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SMART ENERGY The Electric Circuit An important Tool to Encourage Electric Vehicle Adoption in Québec By Chantal Guimont, Director, Strategic Planning and Transportation Electrification, Hydro-Québec Québec’s electrification of transportation is in full swing. The Canadian province with a population of 8 million is fortunate to be able to count on a clean, renewable energy source, hydroelectricity, a reliable power grid and top-notch expertise in the field of electrical components and transportation. Emissions from road transportation are the main source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Québec and one of the biggest contributors to climate change. The shift to electric vehicles (EVs) on the province’s roads has become necessary to meet the 2020 GHG emission reduction target. When the Québec government launched its Action Plan for Electric Vehicles in April 2011, it asked Hydro-Québec to develop a strategy for providing a public charging infrastructure. The primary objective was to support the advent of electric vehicles in the province. That is because while EV owners do most of their charging at home and at work, the public charging infrastructure allows them to travel worry-free, knowing they can top up their batteries on the road if necessary. Less than a year later, in March 2012, Hydro-Québec, along with four other founding partners, launched The Electric Circuit, the first and most extensive public charging system in Canada, at a time when there were very few EVs on Canadian roads. Powered with clean, renewable energy, the network now numbers nearly two hundred and fifty 240-V stations spread throughout most of the inhabited area of the province. The stations are located in business and public parking lots where customers usually leave their cars at least an hour, long enough for a battery top- up. With a Level 2 (240-V) plug-in station, users can gain a range of up to 30 km in the space of an hour, which is generally quite sufficient, considering that Quebecers typically drive 45 km or less in a day. Innovative business model The Electric Circuit’s business model is attracting the attention of neighboring jurisdictions because it unites big national brands around the concept of public charging. The model’s cost- and risk- sharing arrangement is unique. Potential partners in the extensive public system invest in the purchase and installation of charging stations, which they then own. Hydro-Québec handles calls for tenders for supplying charging stations, network promotion coordinates the rollout of the network, and negotiates with CAA- Québec for user assistance and network promotion. Since its inauguration in March 2012, more than 50 private and institutional partners – restaurants, hotels, entertainment venues, municipalities – have joined The Electric Circuit to offer EV drivers an opportunity to charge their batteries as needed. How it works To take advantage of Electric Circuit services, users order a prepaid card at www.theelectriccircuit.com. The card provides access to all the charging stations in the network. Each charge costs C$2.50, no matter how long it takes. Aside from the electricity used, the service includes a well-located parking space, a 24/7 telephone help line and a geolocation service for finding stations. Highly succesful Hydro-Québec considers the Electric Circuit’s first year and half of operation to be highly successful. Studies indicate that users of public charging stations typically plug in their vehicles for just over a couple of hours while they do their errands at partners’ locations. There were more than 800 charges in October, four times more than at the same time last year, and network use is constantly increasing. Over half of all 80 METERING INTERNATIONAL ISSUE - 4 | 2013