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First of three Mitsubishi i-MiEV to be deployed in Vancouver, British Columbia
One of three Mitsubishi i-MiEV all-electric cars to be deployed in Vancouver, British Columbia. Photo courtesy of VEVA.

Pulling the Copper - Part II

Conclusion of two-part series on how VEVA volunteers are helping Vancouver, BC 'plug in'

By Don Chandler

PART ONE

Given the popularity of our team's achievements, others became interested in copying what we had done. Enquiries came from all over the continent. This led us to look into how others could copy what we had done, and we realized just how fortunate we were. The province had the foresight recently to introduce Bill 10 that extended the traditional scope of the building code to include sustainability and the reduction of GHGs as an objective in a new Part 10. This was key. Vancouver, as it turns out, is also unique in that it has its own charter which gives it authority to make regulations about building and electrical codes w.r.t. GHGs, normally the jurisdiction of provinces or states. This was also recently added to the Community Charter and Local Governance Act which now enables other municipalities in BC to follow suit.

Without this increase in scope, we could not have made the changes for EV charging infrastructure. The model National Building Code does not have this sustainability objective and so our changes would not be accepted in it. The model National Energy Code for Buildings is also restricted to energy conservation by the building itself, not the things that connect to it temporarily such as cars, so our changes would not be accepted there. Most provincial and state governments simply adopt these model codes so we found there were limited means to get our changes spread. Recently the province of Ontario passed a Clean Energy Act that does extend the scope of the building code to address not only conservation but also GHGs and clean air. Thus they should be able to copy our initiatives. Other provinces are rumoured to be working on such scope changes, but they might only copy the national code concepts of energy efficiency of the building and do not extend it to GHGs or clean air at this time, as far as we are aware. The electrical code objective remains restricted to safety, not climate change; it also traditionally looks only to the Building Codes for mandates.

Unfortunately, in 1867 our forefathers did not have a crystal ball to consider the environment, the air, or the impact of future oil exploitation in dividing up responsibilities between the federal and provincial governments. As a result, it is still unclear who has jurisdiction over the atmospheric environment and how to include it in the established legal structure. Some provinces (and states) are charging ahead defining strategies, laws and trading schemes to address global warming. The federal government is also claiming jurisdiction and is negotiating deals with international treaties such as Kyoto and Copenhagen. When they attempt to ratify these rights, the courts will eventually decide who has jurisdiction and someone will lose. This jurisdictional quagmire was at the heart of the EPA's rejection of CARBs EV initiative.

In the meantime we are left in a vacuum of jurisdictional mandates with few easy places to plug in our vehicles or our infrastructure initiatives. Alternative approaches may have to do, using other influence or incentives. Other approaches, such as zoning development approvals or covenants could also hinge on support for green initiatives, something that some forward-looking local jurisdictions are doing for their green initiatives. In fact, the city of Vancouver made requests of developers early in this process to put outlets in showcase developments already under construction for the Olympics. They also influenced other developments through zoning restrictions. Alternatively, incentives could be used, but they cost a lot of taxpayer dollars. In the end the car owners will pay, but more directly, as most all Canadians will be driving without oil in the future.

A similar situation exists south of the border with most states having jurisdiction over building codes. Each state tends to handle it differently, which makes it even more unwieldy to develop a national infrastructure for EVs.

When we started, we thought it would be a simple matter to pull the last few meters of copper needed, but instead it appears we will be pulling the plug on EVs until we rebuild our infrastructure, educate our grid to be smart, establish communications protocols between auto mobiles and the utility providers, update undersized ageing transformers and distribution equipment, allow public charging stations on our streets and in lamp posts, redefine or extend the jurisdictions established in our constitution and work cooperatively to a sustainable future.

Fortunately, there are efforts under way involving all the major players and connecting in to government departments and standards bodies, auto makers, and utilities that provide the power both locally and internationally. Interestingly, the Electric Vehicle Association of America was the first to develop electric standards for charging plugs in 1913 and volunteers still seem to have their hand in it. Automotive OEMs and utilities have the most to gain or lose and will likely lead the charge. Developers will have to pay initially and will likely complain until they realize the opportunity to differentiate their buildings.

Somewhat in parallel with this we considered public charging. Although most charging will be done at home overnight, range anxiety and street parking dictate that some public charging be made available. We suggested to the city that they identify existing power outlets in city owned parking lots that could be used for EV charging and simply put a sign on them. Many outlets exist now, typically for power washers. We also suggested this to the Parks Board. They have parking lots, street lights and community centres with available power. As a second step we suggested they look to where sufficient power existed nearby and could be extended to EV Charging outlets easily. This was the low cost approach. Both the city and the parks have approved this in principle and are exploring options and budgets for public charging infrastructure. Once the copper is in place it will be a simple matter to add signs and payment / management systems. Many players are already exploring this opportunity. Regulations governing land use and access to public lands for public charging managed by private vendors will also need to be developed.

Finally comes the challenge of retrofits and renovations. This will cost much more, and may require incentives, but at least our new construction will plan for the future.

Whatever unfolds, enthusiasts must not pull the plug on promoting EVs yet. There is still much work to be done and copper to pull. Much of this can be done by volunteers of small hobby clubs when they become involved in the local and national standards development processes. They also need to engage local government staff and leaders in cooperative efforts as VEVA has done. VEVA is a chapter of EAA. Other EAA chapters can approach their local governments and request by-law changes as we have done. Most cities will likely have to modify zoning or other construction by-laws rather than the building code. Whatever by-law is changed it must include the objective that enables it to regulate and it must refer to the applicable electrical code for implementation details. Provinces and states have the jurisdiction to change building code objectives to include sustainability and GHG reduction and to enable new regulations for EV infrastructure to be added.

Whenever a change of this complexity is requested, it requires supporting documentation. National model codes have standard change request forms that outline most of the information that policy decision makers require. This information can be assembled and provided by volunteers and EV enthusiasts. The more work that volunteers prepare and provide to policy makers, the easier their job is and the more likely it would be to gain acceptance. If you hand the policy makers the information they need on a silver platter, it goes a long way to build cooperation and the early adoption of EVs.

Typically the information that is needed to support a code or by-law change includes the following: 1) an explanation of which objective of the code or city plan is being addressed (GHGs, safety, health); 2) what the problem is (e.g. clarification, safety, new technology, compatibility with new products); 3) what the proposed solution is and the specific wording of a new regulation; 4) a solid justification with scientific analysis; 5) what the quantifiable benefit is such as tons of GHGs reduced; 6) what the energy savings are; 7) how it improves public health; 8) what the cost benefit is to the government; 9) how the new regulation can be enforced; 10) what alternative approaches could be used; and 11) who the key stakeholders are and what their level of support is. EV Infrastructure is often enforced through electrical inspections, but electrical inspectors are generally unconcerned with the building code or zoning by-laws so don't look for mandates from them. A simple by-law wording to state that: “Each (or x% of) parking space serving a residential occupancy shall have installed electric vehicle charging infrastructure in accordance with the electrical code” is sufficient. This one sentence can change the world.

Whatever information local organizations develop will help others if it is shared through publication. A small non-profit hobby organization can actually do a lot to promote EVs.

More information on the Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association.

Times Article Viewed: 4356
Published: 27-Nov-2009

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