Gene the E-Generator
Community Energy Association is now the proud owner of Canada’s largest Mobile Electric Battery. Gene the e-generator will visit East Kootenay communities to power mountain adventures and experiences with BC's clean energy.
Gene is technically the Voltstack E-Generator made by the Vancouver-based company, Portable Electric. Practically speaking it is a clean energy alternative to diesel or gasoline powered generators, being both noise and emissions free. But what is really exciting is provides an opportunity to explore how we might apply innovative, clean technology solutions to transition to a low carbon future. Gene is on a trailer meaning we can bring it to demonstrate off-grid charging for e-snowmobiles, EVs, e-bikes and more!
Funded by Teck and built by Portable Electric, the applications of this unit are diverse. It can power food trucks at community festivals, sound and lighting equipment, electric vehicles, e-bikes, and more.
Keep an eye out for Gene at an event near you as CEA generates awareness around the Kootenays for this innovative new technology.
Gene's origin story
CEA is very proud that the idea for an off-grid charging solution to power mountain adventures came out of a 2019 e-mobility visioning session we facilitated with a diverse stakeholder group. With support from BC Hydro and the Regional District of the East Kootenay, the 2-day session invited participants to envision what an integrated e-mobility ecosystem might look like East Kootenay in 2030, 2040 and beyond.
[caption id="attachment_7618" align="alignright" width="448"] The original concept design from 2019 envisioned a portable battery that could be tied to solar power and live in remote locations.[/caption]
The mobile battery concept was one of nine pilot projects stakeholders identified as offering unique benefits to local communities and economies - driving down emissions and bolstering community resilience. In the year following the visioning session the CEA Fernie team worked to refine the concept and source funding to implement. CEA is grateful to both Portable Electric and Teck Resources for supporting the initial vision outlined by East Kootenay stakeholders - we are excited to see how this initial pilot evolves over time!
Regional Visions for Electric Mobility
The BC Climate Leaders Playbook identifies seven “big moves” communities can take to reach their 2030 and 2050 emissions reductions goals. Electrifying passenger and utility vehicles is a critical component of an overarching strategy to build a complete zero-emission transportation system that connects communities and regions.
The good news is we know what we needs to be done. What can be unclear is specifically how unique communities and regions can get there. At CEA we are experts in understanding the big vision while leveraging the context and opportunity of a region or community. In this way, climate solutions are pragmatic and ultimately addressing GHG emissions while building resilience and co-benefits for residents.
We are grateful to BC Hydro for supporting the idea of co-creating solutions to achieve a shared vision of regional e-mobility ecosystems. In 2019 we piloted the first e-mobility visioning session with BC Hydro and RDEK support. The outcome was nine innovative pilot projects that were funding-ready. A few of the projects designed during that 2-day session are now either funded (like the mobile battery unit!) or in proposal.
After the success of this initial pilot in the East Kootenay, we were again supported by BC Hydro to adapt the workshop template to new regions. In 2021, after making adjustments to create an engaging and compelling online experience, our team collaborated with stakeholders on Vancouver Island and in the Central/North regions.
In each respective workshop, we adapted the presentations to provide participants with a glimpse at technology that was relevant to their context but otherwise used a common format and shared outcomes:
- Develop a shared vision for how the region is benefiting from the transition to electric mobility in 2040.
- Define 3-5 pilot project concepts so they are ready for scoping and work planning.
The workshop was designed on the foundational understanding that in order for solutions to provide maximum benefits and impact, they need to reflect a diversity of perspectives and expertise. For that reason, the participants in each workshop represented a variety of organizations. Furthermore, on a regional scale, collaboration is critical; rural communities are linked economically andsocially so it makes sense to create solutions that leverage investments and resources.
We wanted to capture the creative contributions and energy participants brought to the sessions. Recording and sharing the ideas and visions of participants puts the pilot projects into context. We worked with artists at Drawing Change to create a graphic record the sessions. This preserved the co-created vision and the hopes and dreams participants had for future of e-mobility innovation.
Where are we now? Where are we going? How do we get there?
Answering "where are we now?"
When communities start exploring what is possible in the future for a fully integrated e-mobility network, the opportunities are endless. The e-mobility ecosystem includes elements of the following, all of which may make up the future landscape of our communities:
- Electric vehicles – light, medium and heavy duty
- Electric recreation – e-bikes/dirt bikes/snowmobiles/all-terrain vehicles/boats
- Smart grid/battery/on-site renewables
- Charging: at home, public level 2 and public fast charging
- Emerging technologies – autonomous vehicles, battery storage, induction charging, etc.
To ensure all participants were aware of recent innovations in the e-mobility ecosystem, we coordinated presentations from industry leaders in each respective region. Below is the graphic summary of the presentations for each region (click to enlarge in a new tab). By anchoring the workshop in understanding current trends, innovations and opportunities, participants could then imagine how their region and communities could evolve.
