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Ontario Centre of Innovation
NRStor pilot program brings together major energy companies to make charging EVs accessible

Success Stories

NRStor pilot program brings together major energy companies to make charging EVs accessible

What do Tesla, Enbridge, and Toronto startup NRStor have in common? A project working to launch the first major residential battery rental program in Canada.

The group, along with Toronto Hydro and certified Tesla Powerwall installer MPOWER, are working to make it easier for residents with electric vehicles (EVs) to access chargers as well as optimize energy usage.

As EVs become increasingly popular, the need for charging infrastructure grows. And with that, questions about the availability of energy and how to ensure it’s sustainable.

The Government of Canada has proposed targets that would see 100 percent of the new cars sold to be zero emissions vehicles by 2035. But EVs can’t exist without the creation of a vast charging infrastructure that makes it easy and accessible to charge vehicles.

The challenges that come along with this include upgrading Canada’s existing energy system. A report by the Canadian Climate Institute found that significant changes are required for every aspect of provincial and territorial power generation and distribution systems in order to meet future demand. The report came with warnings of potential system overloads if these issues are not addressed. Overloads to systems can lead to chargers using less clean energy (like coal, rather than wind or solar) to power EVs.

NRStor’s argument is its project can help people use the existing infrastructure better. NRStor’s chief development officer, Jason Rioux, notes that its project is meant to help homes store energy as well as avoid having to use these less-favourable types of energy.

It’s a project that is funded, in part, by the Ontario Centre of Innovation (OCI)’s Collaborate 2 Commercialize (C2C) program. The C2C program is specifically designed to allow private companies to work with academics to commercialize IP. NRStor’s project is currently in the pilot phase with plans to expand the program more broadly.

So how does the project help residents optimize energy usage? NRStor and its partners install a Tesla Powerwall battery in a resident’s home. The Tesla Powerwall is a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that optimizes energy usage. It is created by Tesla Energy, the clean energy division of Tesla. The Powerwall stores electricity for consumption, backup power if needed, and can time when energy is pulled to optimize for cost and sustainability during peak times.

The NRStor project not only installs these batteries but does so on a broader scale. It deploys a fleet of Powerwall batteries in various homes in a certain geographic location. It is then connected to a street substation to act as a decentralized battery. Currently, NRStor is piloting the project in the Toronto area of Spadina and College.

Industry leaders have argued that vast energy infrastructure changes are needed as EVs grow in popularity, NRStor is attempting to help people use our existing grids better.

Rioux explains it using the 400-highway series as an analogy. “It’s really empty at night, and it’s jammed up during the day. The power wire is exactly the same. We have all these hidden highways flowing around the whole city and around the province. If you can bring the energy in when it’s empty or uncongested, and store it where you need it and then use it … [it’s like] you just did all your deliveries when there’s no traffic.”

NRStor was founded in 2012 and the Tesla Powerwall pilot is just one aspect of its broader goal to create efficient energy storage technologies.

OCI has supported NRStor on several projects in addition to the Tesla Powerwall. In years past, OCI has helped to fund other NRStor projects where it partnered with The University of Waterloo (also a partner in the Powerwall) on various types of efficient energy storage. Those programs include TargetGHG, which helped companies adopt tech meant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and the Alberta-Ontario Innovation Program.