Toronto preparing new infrastructure for electric cars

Monday, April 06, 2009

It looks like this time we're really on the cusp of a huge change in the way we drive, and a lot of cities and countries are aware of this fact and are preparing ahead of time. The best thing about electric cars is that we already have almost all the infrastructure we need. The only remaining issues for converting completely to electric cars (it'll probably take 10 years for the most developed countries, another 10 years after that for most other countries) is how to charge the car when you're out and about (charging the car downtown, in parking lots, etc.) and making sure that houses are also able to handle a few cars at a time, say if a few friends come over and a few of them need to plug their cars in for a few hours before they leave.

It seems that Toronto is going to be the first Canadian city to begin preparing for this.

Toronto is speeding ahead in an effort to become one of North America's first cities to be ready for wide-scale use of electric plug-in vehicles.

The city has teamed up with a Colorado-based think tank for "Project Get Ready," an initiative to get selected North American cities to start laying the initial groundwork for plug-in cars.

As part of the initiative, it's now putting together an action plan, considering new pilot projects, and consulting with stakeholders to prepare the city for a likely increase in the availability of plug-in vehicles in the coming years.

"The end goal is to be ready for more electric vehicles when they become available," Ben Marins, the manager of special projects at the city-run Toronto Atmospheric Fund, tells

He says there are a host of issues that need to be ironed out before North American jurisdictions are ready to power electric vehicles on a large scale.

"That means having the infrastructure in place, having supportive policies in place and having consumers in place," he says.

"When those three things come together, what they do is encourage vehicle manufacturers to sell here. You are not going to sell to a market that is not ready," he explains.

That last part is actually very important, because car makers that are just on the cusp of selling electric vehicles are taking a very close look at the environment they'll be manufacturing and selling the cars in. Things like government support (if incentives are offered by the government then they can sell the cars at lower prices right away) and existing infrastructure make a huge difference in whether a company can sell a car or not. Not only that, but this also brings in a lot of jobs as companies like Think look for the best place to build their plant in the US; they're going to choose the state that offers them the best environment to manufacture their vehicles in, and this state is going to benefit to the tune of a few hundred skilled, high-paying jobs.

A Norwegian company considering Oregon for electric-car manufacturing may be eyeing the Portland plant that built Freightliners as a site to employ 900 workers.

Think North America, whose parent company makes emission-free vehicles, confirmed today that it's considering Oregon and seven other states for a factory that would ultimately make 60,000 compact cars a year.

Personally I hope they go with Oregon as that will probably make it easier to obtain a Think City in nearby Vancouver, where some of my family lives and where I might again some day.


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