A research project conducted by FleetCarma, a division of Geotab, followed over 1,000 EV drivers across Canada, tracking their driving and charging behaviour. "Charge the North", initiated in 2017, is the largest study of its kind, provides important insights into: EV load profiles (which are unique to each service territory) and what actions can minimize the need for costly infrastructure upgrades.

Charge the North was developed to understand how electric vehicles are being charged and driven as well as the related effects on the electrical infrastructure. It answers questions related to the impact of electric vehicle charging on the grid.

Questions like: home versus workplace or public charging, the impact of time-of-use (TOU) rates on peak load, and the effects of seasonal climate, geography and commute distance on charging behaviour.

With the cooperation of 10 utility companies and the University of Waterloo, FleetCarma reached out to EV drivers across the country and sent out 1,000 connected car devices which plug into electric vehicles. With these devices’ data such as driving distance, charging location, energy consumption, battery efficiencies, and temperature were tracked.

Project milestones so far:

  • 1,000 vehicles studied
  • Two years of driving data
  • 4,721,215 kWh charged
  • Over 20,000,000 km driven

Understanding load profile will be important for fleet operators. For a company transitioning their fleet to electric, charging infrastructure needs will be top of mind. A fleet can profile its operations to help predict electrical demand on facilities – and take preventative steps to minimize costs.

What can the driving and charging behaviours of EV drivers across Canada tell fleet managers about preparing for EV adoption? There are four key findings:

  • Daily driving distance matters.
  • Long-range EVs will have greater consequences for local transformers and fleet facilities.
  • Climate impacts energy use.
  • Access to charging outside of home base will change the EV load profile.

There is a strong correlation with daily utilization to dangerous load peaks. For personal vehicles, this shows up by segmenting drivers into neighbourhood type: rural, suburban or urban. These segmentations are a good predictor on how long the average daily trip is, and consequently how much more energy is required to charge the vehicle on a daily or weekly basis.

In suburban neighbourhoods, risk to local transformers is shown to be the most significant. Four or five neighbours coming home with depleted batteries can overwhelm a local transformer.

A fleet that operates in a small geographic area with short daily trips will be less likely to overwhelm the electrical infrastructure in their fleet yard, as compared to one with a large territory and high utilization. This is exacerbated when the vehicles return to the fleet yard and plug in at the same time. 

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