Hyundai’s recent surprise announcement that it would bring its hydrogen-powered Tucson fuel cell zero emissions crossover to the Vancouver area in early 2015 will mark a potentially significant moment in Canadian green car history. When it arrives, so will a smidgen of choice between two distinct zero emissions technology routes – fuel cell and battery electric vehicles – that will compete for the hearts, minds and wallets of consumers who see no pollution (avoiding health-harming emissions), low overall operating costs and no local greenhouse gases (avoiding global warming emissions) as key factors in their new car choices.

Meanwhile, just north of Toronto, there are significant advances being made on the battery electric vehicle infrastructure front as well, with a new advanced solar carport, separate high-speed Level 3 and the first commercial vehicle-to-grid installation in North America at the headquarters of PowerStream. Jointly owned and operated by the cities of Markham, Vaughan and Barrie, EV owners around the city so far are most excited about the utility’s ultra-modern high-speed Level 3 charger, the first one in the greater Toronto area to have two separate nozzles to support each fast charging standard: one for the SAE CCS standard (supported by the BMW i3 and Chevrolet’s limited volume fleet-only Spark EV), the other for CHAdeMO (Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Kia Soul EV, and usable for the high-end Tesla Model S as well, though not as fast as with Tesla’s own proprietary and aptly named Superchargers).

For consumers, the roughly 50 percent charge this L3 can provide in about 15 minutes is a huge boon, and not only because it’s free fuel for them (the infrastructure is courtesy PowerStream, but the power itself is paid for by G&W Canada and Survalent Technologies, electrical engineering firms specializing in power grids). In winter especially, it can allow either much quicker or much warmer commutes home, and likely both, since interior heating, higher vehicle speeds and lower temperatures all conspire to sometimes lengthen winter commutes, time-wise, for EV owners.

With a location right near Canada’s Wonderland (this country’s answer to Disney World, if you haven’t been), a massive movie theatre and popular outlet mall, and on the way north to cottage country, these are now all easier destinations to visit for BEV owners across the GTA and beyond in warmer weather as well, especially for vehicles that don’t enjoy the Tesla’s 400+ kilometre EV range.

But it’s the vehicle-to-grid capabilities that could provide some tantalizing future benefits for electric vehicle owners, especially ones that have been left in the dark by lengthy electricity blackouts. Smart vehicle-to-grid capability, if set up properly with a local bypass, would allow one’s house to be powered by the electrical energy stored in most mainstream BEVs for up to two days, said Neetika Sathe, PowerStream’s vice president of corporate development, and likely longer if using the larger battery in a Tesla Model S. That’s something that not even current solar customers can do, she said, unless they have an elaborate mini-grid with expensive onsite electricity storage capability.

“The problem with solar right now is if the grid’s down, we can’t allow solar (energy) to connect, because if linespeople are working to re-connect power through down or broken lines that are not live, any electricity coming through the system would be a safety hazard for them.”

PowerStream charging stationPowerStream charging stationNeetika Sathe, VP Corporate Development, PowerStreamCHAdeMO charger
PowerStream charging station; Neetika Sathe, VP Corporate Development, PowerStream demonstrating the CHAdeMO charger. Click image to enlarge

To access such features, the car needs special vehicle-to-grid software, which began arriving on 2014 and newer Nissan Leafs with Level 3 capability, as well as a special vehicle charging station. The advanced charging station actually connects to the car through the CHAdeMO port. PowerStream is providing their new system for the Leaf and other modern EVs as well to test if any issues crop up with this so-called bi-directional capability.

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