Tag Archives: Toronto Atmospheric Fund

Finally got a chance to test drive the Chevy Volt: A nice, smooth and quiet ride

The Toronto Atmospheric Fund (TAF) gathered several fleet managers from Toronto and surrounding areas this morning to test drive GM’s Chevy Volt, which isn’t on sale yet in Canada but should be by the end of this year. Through its FleetWise program TAF has launched its EV300 Initiative, which has a goal of getting at least 300 plug-in vehicles on Greater Toronto Area roads by 2012 so they can be monitored and studied. The idea is that any learning can be shared to help plan for and improve supporting EV charging infrastructure in the area. It’s also an opportunity for fleet managers participating in the initiative to compare notes and basically get a feel for how the cars behave in the real world. The Chevy Volt is one of several plug-in vehicle models expected to be added to fleets. The Nissan Leaf and I suspect the Mitsubishi iMiev will also be put to the test.

There were three Volts on hand this morning at the grounds of Toronto’s Exhibition Place. I’ve been in many electric vehicles and I have to say that the Volt was quite comfortable and ranked up there for having the best mix of smoothness, speed, space and comfort. I thought the car I was in had some tacky interior detailing, but fortunately that is optional. Near the end of our test drives, Steve Paikin, host of TVO’s The Agenda, coincidentally passed by en route to shooting one of his shows. The TAF folks convinced him to take a drive as well. (see pic top left… click on pics below for full view).

Toronto’s ClimateSpark initiative offers $10,000 for innovative greenhouse-gas reduction ideas

The Toronto Atmospheric Fund, a city loan- and grant-giving agency that funds local climate-change solutions, has turned to the Web and social media to beef up its deal flow. On Nov. 3 it will launch an online challenge called ClimateSpark that aims to find the best private-sector GHG reduction projects. It’s kind of like “So You Think You Can Reduce GHGs, Toronto!” or “Climate Change Idol”. A business starts by submitting a 2-page application — that is, the elevator pitch — and ends with an event where nine finalists make their pitch in front of an expert panel that will choose the winning idea. The winner gets a $10,000 prize and the final nine get an open line to an investment funding pool of $15 million.

But here’s the most interesting part. The initial judging of applications is done by the ClimateSpark community — that is, anybody who wants to register online and contribute their own thoughts on the various business proposals that have been submitted.

“This sophisticated on-line platform is designed so the community – all of you — can provide our business proponents with comments and advice throughout the 90-day challenge.  And it’s the community that selects the winners based on a sophisticated quality assessment, not just popularity,” according to Julia Langer, executive director of the Toronto Atmospheric Fund.

If you’re interested, you can apply online by visiting the ClimateSpark Web site.  After you’ve applied, here’s what happens:

1. A diverse community of investors, entrepreneurs, business and community leaders, innovators and thinkers provides comments/advice on the business submissions and rates proposals with a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down.”  The more you participate, the more points you earn and the greater your odds of winning one of our great prizes.  Your ratings will also carry more weight if your comments are seen as valuable by the community.

2. ClimateSpark has also recruited some experts to weigh in with comments and questions.

3. Smart businesses support their entry by responding to comments, answering questions and encouraging allies to join ClimateSpark and be part of the conversation. This first ‘round’ lasts two months, providing an incentive to get ideas in early and engage with the community.

4. Through a process of weighted voting, nine finalists are selected to go forward into the final round, which starts Jan. 3, 2011.

5. The nine finalists are presented with some specific challenges and our community once again gets a chance to comment and rate their submissions, as they’ve evolved.

6. The winner is selected through a combination of rating and expert review.  The winner will be announced at the ClimateSpark Summit in February 2011 and receive TAF’s $10,000 prize.

7. All nine finalists will have a chance to pitch their ideas live to a panel of experts and investors with approximately $15 million available for investment in this space.

If you check out the “community” area you’ll notice that I’ve registered as a commenter/reviewer, as anyone can. The ClimateSpark site is currently in soft-launch mode, with the hard launch coming Nov. 3. But I encourage you to check it out, roam around and participate in this unique project.

When funding some green initiatives, it’s time to get creative with the public’s money

My Clean Break column in this week’s Toronto Star looks at the way public money is being spent on green energy initiatives in Ontario. I basically give a thumbs up on grants that help to link up the province’s schools with new made-in-Ontario clean technologies that help reduce energy use or promote renewable energy. The money is well spent: it helps schools become greener and lower energy bills, and it helps local companies without a product track record get some experience in the field that can be leveraged in the marketplace.

I’m less keen on the way money is handed out for fairly straight-forward energy retrofits. For example, the province has committed $550 million to help public schools become more energy efficient over the years. But rather than simply hand over that money, why wasn’t it set aside in a revolving fund that instead offers low-interest loans to school and long-term payback terms. The idea here is that schools could pay off the loans over several years through energy savings, keeping the fund in tact. Over 10 years, such a fund could invest three times its original amount. In other words, it’s not a one-time gift but instead the gift that keeps on giving.

When we’re dealing with such low-hanging fruit — i.e. energy efficiency projects using well proven approaches and technologies — why can’t we be more creative with public money, especially when it’s being spent on municipal, hospital, school and other public buildings?

Attention Toronto fleet managers: the city needs your EV

My story today in the Toronto Star is about an ambitious electric-car project being spearheaded by the Toronto Atmospheric Fund, which is an agency of the city that promotes and provides grants for projects that reduce air emissions and pollution. Called the EV300 Initiative, the aim is to create a buyer’s club of private- and public-sector fleet managers in the Greater Toronto Area. The goal is to get at least 300 EVs in the program, which would monitor the cars over a year or two and collect data on charging patterns, winter and summer time driving performance, as well as the impact of charging on the grid. Members of the group would be able to exchange information and experiences, while a working group would be set up to analyse the data and make recommendations for what the city can do to prepare for greater penetration of electric vehicles on Toronto streets.

The Toronto Atmospheric Fund has so far signed up several public-sector partners, including Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation, Toronto Hydro, Hydro One  and the Ontario Power Authority, and smaller electric utilities and municipalities that surrounding the city are also being invited to participate. Next month, efforts will begin to start attracting private companies that would like to purchase at least one electric vehicle for their fleet as part of the program. The hope is that the buyer’s club will be set up and committed to a bulk purchase by July 1, which is when provincial incentives (up to $10,000) for purchasing electric cars are supposed to kick in.

So, if you’re in a company with its own vehicle fleet, spread the word. The more who take part in this program the merrier.

BTW: Wonder what Better Place is up to? After a big splash last January in Ontario its interest in the market seems to have faded.  Where’s the electric-vehicle demonstration and education centre it promised?  Where’s the network rollout plan and the investment timeline it was going to put together for Ontario? At least it’s making progress in Denmark, Tokyo and other parts of Europe and Asia, having just raised another $350 million.