Answering "where are we going?"
In each workshop, participants created a shared vision of how their regions and communities are prepared for and benefiting from the transition to electric mobility. In order to synthesize ideas, participants were tasked to imagine newspaper headlines that articulate the 2040 future state.
Vancouver Island participants envisioned a future with 3 key themes:
Connected communities/ integrated transportation
"10th Year Celebration for Vancouver Island's Electric Train, with final station unveiled in Port Hardy."
"The Island and even the gulf islands are a fully connected with a transportation network."
"New Study Shows: Everyone Has Access to Car but Doesn't Need It."
"Cycle touring from East Coast through Sunshine coast now the most traveled route in BC and it's zero emissions!"
"Vancouver Island Transportation Authority (VITA) celebrates 25th anniversary."
"Game changer: Electric rail eliminates emissions and allows people to move up and down the Island without having to own a car."
"Last gas station on Vancouver Island is converted to an electric mobility hub."
"Every community on Vancouver Island has EV, Hydrogen, or low carbon infrastructure to connect residents and tourists alike."
"Vancouver Island no Longer Has 'Charging Deserts'."
"Vancouver Island the first jurisdiction to reach ZEV mandate targets."
"Whether by air or by sea people visiting the Island can make every trip via electrification."
"Because VI has shifted to electric transportation biodiversity is regenerating."
"Vancouver Island achieves zero grid power usage for first time since Power Resilience Initiative Kicked Off."
"100% of travel on Vancouver Island now powered by renewable energy."
"VI eliminates the need to import fossil fuels for transportation sector."
Central/North participants envisioned a future with 3 key themes:
"1/4 reduction in vehicles on the roads in Kamloops because of improved mobility infrastructure (bikes, scooters, etc.)."
"The last local government fleet vehicle is electrified."
"Provincial and Private Campground Association fully bans diesel generator."
"No new parking spaces are created as people are eliminating car ownership."
"The Gold Rush Trail expansion is electrified into a multi-use recreational trail across the region."
"Central and Northern BC recognized for top 5 bucket list, sustainable, decarbonized, must see destinations in international tourism magazine."
"Electric touring itinerary supports fully integrated route - CanaDream + PE Partnership Celebrates 10 years."
"Hwy 97/16 is rated top recreation route for all e-ventures."
Diverse travel options
"Accessible rail commuting across hwy 16 is a safe and cost effective transportation option."
"Final section of Induction Charging completed on Highway 97."
"All main streets in the region are pedestrian only and primarily access by electric micro mobility."
Answering "how do we get there?"
After thinking about the unique characteristics of their region and defining specific strengths or opportunities, stakeholders moved to articulating prototype ideas.
Vancouver Island stakeholders talked about current momentum and rate of adoption of EVs on the island as well as a history of regional collaboration and current congestion. These characteristics are just a few reasons noted as unique opportunities that can be leveraged when designing prototype projects.
Central/North BC stakeholders noted the vast wilderness with existing assets like campgrounds and anchor communities. The region has unique opportunity to leverage connectivity and wild, natural spaces to build zero emission tourism destinations/experiences.
While stakeholders in each session envisioned several potential prototypes, in the end the following were voted as presenting the biggest opportunity:
- ZEV delivery zones - smaller EVs deliver goods to city centres (cargo bike delivery into city centres)
- Regional e-bike and recreational sea-side tourism route.
- Fully built out EV and e-bike charging infrastructure network for the region. (Bike rentals at campgrounds to bike into town for goods, recreation)
- EV route between PG and Kamloops - pick up your E-camper and e-bikes.
- Bike loop connecting sun peaks, Kamloops, Logan Lake and other rec sites/campsites. carshare hubs strategically located to allow air travelers to do multi-day trips without a car.
- Quesnel campground - e-mobility hub to support low carbon regional biking and recreation.
We hope you can use these images to accelerate innovation on e-mobility! Please credit Community Energy Association with a link to this post if you do use them - thank you!
Medium Duty Vehicle Landscape Study
CEA researched how many medium duty vehicles (F250-F450 and equivalents) are registered across Canada, how many are used for what kinds of businesses, and where the opportunities are to reduce emissions in this sector.
The fleets in this sector are focused on electrification to deliver emissions reductions. We engaged with the vehicle registration entity in each province and obtained registration data for key provinces.
This work is supported by Natural Resources Canada to contribute to a better understanding of Class 2b to Class 4 fleet vehicles. This report was completed in March 2021 and represents a snapshot in time of available data, information, insights, and perspectives. The findings highlight specific opportunities for Natural Resources Canada to support emissions reduction and hints at local government opportunities as well.
