When a huge storm knocked out hydroelectric power in many parts of Ontario and Quebec in May, not only were many electric vehicle (EV) owners able to continue driving, they also weren’t been left in the dark.
Raymond Leury, president of the Electric Vehicle Council of Ottawa, a non-profit organization that promotes the adoption of electric vehicles, has not heard of any electric vehicle owners being left dry, even though many residents of Ottawa area lost power for over 10 years. days.
Leury thinks this can largely be attributed to the different mindset of electric vehicle owners. “Typically, you plug in your EV when you get home in the evening, so it’s still at a high charge rate in the morning,” he says. “You always start each day with a full charge.”
It’s different from gas-powered car owners, who might park their car with a quarter tank, assuming they can get to a gas station when they need to. Leury notes that gas pumps also need electricity to operate. As a result, many gas stations just outside the blackout zone had long queues. Some even ran out of gas. “Really, you’re more advanced with an EV when the power is off.”
Ottawa-area resident Mike Banks had a 60% charge on his Hyundai Ioniq 5 when the storm hit. It is one of the few electric vehicles capable of using the car battery to charge electrical devices. Banks ran an extension cord from his Ioniq 5 through the window of his house, into the kitchen and plugged in his fridge and some lights.
Banks has the Ioniq 5 top trim, with an additional socket integrated between the rear seats. When he saw that his neighbor across the street was also without power, Banks offered him some juice from the car. They ran a second extension cord across the street and plugged in the neighbor’s refrigerator. “I ran it for a day and a half, my house and his house, keeping everything on,” Banks says.
When power to his area returned after 36 hours, he charged his car to 80% and drove his in-laws through town, which still had no power. He hooked up the car to their refrigerators, a freezer, and lights. “I left it there for 10 days, and when I got it back it still had a 60% charge,” Banks said with a laugh. “Refrigerators and lights use minimal energy.”
When the lights went out at Monique Beaulieu’s in Whitby, Ontario, she wasn’t worried. After all, she had her 2018 Hyundai Ioniq plugged in overnight and fully charged. As soon as power returned after 10 a.m., she offered her Level 2 home charger to other EV owners on an EV owners Facebook group.
“Nobody took me up on the offer,” says Beaulieu. It even added its charger to PlugShare, an EV charging locator app, which allows owners to list their home charging stations. But even then, she had no customers.
She found it ironic when, shortly after the power went out, a few friends teased her. “They had no electricity and they thought I was stuck,” Beaulieu recalls. “But the truth was the other way around. I was fine and able to move around. They couldn’t find a gas station to fill up their car’s gas tank.
According to Dan Wheeler, a representative of California-based electric vehicle tracking app PlugShare, during the devastating Texas blackout of February 2021, which lasted more than two weeks, less than 6% of electric vehicle owners n couldn’t drive because of the breakdown. Many had already recharged their vehicle’s batteries in anticipation of the storm, and a few had a battery energy storage system at home, such as a Tesla Powerwall.
Others said they used their electric vehicle to charge various devices, such as an internet router, and some even used their car as a warm place to sleep, not worrying about carbon monoxide fumes.
Wheeler reports that a June 2022 study, which surveyed 6,999 electric vehicle drivers in Canada, found that 6% had solar panels, while 3.5% had battery energy storage systems. “We think this can be heavily pegged to EV drivers, who want to be prepared for a power outage,” he says. Wheeler has even heard rumors of EV owners building their own household electric walls from recycled e-scooter batteries.
Home energy storage systems are tentatively becoming a reality, such as Alectra Inc.’s Powerhouse Hybrid pilot project. In the town of Markham, which is a project partner with Enbridge Inc. and Toronto Metropolitan University, 10 homes have been fitted with an underground battery which is charged by solar panels on the roof. Each home is a micro-grid and part of a system that allows Alectra to distribute energy more efficiently between participating homes, re-power the main grid in the event of a surplus, or operate independently of the main grid in the event of an outage. current.
“Powerhouse Hybrid’s primary goal is to reduce greenhouse gases, but it provides more protection against outages, not just for the home, [but also for] electric vehicles,” said Neetika Sathe, Vice President of Alectra’s Green Energy and Technology Centre.
The pilot project was funded by various government grants. During the power outage in May, Powerhouse Hybrid participants said they had peace of mind knowing they could keep their food cold, their phones running and their electric vehicles charged.
Although the project hasn’t advanced to the point where owners could list their home chargers for the public to share during an outage, Sathe thinks it could happen. “I’m a strong believer in a shared economy,” she says. During the storm, she offered her neighbors the ability to use her home charger and generator to keep their home running smoothly.
Sathe sees energy sharing not only as an opportunity for people to list their chargers, but also to earn environmental points (Alectra had a program where you could collect environmental points and exchange them for goods and services with merchants participating premises) or money. “I get goosebumps just thinking about it, because it’s the right thing to do intuitively.”
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