CANADA – EnWin Utilities is one of four hydro companies in Canada — and the first in Ontario — selected for a General Motors program to get ready for the plug-in electric Chevrolet Volt. The idea is to educate consumers and get the electrical infrastructure in place — installing the proper plugs in homes and public places, such as shopping malls, and ensuring the electrical system can handle the extra demand — prior to the automaker rolling out the car, which is expected by the end of 2010, according to the Windsor Star.

EnWin Utilities is responsible for the distribution of electricity to the City of Windsor, as well as the service and maintenance of Windsor's electricity distribution infrastructure. EnWin also provides managed services for the Windsor Utilities Commission. By getting in on the preparation program's ground floor, ensuring the city, homes, and consumers are ready for the cutting-edge vehicles, Windsor's goal is to be plug-in ready so it stands a good chance of being selected by GM as one of 15 to 20 target markets in North America.

"The city wants to indicate to them that we want to be part of this," said Mayor Eddie Francis. "Hopefully, that will allow the city to take advantage of any economic opportunity for future jobs that may be associated with this new generation of automobiles. When these vehicles are brought to market, those cities that have places to plug in will be the cities that will attract the most potential sales and investment."

Given Windsor's position as Canada's automotive capital and a growing center for automotive research and development, this is an ideal location for GM to focus its new electric product and potential spinoff jobs, Francis added.

GM hopes to have the Volt on the road by the end of 2010, saying it will produce 10,000 units in 2011 at its Hamtramck assembly plant in Michigan.

The other Canadian utilities taking part in the program are B.C. Hydro, Manitoba Hydro, and Quebec Hydro. Enwin is one of the smallest utilities among the 41 involved across North America.

EnWin's energy conservation officer, Lawrence Musyj, will be leading the utility's participation in the program. He attended a three-day EPRI workshop in Denver recently.

"We want to have the infrastructure in place in order to be ready for the plug-in vehicles so that we can handle the load and offer the best service to customers," he said.

Charging time will be roughly nine hours for those with a 120V connection, but only three hours for those with 220V, he noted.

"Public education will be important to explain what plug-in vehicles are all about, while we also start taking a look at our system in order to prepare," said Musyj.

If there are 2,000 new users of the plug-in vehicles in Windsor, they would substantially increase demand on the local electric grid and could cause problems during peak use hours. Enwin will focus on convincing consumers to charge the new plug-in vehicles during non-peak hours to lower their costs and also help avoid overloading the grid.

The daily cost to charge the plug-in hybrid vehicles will be roughly the same as running a dishwasher.