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EV Circuit Newsletter

Last updated 2009.12.01

The EV Circuit was the newsletter of EVCO (the Electric Vehicle Council of Ottawa). The newsletter was published bi-monthly. A subscription to the EV Circuit was included in the cost of membership in EVCO.

Recent Items from the EV Circuit

Congrats to Canada!

By Fred Green

Three Canadian universities took part in the 1996 World Solar Challenge in Australia. SUNQUEST, from Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, finished 11th in the 3,010 km (1,870 mile) trip from Darwin to Adelaide race. SUNSTANG, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, placed 12th and NORTHERN SUN, from McGill University, Monteral, Quebec, was 26th.

In a competition of 57 solar-powered vehicles, that's a significant number of entries, -- and there were other Canadian contestants which were not able to get to Australia for the lack of finances. RALOS, University of Ottawa was one of these.

It is interesting to consider that the large auto companies, with lots of financial backing to purchase any advantageous item have come in first in the past. General Motors, with the expertise of Paul McReady, and space grade solar cells, are reported to have spent $8.5 million U.S. on SUNRAYCER. This time Honda is said to have spent $10 million Australian ($7.9 million U.S.).

On the other hand, the Swiss team from the University of Biel, won the 1991 race with considerably less expense. Also, the citizens of Biel chipped in at least one Swiss Franc each to support their university team. Imagine how pleased that group of students must have been to know that the whole city was behind their efforts.

Don't Try Parking That Clean Air in My Town

by Darryl McMahon

My electric car is back on the road, ready to commute. A series of cuts to peak-hours bus service by OC Transpo between my neighbourhood and downtown Ottawa in the past year, with more announced for the end of June (and possibly again in September due to staff cuts), have forced me back to commuting by car after almost ten years of regularly riding the bus. Still, I was determined not to add to air and noise pollution as a result. So, I dug my old electric car out of the garage and got it roadworthy again.

Finding a parking space downtown with a plug, preferably for about the same cost as my old bus pass ($72 per month) turned out to be an interesting exercise. My commute is almost 20 km one way, and 40 km per day on a charge would be a significant portion of my expected range, especially in cold weather. Battery manufacturers indicate that battery life is shortened with deeper discharges. So, I want to be able to plug in for the nine hours or so each day while I am at work. While I knew some places provided block heater plugs for parked cars, I did not expect them to be common. And being a non-polluting electric car, I figured some places might be more receptive than others.

Walking around the building that houses my main client, I found a sign for monthly parking being available behind a small apartment building. I spoke with the owner, and he said the parking was $90 per month (including taxes), he had a couple of spaces with plugs, he would reserve one for my car, and would charge me separately for the electricity I would use ($7 per month). Reasonable, but not quite the $72 per month I was aiming for, so I thought I would see if I could do better.

I recall that some years ago the City of Ottawa published a "Green Plan" document that indicated it would set aside parking spaces, with plugs, for electric cars, as part of an attempt to encourage the use of low and zero-emission vehicles to reduce air pollution. So I call the City of Ottawa Parking authority, and asked where the electric car parking spaces were. They did not have any. However, they could provide me with a space in a garage about 3 blocks from my client's building for $120 per month, plus taxes. But because I wanted to plug my car in, they would have to set aside a space for my car with a gate and lock, and re-activate the outlet at that space, put a lock on it and a special meter to monitor my power consumption. (The outlets were already there; they were turned off because their customers were using them to plug in their block heaters, presumably the reason the plugs were there in the first place.) This would take some time, and it wasn't clear how much of this setup expense I would have to pay for, because this had never been done before. So, I could plug in my electric car in a City of Ottawa parking lot, but it would cost more than if I were parking a conventional gasoline-powered car. How's that for an incentive to drive a clean-air vehicle?

I called Ontario Hydro. They have a transformer substation a couple of blocks from my client's building, and there are often a couple of cars parked there just outside the gates without any visible permits. I figured we could arrange it so I could park my car there, with their authorization, and get a plug established to charge my car. After wading through their voice-mail system, I finally reached a human. The person I spoke with was surprised to find out that there were electric cars in existence, took my name and number and promised to get back to me. Unfortunately, I did not get their name, and I did not hear back from them. A week later I tried again, and this time I left a message for someone else explaining the situation. This person did get back to me about three days later, but they could not help me - if they provided a space for my electric car to park, they would have to do it for everyone with an electric car. Funny, I had not noticed the sudden explosion of electric cars in the Ottawa area in the intervening week. Incidentally, Ontario Hydro is a member of GEMCo - the Greenhouse Emissions Management Consortium - an organization which is dedicated to projects that reduce, avoid or absorb greenhouse gases, encouraging creativity and innovation and promoting local economic, social and community development. I would have thought that supporting the use of electric cars would have qualified within the GEMCo mandate.

I called Ottawa Hydro. In the early to mid-1980's, when I last commuted by electric car, I was able to park at one of Ottawa Hydro's substations and plug in during the day. That parking area has since disappeared, but perhaps there was something else. I was informed there was nothing they could offer me, though I still look longingly at the space behind the Ottawa Hydro building at the corner of Gloucester and Lyon streets, where Ottawa Hydro vehicles are often parked.

I called the regional municipality of Ottawa-Carleton, Environmental Services, just to see if they had a policy regarding zero-emission vehicles. They transferred me to the Transportation group. So far the person in Transportation for whom I left voice-mail has not returned my call. This was a long shot, as I believe the region does not provide any public parking spaces, and they run the public transit system that has forced me back into my car, but I didn't want them to feel left out.

The moral of the story appears to be, local government and the electric utilities want us to drive non-polluting electric vehicles, they just don't want us to park them.

Printing and distribution costs for the EV Circuit were paid by Econogics, Inc. for many years.

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