Manitoba Hydro plugs into electric vehicles

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With electric cars soon to hit the local market, Manitoba Hydro is planning for its role as the 'filling station' of the future.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/05/2011 (4270 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

With electric cars soon to hit the local market, Manitoba Hydro is planning for its role as the ‘filling station’ of the future.

The Manitoba Crown corporation’s best guess is that within 20 years, the electrical load from zero-emission battery-powered electric vehicles will be 200 megawatts.

That’s the equivalent of the power that will be generated from Hydro’s new Wuskwatim dam, set to come on stream next year.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS, SOLT / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS A Nissan Leaf is fuelled up in a U.S. demonstration.

It assumes that tens of thousands of customers will be driving electric vehicles (EVs) by then.

Ian Page, who chairs Hydro’s EV steering committee, said Friday that the utility can easily absorb the extra demand. It now has a generating capacity above 5,000 megawatts and has plans to boost that to 7,000 MW.

Hydro is wrestling more with power distribution issues — what time vehicle owners will be plugging in, how that will affect peak load levels, where they will want to plug in their vehicles. The questions even include the effects on vehicles and customers of intermittent power supplied by plug-ins at public parkades and whether some stalls will have to be dedicated for EVs.

“Having to think about where you refuel your vehicle is going to be new for car buyers, so Manitoba Hydro wants to help make that transition as easy as possible,” Page said.

Will people be buying the vehicles? Hydro and the province seem to think so. On Friday, they signed a partnership agreement with Nissan Canada to promote the use of electric vehicles. It is the latest in a series of agreements they’ve signed with car companies and others to advance electric vehicles.

At current hydro rates, people can drive the new electric cars about to hit the Canadian market for the equivalent cost of 15 cents a litre, Page said. “That’s certainly going to make that transition a little easier for customers,” he said.

The sticker price for electric cars is still out of reach for many people. The Nissan Leaf, a medium-size hatchback that seats five adults, will retail for $38,395 to $40,995.

“My guess is we may have Leafs in Winnipeg about the same time that the first puck drops for the (city’s) NHL (team) this fall,” Nissan executive Ian Forsyth said with a sly smile on Friday.

Except you won’t go to the local dealership to buy them. Customers will have to go through an online education process first to make sure they are fully aware of what they’re buying, Forsyth said. Nissan doesn’t want a consumer backlash because people don’t understand they need to plug the vehicles in or that they can only travel 160 kilometres between plug-ins.

Energy Minister Dave Chomiak is a big believer in the future of electric vehicles. He said the province will buy a few to demonstrate their value. One day soon, he predicted, they’ll likely be the staple of the provincial fleet.

Electric vehicles will help reduce the province’s greenhouse gas emissions and bolster the economy by allowing Manitobans to replace imported fossil fuel with their own clean, renewable energy, Chomiak said.

“For every 20-cent (per litre) increase at the pumps, half a billion dollars leaves this province,” he said.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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