My story in today’s Toronto Star is about the launch of a 10-car pilot project in the city that will see hybrid cars — eight Priuses, one Escape and one Civic — retrofitted into plug-in hybrids during the first year, and next year up to 200 hybrids converted the same way. While not new in the United States, where a number of cities have launched retrofit programs, this is a first in Canada. A number of organizations are participating in the program, including green-energy retailer Bullfrog Power, car-sharing company AutoShare, local utility Toronto Hydro and both provincial and municipal departments. The idea is to expose the cars to a variety of driving conditions in an urban setting and, perhaps most important, test their performance during a Toronto winter.
Not surprising, local-area company Hymotion, now owned by Massachussetts-based A123 Systems, will be doing the retrofits. The University of Toronto, also participating in the project with their own hybrid, will be collecting emission and mileage data from all cars and analysing the results.
It’s good to finally see some concrete action from this city, though to be fair this project has been several months in the planning. I should point out that utility Veridian was the first organization in the area to do a plug-in retrofit of a hybrid (not only that, it put a solar panel on the roof of the car to charge the battery). So kudos to Veridian and its CEO Michael Angemeer for getting the ball rolling, and thanks to those U.S. organizations that inspired action in Toronto.