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Officials forecast hundreds of thousands of electric vehicles in Alberta by 2041

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Officials are forecasting that hundreds of thousands of electric vehicles will be on Alberta roads in the next decade or two, pushing demand for electricity way up. As Christa Dao reports, utility companies are keeping a close eye on customers' behaviour – Aug 17, 2021

They’ve become increasingly popular in recent years in many parts of the country — but in Alberta, electric vehicle adoption is still relatively new and is estimated to only make up about one per cent of the fleet on the road, according to ENMAX Power.

ENMAX Power president Jana Mosley said there are challenges in finding exact numbers on how many EVs there are in Calgary as customers aren’t required to inform their utility company if they purchased an EV. Mosley estimates there are about 3,000 EVs in Calgary.

She said that number is expected to rise significantly, and officials are forecasting hundreds of thousands of EVs will be on the road in the next 10 to 20 years.

“(We) expect that (number) could go up to as high as 200,000 in the next 10 years, when you see what’s happening with manufacturing and a move to having EVs be the predominant manufactured vehicle here by 2035,” Mosley said.

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Mosley is referring to the federal government’s pledge to shift to all zero-emission EVs by the year 2035.

Read more: Canada aiming to shift to all zero-emission electric vehicles by 2035: Federal government

ENMAX is not alone in its prediction. The Alberta Electric System Operator is also predicting a major shift in Alberta towards EVs by the year 2041.

In its latest report, AESO looked at four scenarios, ranging from an average to aggressive adoption rate of EVs.

“The assumed number of electric vehicles is estimated to be 14,000 in 2021 and by 2041 is forecast to reach up to 195,000 vehicles in the reference case and 1,960,000 vehicles in the clean-tech scenario,” the report read.

This will translate to nearly 400 MW of peak demand growth by 2040 on the low side or up to 3,900 MW of peak demand growth on the high end, attributed to EVs charging.

As for if the power system can handle the forecasted increase in electricity coming from EV chargers, Mosley told Global News they are ahead of the trend but are looking closely at human behaviour and charging habits.

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Click to play video: 'Canada aims to shift to electric vehicles by 2035' Canada aims to shift to electric vehicles by 2035
Canada aims to shift to electric vehicles by 2035 – Jul 18, 2021

ENMAX recently wrapped up a pilot program involving dozens of EV drivers and found many were plugging in at peak times and overnight.

“We do see people coming home from work generally… (and still) people seem to be plugging in at around five o’clock in the evening, often charging overnight, even though a vehicle generally doesn’t need more than two-and-a-half hours to go to fully charge,” Mosley said.

“This is something that we’re working on our next phase of our pilot — to see how we can work with consumers to influence that charging behaviour, so we can really minimize the impacts to the system and the need to reinforce it.”

Read more: Montreal mayor unveils $885M plan to electrify transportation

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Mosley said over time, pushing the system harder could mean transformers burn out quicker — adding even more costs.

“(It means) we’re pushing the system a little bit harder, and it can impact the lifespan of our transformer, and then we might see the need for early replacements,” she said.

It’s a concern echoed by Tesla owner Chris Feist.

He purchased a Model X four years ago, and while he’s the only driver on his block with this type of vehicle, he knows he soon won’t be and wonders how the system will handle more charging stations connecting to the grid.

“Right now, we don’t have enough infrastructure to support everybody driving an electric vehicle, so the challenge is going to be: what do we need to retrofit neighbourhoods so everybody has a 60 or 80 amp service in their garage and that everyone can plug in at the same time and we don’t have rolling blackouts or brownouts?” he said.

Read more: How electric cars are faring on Lethbridge roads: ‘It’s small, but it’s growing’

“I’m not an electrical engineer. I don’t have the answer to that question. But to achieve that dream, we’d have to spend a lot of money on infrastructure for everybody to be able to drive an EV for sure.”

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AESO’s Long-term Outlook is released every two years and serves as a guide to system planning, adequacy assessments and market evaluations.

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