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What we heard: Request for information on Infrastructure for Sustainable Transportation Systems RD&D


Natural Resources Canada’s (NRCan) Office of Energy Research and Development issued a Request for Information (RFI) (February 2023 – March 2023) to identify research, development and demonstration (RD&D) opportunities that can enable the wide scale deployment of infrastructure for sustainable transportation systems. The questions were organized around the following topics:

  • Electric vehicle infrastructure in multi-unit residential buildings (MURBs)
  • Medium and heavy-duty vehicle (MHDV) infrastructure
  • Transportation system efficiency and sustainability
  • Rural, remote, and northern communities

NRCan received 28 responses, 61% of which came from for-profit organizations. Responses came from organizations in 5 provinces, with most responses coming from Ontario (39%), Alberta (25%), and British Columbia (24%). 17 respondents answered the questions on MHDVs, 16 on MURBs and rural, remote, and northern communities, and 15 on transportation system efficiency and sustainability.

What we heard

Overall, respondents identified a variety of technical, market, and regulatory barriers that can be addressed through RD&D opportunities. Some reoccurring themes include:

Multi-unit residential buildings

Respondents said that a current barrier to decarbonizing transportation for residents of multi-unit residential buildings is the limited access to affordable at-home charging stations, largely a result of the expensive electrical upgrades and retrofits that are needed to make these buildings electric vehicle (EV)-ready.

Respondents indicated several areas that could benefit from government support, including:

  • RD&D of innovative charging mechanisms such as smart charging, vehicle-to-grid charging, utility controls and demand response, and battery storage to avoid costly electrical infrastructure upgrades and improve the economics of EV ownership in MURBs.
  • Where at-home charger installations are particularly challenging, developing affordable public charging solutions such as multi-modal community charging hubs and curbside charging.
  • Improving access to public transit or shared mobility services to shift demand away from individual car ownership.

Medium and heavy-duty vehicles infrastructure

Respondents indicated several barriers to the decarbonization of the MHDV sector. These barriers include the grid capacity needed to charge MHDVs, as well as the speed at which the vehicles can be charged. Further, general industry knowledge gaps and the range of zero-emission MHDVs continue to be a concern for respondents.

Respondents indicated various areas that could benefit from government support in order to address these challenges, including:

  • RD&D to address electricity demand including peak mitigation and battery storage, smart, in-motion, and vehicle-to-grid charging.
  • Vehicle and charging station demonstrations to de-risk adopters.
  • Studies and modelling to determine vehicle use and demand, vehicle duty cycles, fleet telemetry.
  • Updating existing and developing new regulatory frameworks and codes and standards that can enable the deployment of MHDVs and their related infrastructure.

Transportation system efficiency and sustainability

Respondents emphasized that shifting demand away from personal car use – in addition to the transition to zero-emission vehicles – is necessary for the decarbonization of the transportation system. Respondents said that current barriers to achieving a sustainable transportation system include the lack of infrastructure to support multi-modal transit and the low technology readiness of business, delivery, and regulatory models.  
Respondents identified various innovations that could benefit from government support, including:

  • Enabling testing and innovation on business, delivery, and regulatory models for transportation planning (including studies on cost effectiveness) to improve the integration of shared transportation, including public transit, car sharing, and e-micro-mobility.
  • Supporting the integration of active and public transit into the transportation system through the development and demonstration of multi-modal ‘hubs’ and innovative urban planning.

Rural, remote, and northern communities

Respondents said that rural, remote, and northern communities face many unique barriers to decarbonizing their transportation systems compared to southern, urban populaces. Respondents expressed concerns over the demand that electrified transit will place on grids, as well as the current reliance on diesel power. Respondents further identified maintaining, monitoring, and repairing infrastructure as additional challenges, largely due to extreme cold weather and the remoteness of these communities.

Respondents identified several areas that could benefit from government support, including:

  • Reducing demand on diesel-powered grids using renewables, community energy storage, and battery-integrated chargers.
  • Remote monitoring, maintenance, and winterproofing to improve the reliability and uptime of remote charging stations, as well as studies to enable better understanding of winter energy demands and vehicle and charging performance.
  • Development and demonstration of mobile charging stations to assist stranded vehicles and decrease range anxiety.

Other transportation infrastructure and systems

Respondents were also asked to identify any other RD&D opportunities that were not addressed by these topics but could benefit from government support. Respondents identified gaps including:

  • Battery research and development related to areas such as battery range, particularly for MHDVs and cold weather environments, as well as battery safety, specifically addressing issues with fire detection and suppression.
  • Off road transportation including zero emission aircrafts (such as air ships and electric-vertical takeoff and landing aircraft), ferries and port infrastructure, and mining trucks.

RFI timeline

Initial question design took place from November 2022 to January 2023. The RFI was posted and accepted responses from February 10, 2023 to March 12, 2023. Response analysis took place during the second half of March 2023.

This RFI did not represent a formal consultation for a current or future funding opportunity, and there was no requirement from NRCan to respond to the submissions.

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