

According to Tanya Fish, a BC Hydro spokeswoman, charging an EV at 240 volts (Level 2) is akin to using an oven. According to Fish, there are already roughly 17,000 EVs on the road in British Columbia, with BC Hydro estimating that there will be roughly 350,000 by 2030. It is projected to add 1,050 gigatons of energy demand each year, which they have budgeted for and will supply.

EVs can be helpful in this circumstance, mainly because users frequently recharge in the evenings and nights when demand is lower. Vary from province to province, and the electricity maybe even cleaner since provinces such as Ontario may quickly bring natural-gas plants online to meet peak demand during the day. A Level 2 charger uses about the same power as a house. If every home had a vehicle and they were all charging simultaneously, we'd need to look at the location and the region effect to see whether any changes to the infrastructure are required.

How will this affect the grid?

It's impossible to say how this will affect the grid. According to Cara Clairman, it is debatable, like a good lawyer's answer. Clairman is the Chief executive officer of Plug'n Drive, an organization dedicated to encouraging the usage of electric vehicles. The impact will be determined by how rapidly EV adoption rises and, according to Clairman, where those EVs are driven and charged.

New restrictions will have an impact on this. By June 2022, 45 percent of all parking spaces in new non-residential buildings in Vancouver must have charging stations. The Nelsons' voltage problem isn't a concern in newer communities since practically every property has enough panels. However, it can occur in locations with older residences, such as Toronto or Winnipeg. According to Clairman, this is a good thing because it is not happening overnight. Hence the utilities can plan before the EVs cluster in the neighbourhoods.

A variety of pilot projects are being planned around the nation, with varying provincial and industry participation levels. Bidirectional charging, in which electric vehicles can discharge electricity from their batteries and send it back into the grid, is now being tested by Nova Scotia Power. However, the technology is still years away from commercialization. By next spring, a pilot initiative to establish 16 fast-charging stations at different locations all across Prairies will be completed—a start, but not enough to get Tesla owners in those provinces excited.

Intelligent charging, which uses Intelligence systems, data analytics, smartphone applications, and sensors to provide efficient, coordinated charging, might avert the cataclysmic future predicted by Concordia's El-Bayeh. Alectra, a utility serving Ontario's Golden Horseshoe, constructed several similar initiatives in preparation for the technological boom.

Grid Exchange, one of its newer programs, allows consumers with EVs, solar panels, or backup battery storage to swap energy with Alectra for cash and points payable at local businesses. If a neighbourhood experiences unexpected energy events—for example, many vehicles are charging simultaneously, or a severe storm—Alectra might suggest that consumers reroute, ramp up, or restrict their energy.

Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) Investigates

As electric vehicle adoption rates rise, many of Canada's electric grids will be impacted by the requirement to provide adequate electricity to power these cars. Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) initiated an initial round of public consultations to estimate the expected impact of high EVs on grids to understand the issues better and develop solutions.

The government requested written responses to the following questions from utility providers, system operators, energy service firms, and other power stakeholders.

  1. What are the effects of faster objectives for mandating all new cars sold to be zero-emissions on the power grid?
  2. Do you believe difficulties or opportunities will disproportionately impact some electrical consumer categories?
  3. How can the national government assist the electrical industry in accelerating the deployment of these vehicles?

The answers to the questions, which had a deadline, required empirical proof or research to back up statements and might include a wide range of related issues, difficulties, and possibilities.

According to the report, Canadian utilities and system operators must investigate and implement alternative load control techniques at the grid distribution system level.
The report also suggests that utilities thoroughly evaluate their transmission system design procedures and maybe adjust the conventional design guidelines to prepare for a higher load per consumer to vehicle charging.