Brendan McEwen – Director, Electric Mobility & Low Carbon Strategies, AES Engineering Ltd.

Over the next two decades, Canadian cities will experience a profound transition from transportation systems dominated by personal vehicles with combustion engines to electric mobility systems. “Electric mobility” encompasses personal electric vehicles (EVs), electric transit, e-bikes, car-sharing, ride-hailing, ride-sharing, and perhaps one day, autonomous robo-taxis.  Parking professionals have a crucial role to play in speeding the transition to electric mobility, realizing the benefits that it can provide to their communities and to parking authorities’ bottom line.

The transition to electric mobility will provide financial, safety and quality of life benefits for all members of our community. Depending on where you are in Canada, EVs typically cost 65% to 80% less to fuel than comparable internal combustion vehicles. Likewise, Consumer Reports recently published data confirming that EVs have half the maintenance cost of conventional vehicles. All told, Canada’s 2 Degrees Institute estimates that the average Canadian EV driver will save $27,000 in fuel and maintenance costs over a 10-year operating life.

EVs still currently have higher initial costs than conventional vehicles, due to the cost of batteries.  However, battery costs are declining rapidly – industry average lithium-ion battery costs have reduced from approximately $1200/kWh of battery capacity in 2010, to $156/kWh in 2019. Average battery costs are projected to decline to $100/kWh by about 2024, at which point there will be no price premium for EVs. Indeed, Elon Musk recently described how Tesla can achieve costs of approximately $65/kWh in the next three years. Given the improvements in battery technology and manufacturing, sources as diverse as the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers Association, International Council on Clean Transportation, and Bloomberg New Energy Finance agree that battery cost reductions will mean that long-range EVs will reach cost parity with conventional vehicles by the mid-2020s and have lower purchasing costs thereafter.  At that point, for any new vehicle purchase, there will be no reason not to choose an EV – unless a driver has no access to convenient charging.

The switch to electric mobility will also realize improved public health and is critical to meeting Canada’s greenhouse gas reduction commitments.  A 2019 study from George Washington University and University of Colorado provides the most up-to-date science on the toll of transportation air pollution for countries around the world. Its findings include that particulate matter and ozone from our vehicles kill 1,400 Canadians every year (presumably disproportionately affecting those who regularly work in parkades!) and result in $12 billion worth of health damages – approximately 0.70% of Canada’s gross national income.  Electric transportation eliminates tailpipe emissions.

Moreover, even accounting for the manufacturing of batteries and vehicle disposal, EVs release far fewer GHG emissions than comparable conventional vehicles. On relatively clean electrical grids like those in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba, EVs already reduce GHG emissions by 80% to 90% relative to conventional gasoline vehicles.  In provinces like Alberta or Saskatchewan that are rapidly cleaning their grids, EVs continue to release fewer and fewer GHG emissions than conventional vehicles as they become more environmentally friendly.

How to Speed the Transition and Maximize Value for Parking Authorities

To remain competitive and maximize value, parking authorities must think about how to future-proof their EV charging infrastructure installations to ensure they will cost-effectively accommodate the rapid expansion of EV charging. Parking authorities must:

  • Understand how parking may be used over the next two decades for residential, workplace, visitor, and other applications.
  • Understand how long vehicles will be parked in any given facility or street, and the associated amount of electrical power required to provide a good quality charging service. Longer dwell times mean that lower levels of power can deliver adequate energy to recharge vehicles.  For example, workplace parking can provide a slow rate of charge over time, while shorter term visitor parking benefits from more costly faster charging. EV energy management systems can be leveraged to provide the right balance between cost and performance.
  • Design future-proofed electrical retrofits that will readily scale to meet future EV charging demand.  This involves maximizing the available electrical capacity in existing facilities through the use of EV energy management to provide more vehicles with charging while ensuring renovated electrical systems are sized appropriately to avoid stranded assets when the amount of charging is expanded.

Additionally, parking assets must better integrate with other emerging modes of electric transportation while providing improved amenities for the communities and customers they serve.  For example, considering how to integrate attractive amenities for ride-hailing (e.g. Uber, Lyft) drivers and their customers, along with fast charging infrastructure, will be critical to adapting parking management for these growing transportation nodes.

Only by understanding today’s transportation industry trends and preparing for the rapidly evolving electric mobility revolution can parking authorities set themselves up to navigate the demands of the future and help build a cleaner, electrified world.

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