Electric Cars and Hybrid Vehicles

In 2016, the province of Ontario released its Five Year Climate Change Action Plan 2016-2020. The Plan outlines initiatives to help Ontario to fight climate change over the long term.  One initiative within the report focuses on the use of electric vehicles (EVs).  The transportation sector is the largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions in Ontario.  Since electricity is the cleanest form of energy in Ontario (greatly due to the elimination of coal electricity production in 2014), the province is issuing incentives to promote the purchase and use of EVs.  The incentive program, ending in 2020, offers up to $14,000 in incentives for the purchase of an EV, and up to $1000 for the cost of home charging stations.

There are two types of EV’s, battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHVs). BEVs operate on 100% electricity, and PHVs operate using electricity and switch to gasoline once the electric charge has been depleted.

BEVs are simpler than internal combustion engine powered vehicles, and should cost less to maintain. There is no cooling system, exhaust system, or gearbox and the body can be designed differently because of the absence of so much equipment. The brakes and steering are electrically controlled instead of using hydraulics. All of these qualities make BEVs a desirable vehicle option; however BEVs are not without challenges.

The largest of these challenges is having enough energy to travel a reasonable distance between ‘refills’ (charges), also referred to as “range anxiety.” The BEVs available in 2017 in Canada range from 100 to 435 km per charge. This can cause anxiety when traveling longer distances. In 2017, the Province of Ontario invested $20 million to create a network of charging stations across major highways in Ontario to allow for practical inter-city travel.

An alternative to the BEV is the PHV. The PHV eliminates range anxiety by having the ability to travel using gasoline once the electric battery is depleted. This allows users to use battery power for day-to-day driving, and the use of the gasoline engine for longer trips.

Companies that have integrated EV’s into their product offerings include Audi, BMW, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Ford, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Porsche, Tesla, Volkswagen and Volvo.

To see a listing of electric vehicle charging stations – CAA Map of Charging Stations

For more information and new updates on Electric Vehicles – Plug’ n Drive

Another lower emission vehicle option is the hybrid-electric vehicle (HEV). HEVs use a combination of two motors: an electric motor and one that is gas-powered. The combination of the two motors makes HEVs desirable because while the gas engine retains the familiar convenience offered by gas-powered vehicles, the electric motor increases efficiency and lowers the amount of emissions produced compared to a vehicle with a gas motor. The battery in a HEV charges by storing kinetic energy, which differs from a PHV which must plug-in to charge the battery.

“Full” HEV’s such as the Toyota Prius and Ford Escape hybrid do not burn gas while stopped or moving at low speeds. They have an improved fuel economy of up to 50% (compared to an equivalent non-hybrid model). “Mild” hybrids, on the other hand, require the use of the gas motor as they start up, but do not burn gas while stopped. These HEVs improve the fuel economy 10-15%. Examples of mild hybrids include hybrids built by Honda, and GM hybrid pick-up trucks.

Some of the technologies used by HEVs include:

  • Regenerative braking: charges the battery by storing kinetic energy as the vehicle decelerates.
  • Electric motor assist: assists in acceleration/hill climbing where extra power is temporarily needed, and allows the gas engine to shutoff when the vehicle is traveling at lower speeds.
  • Automatic start/shutoff: allows the engine to automatically shut off when the vehicle comes to a halt (it automatically turns on again as the vehicle begins to accelerate), thereby preventing greenhouse gas emissions in idle traffic.

HEVs also tend to be made of lighter materials to maximize fuel economy and feature designs like low-rolling resistance tires that reduce drag.

Companies that have integrated HEVs into their product offerings include Acura, Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Ford, GMC, Honda, Hyundai, Infinity, Kia, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Toyota and Volkswagen.

Related Links:

Canada’s Electric Vehicle Technology Road Map – http://www.evtrm.gc.ca/index_e.html

Electric Mobility Canada – http://www.emc-mec.ca

Plug’ n Drive Ontario –http://www.plugndriveontario.ca/

CAA EV Charger Station Locator Map – http://www.caa.ca/evstations/

Electric Vehicle Explorer Tool – http://gis.its.ucdavis.edu/evexplorer/