Ford debuted its new all-electric F-150 this past week. It’ll be available starting in the spring of 2022. As the number one seller in Canada over the last 55 years (yes, the best selling car in Canada, is in fact a truck), this is a real game changer.
A few things need to fall into place first for Ford's gamble to pay off.
- People have to stop worrying about running out of fuel (electricity) in their vehicles. A battery is energy storage. So is a gas tank. When was the last time you ran out of gas? Never? Me neither. You’ll fill your truck up at quick charging stations, putting about 100 km of range on it in about 10 minutes, likely enough to get you home unless you’re on a major road trip. In which case, you'll sit a while longer. Get a coffee, chill out and charge it until it’s full.
- The electrical grid is going to have to support a massive shift to electric vehicles. General Motors is on record stating they’ll cease the production of gasoline powered vehicles by 2035. Given the entrenched interests in this never happening, I’m skeptical about this goal, but I applaud the intent.
According to the Independent Electricity Operator of Ontario’s 2020 Planning Outlook, power demand should grow by 1 terawatt hour per year to 2040.
What (watt) is a terawatt hour? Let’s take a look at the average light bulb. Back in the day, we purchased 60 watt light bulbs. Sixty watts is the amount of power used by the bulb.
- 60 watt “hours” is the amount of energy to power that lightbulb for an hour
- One thousand watt hours is 1 kilowatt hour of power
- One thousand kilowatt hours is 1 megawatt hour of power
- One thousand megawatt hours of power is one gigawatt hour of power
- One thousand gigawatt hours of power is one terawatt hour of power
That’s a lot of lightbulbs. Still with me?
Ontario currently uses between 138 and 144 terawatt hours of power annually. Without conservation, this figure would be 15 terawatts higher. Those power saving LED lights really add up.
Hydro now has a decision to make. Should they continue to build nuclear facilities and refurbish existing ones costing billions of dollars? Or could they tear a page out of the Green Party’s play book and simply buy very inexpensive power from Quebec?
Another scenario? Get rid of nuclear all together. That’s what Germany is doing.
Or, even better. See what Green Mountain Power (GMP) is doing in Vermont. They’re installing Telsa Powerwall batteries in their customers' homes. The batteries charge mainly at night, and that power is used by the utility during peak periods during the day, helping to balance the electrical grid. GMP saves the large investment in transmission lines because the load is handled locally. Combine the batteries with a small solar panel array, and you’ll put green power back into the grid.
If you want to charge your new electric F-150, GMP will also install a charger for it at the same time.
Except, with the F-150, you’re not going to need GMP’s battery. Because the power stored in the battery of the F-150 can be sent back to your home to power it. Vehicle to home or vehicle to grid charging is the next big thing.
A 2021 Ford F-150 starts at $33,500 in Ontario. No one actually buys that truck except for fleet owners. Most go out the door at $40,000 and up. The electric F-150 will start at $39,000 U.S. Add about $10,000 for currency exchange and fewer units for our smaller market and it’ll start around $50,000 Canadian. That’s still sounds like a lot of money for electric over gas.
What both the Federal and Provincial governments should do is work together to put an incentive on electric vehicles of about $10,000 with the proviso that the electrical operator can draw power from these vehicles to balance the load. Equalize the price of the electric F-150 with the gas powered version. This would make purchasing the electric F-150 a no-brainer. Power is generated 24/7 in the province. Charge these vehicles overnight when demand is low or when wind energy is working overtime. Siphon off power from all of those networked F-150s during the day to meet peak loads.
The town of Burlington already does this to a degree. They’ll install a ‘smart charger’ in your home for a low monthly fee. The network learns when each vehicle needs to be charged and how much power each vehicle uses on a daily basis. The utility can then charge each vehicle in a sequence that doesn’t overload the system while ensuring everyone has enough power to get where they need to go.
The next step is to draw power from the vehicles themselves to balance the system. This might not completely eliminate the need for more power generation, but it would make the grid more resilient and spread out the need for those investments. Until the EV manufacturers (I’m looking at you, Telsa) start allowing customers and electrical utilities to use the power stored in EVs, we’re stuck with building more energy generation to get to a low carbon economy.
The electric companies in Ontario have an opportunity to do something really special with vehicles like the F-150. Time will tell if utilities will rely on 1950s thinking or truly think forward to 2040.
I'll leave you with a photo that hopefully in a few months from now, will be a reality: fans in the stands.