Charge North EV Charging Network
Charge North is developing a reliable and robust electric vehicle (EV) station network, including both DCFC stations (approximately 30-40 minutes to charge vehicle) and Level 2 stations (approximately 4 hours to charge vehicle). DCFCs allow EVs to travel long distances - they are key to getting EV drivers into the region. Levels 2s can direct how and where visitors spend their time and money while in your community. They provide important back up to DCFC stations and ensure all types of EVs have access to public charging.
Charge North is made possible by extensive collaboration between over 40 local governments and the Community Energy Association (CEA) as project facilitator. General project oversight is provided by an Advisory Committee comprised of representatives from each of the six regional districts and Northern BC Tourism Association.
Community Energy Association Role
CEA Roles and Responsibilities:
- Facilitate collaboration between 43 local governments
- Project management, including sourcing funding
- Public education and outreach
- Media relations
- Car dealership engagement
Charge North Advisory Committee
AC Roles and Responsibilities:
- Represent community level interests and act as liaison for the communities
- Communicate information to Boards and members
- Review and provide input on project collateral/public materials
- Advise on project direction and decisions
- Connect CEA with relevant stakeholders, including relevant Indigenous communities
- Bring forward project concerns and opportunities
- Provide support in securing capital for future EV station deployment
- North Coast Regional District
- Kitimat-Stikine Regional District
- Regional District of Bulkley Nechako
- Regional District of Fraser-Fort George
- Cariboo Regional District
- Thompson-Nicole Regional District
- Federation of Canadian Municipalities
- BC Hydro
- BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure
- Northern Development Initiative Trust (NDIT)
Peaks to Prairies EV Charging Network
The Peaks To Prairies EV Charging Network facilitates travel to and within the beautiful region of Southern Alberta with fast charging and Level 2 stations from Canmore to Medicine Hat, south to Waterton and to the Crowsnest Pass... with many stops along the way!
The rural and dispersed nature of Southern Alberta communities demands solutions that are innovative, collaborative and reflective of the local challenges and opportunities.
This is why, in 2016, regional economic development organizations, Southgrow Regional Initiative and Alberta Southwest Regional Alliance, approached CEA to discuss the opportunity of developing an EV charging network in their region, similar to Accelerate Kootenays. With strategic siting and regional collaboration, such a network could bolster local economies, connect Southern Alberta to surrounding jurisdictions and highlight the growing renewable energy sector in the region. The City of Calgary, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat, as well as Medicine Hat College joined the collaboration to form the Peaks to Prairies partnership.
CEA facilitated the project from ideation through to project managing the installations on behalf of the advisory committee. In addition to sourcing and ultimately successfully securing funding to create the network, our staff, led by Project Manager, Megan Lohmann, also facilitated the RFP process to find an owner/operator partner and managed contracting.
Accelerate Kootenays EV Charging Network
Accelerate Kootenays was Canada’s first community driven strategy to build a clean transportation network, and was a catalyst for subsequent regional EV charging infrastructure strategies in other jurisdictions, including Southern Alberta (Peaks to Prairies), Central and Northern BC (Charge North) and Central/Northern Alberta. CEA facilitated the Accelerate Kootenays project from early feasibility, mapping and grant-writing through to managing installations, media releases and celebrations.
The driving principle that CEA followed in managing this complex, multi-partner project was that a community-led process would ensure solutions were relevant to the context - technology, service agreements, alerts, etc, would all be appropriate for the unique needs and opportunities of the Kootenays.
While the project started as a way to address the technical barrier to EV adaptation, it became an opportunity for tourism, economic development and emissions reductions across a large rural region. The impact of Accelerate Kootenays will continue for years to come and should be celebrated as a legacy project by the Regional Districts that demonstrated the leadership and innovation to make it happen.
Strategic siting of 13 DC fast chargers and 40 Level 2s ensured a network that holistically supported electric travel to and within the region. Balancing fast charging stations with Level 2 stations maximized project budget while providing tourism opportunities for host communities.
Alongside addressing access to charging infrastructure, the project team also identified the lack of awareness of EV technology in the region. In addition to a holistic multimedia and online campaign to bring awareness to EVs, CEA also leveraged the momentum of Accelerate Kootenays to build the #RuralEV Mobile Showcase to communities across the region.
Over the course of 2 years, CEA staff drove a Chevrolet Bolt to community events across the region, offering information as well as test drives. This proved to be a successful way of demystifying EVs, allowing Kootenay residents to be able to see, feel and experience EVs.
"after test driving your EV... we finally decided to just do it! We brought home our beautiful bouncing baby [Chevrolet] Bolt yesterday and we are so excited! Thank you for giving us the chance to try it out and the confidence to know we would be happy with it!"
A graphic summary of the #RuralEV Mobil Showcase is here.