When electric cars meet the suburban home
Canadian consultant says home builders and car makers need to collaborateBy Mike Cote
Andrew Bowerbank’s perspective on sustainability covers the wide spectrum: everything from renewable energy to electric cars and sustainable building. The Ontario-based consultant spends much of his time bringing diverse groups together.
For example, home builders and car manufacturers need to collaborate on home construction if electric cars are going to truly become commonplace in suburban neighborhoods, he says.
During an interview with Planet-Profit Profit Report, the former executive director of the World Green Building Council talked about the growing popularity of electric cars, trends in green building and the rise of governments as promoters of sustainability. (Part 1 of this series focused on Ontario’s energy evolution. Watch an interview with Bowerbank.)
Why electric cars are powering up in greater numbers
“A lot of it has to do with battery technology -- just the advances in lithium-ion batteries are amazing,” Bowerbank says. “But we’re already seeing the next steps – the lithium-air battery, much lighter zinc-air batteries and so forth. They’re allowing cars to travel distances of 100 to 300 kilometers.
“The new Tesla has just set a record. I think it was 350 kilometers on a single charge. (Actually it was 313 – PPR). Automotive manufacturers are actually saying that electric vehicle technology is a better technology than IC (internal combustion) engines. The last time we saw that was in the ’80s when we went from carburetor to fuel injection. It was your luxury vehicles that introduced fuel injection to the marketplace, and now you can’t get a carburetor engine anymore. I think we’re seeing the same kind of shift.
“I think what regular consumers have to see is the way that electric vehicles can give you the fun of instant torque from zero to 60. You don’t have to go through gears through horsepower to get up to a certain speed. Consider a fast car to be one that goes 100 or 120 miles an hour car – (the electric car) is one that gets you from zero to 60 in three seconds.
“And that’s one thing the electric does so you have a lot of the sports cars, your Mercedes, our BMWs and others, that are really pushing the envelope in design, in style, where people are looking at it and going ‘I like that car,’ not ‘Oh, it’s green and electric.’ To me, that market transformation is starting to happen.
Beyond Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design
Builders can expect tougher energy-efficiency requirements when the revision of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) are released in 2012. Bowerbank says the bigger issue, however, is how LEED will be accepted by the international marketplace
“Five, six years ago, you had multiple rating tools, BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method)out of Europe, Green Star out of Asia-Pacific, CASBEE (Comprehensive Assessment System for Building Environmental Efficiency) out of Japan and others,” he says.
“LEED in U.S. and Canada have done great work in transforming the marketplace here. But LEED is now making placeholders in different parts of the world. I don’t think it’s going to be a market where there’s going to be a dominance of any one rating tool but more of a collaboration.
“One of the things that I did when I was the head of the World Green Building Council was work with other organizations to create a benchmark for carbon emissions coming off of buildings. This is a tool or benchmark system that all of the rating tools could feed into.
“When you have some kind of benchmark around carbon emissions from infrastructure, that’s now a resource that you can give to the U.N. So when they’re looking at making international carbon taxes or protocols, they have something to start with from an infrastructure perspective. That becomes something above and beyond what LEED was put in place to do in its infancy.
On military and government advances in LEED
“Canada was probably the only country outside the U.S. that was actually given a license to use and adopt LEED to make it its own. And it had done that very effectively for the first number of years,” Bowerbank says. “The Canadian government did take a bit of a leadership position in that. But I think a lot of builders and developers had much more interest in the beginning, much like what the U.S. was doing to create that sort of leadership position.
“You want builders and developers who could stand out from the crowd. I think the U.S. has really gone a step further and pushed it from the government and military side. Canada is still looking at it from a builder/developer point of view and pushing the LEED homes mechanism very aggressively right now, especially Ontario.
“You get a lot more of commercial high-rises in B.C. and some parts of Toronto. But it will be interesting to see how things evolve with LEED moving forward, not just in North America, but around the world.”
Adopting sustainable building for production homes
“You want people to build these better projects, but you have to be able to engage the manufacturers of these products and people who are experts in these fields more effectively than just being an advocate for a certain way of doings things,” Bowerbank says. “In Canada, in Ontario, the home builders are a very important part of what happens in the marketplace. It is in the U.S. as well.
“But when it comes to things like electric vehicles, plugging into a home to get energy off the grid, up until this point, those three sectors have never had to talk before. If you’re going to talk about plugging a car into a building or a house, the homebuilders have to be engaged in that process.
“Part of what I’m trying to create is that mechanism for collaboration for communication in a neutral playing field so the market can respond, and then allow competitive movement from there to take over.”
About Mike Cote
Mike Cote is the editor of Planet-Profit Report. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.