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A Chevrolet Volt at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. GM and Bullfrog Power are offering a greener way to charge the battery of the electric car.

Mark Blinch/Reuters/Mark Blinch/Reuters

General Motors Canada and Bullfrog Power Inc. are teaming up to sell a renewable-energy branded edition of the Chevrolet Volt electric powered car.

The new version of the Volt, which has been on sale in Canada since September, will require buyers to pay $198 to get Bullfrog to inject enough electricity from renewable sources into the grid to power the vehicle for two years.

The optional Bullfrog edition will come with a special badge, so drivers can show off that they not only drive an electric car, but also that the power for it is not coming from coal or oil-fired power plants.

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In the past six years, Bullfrog Power has signed up thousands of households and businesses across the country; they pay higher prices than the going rate for electricity to support green energy generation. While those customers continue to use power from their local energy grid, Bullfrog supplies utilities with an equivalent amount of power it buys from sources such as wind and hydro. Each year it releases an independent audit assuring customers it has acquired enough green electricity to meet its sales commitments.

Customers get the satisfaction, and bragging rights, that they use only renewable power. Bullfrog uses the premium to invest in new clean-power operations, and to pay higher prices to green-power suppliers.

Bullfrog chief executive officer Tom Heintzman said the joint venture with GM is designed to draw a link in consumers' minds between electric vehicles and renewable energy. It is important that "people really do consider where the electricity comes from for the electric vehicles, and use electric vehicles to support renewable energy," he said.

Matt Crossley, director of engineering at GM Canada, said some customers who are buying the Volt for environmental reasons "want to clean up that last bit of carbon footprint" by ensuring the electricity used to run the car comes from green sources.

The Volt is a plug-in vehicle that also has a small, gas-powered backup engine that kicks in when the battery runs out of juice. The battery is usually charged at home overnight, giving it an all-electric range of about 60 kilometres.

An average Volt will require about 7.5 megawatt-hours of power to operate over two years, Mr. Heintzman said. An average home would use about 20 MWh for all other uses over that same time period.

The base sticker price for a Volt is about $41,500 in Canada, although various provinces provide rebates of up to $8,200. GM says it costs about $1 to charge the battery for a 60-km trip.

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Only about 275 Volts were sold in Canada by the end of December. So far, they are being sold in a handful of large urban markets, but they will be available across the country by the end of the year. Bullfrog sells power in six provinces, but it is expanding to all of them over the next couple of months.

A recent study suggested that as many as 45 car companies will be making electric vehicles around the globe by 2015, and worldwide sales could reach 1 million cars by then. Another report prepared for the federal government suggested there could be 500,000 plug-in cars on the roads in Canada by 2018.

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About the Author
Reporter, Report on Business

Richard Blackwell has reported on Canadian business for more than three decades. At the Financial Post and the Globe and Mail he has covered technology, transportation, investing, banking, securities and media, among many other subjects. Currently, his focus is on green technology and the economy. More

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