Automotive News Canada - August 2023 - 22

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* AUGUST 2023
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Canada could fall behind on tech
unless R&D funding is stepped up
As the industry
transitions to EVs,
government aid is
seen as essential
By STEVE MERTL
VANCOUVER CORRESPONDENT
AMID THE BILLIONS OF
dollars in government subsidies
committed to Stellantis and
Volkswagen to secure
battery production in
Canada, increased public
funding of automotive
research and development
in business and
education is seen as
in Oshawa and Markham, Ont., the
latter of which works on autonomous-vehicle
(AV) technology with
a projected workforce of 700.
Ford, aside from its Windsor,
Ont., technical centre, opened a
facility in Ottawa in 2017 to focus on
software development for AV connectivity,
with more than 300 engineers
on staff.
TECHNOLOGY
critical to global competitiveness
in the shift toward vehicle electrification.
Madeline
McQueen, R&D engineer
at University of Windsor's
Centre for Hybrid Automotive
Research and Green Energy, said
government needs to step up financial
support to
ensure EV components
are not only
built in Canada
but are designed
here and to help
train the highly
skilled work force
required by the
fledgling supply
chain.
McQueen:
R&D trains
the workers
the industry
will need to
make the
EV shift.
SUPPLIED
PHOTO
The Stellantis
battery plant
under construction
in Windsor,
Ont., and the
Volkswagen plant,
announced for
St. Thomas, near
London, will need engineers and
technicians skilled in EV parts,
such as electric motors, battery
packs and software.
" The more government funding
that's given to universities to
develop EV technologies, the more
students we're able to take on, "
McQueen said. " And when they
graduate... they will be
those highly skilled, qualified
personnel that's needed. "
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Taxpayer funds offset
some of the financial
risk associated with leading-edge
technology that
might not always pay off,
said Brian Kingston, president
of the Canadian
Vehicle Manufacturers'
Association (CVMA), which
represents the interests of
the Detroit Three automakers
in Canada.
" I think there's widespread
recognition from
policymakers that governments
have a role to play
here, " he said. " Obviously,
the risks are much higher,
particularly in the early
stages of research and
development. "
SPOTLIGHT
Stellantis' Automotive Research
and Development Centre (ARDC)
- partnered with the University
of Windsor - opened
in 1996 to conduct an
array of research.
There are now 800 positions
and it will grow
further to house the
automaker's first battery
lab in North America, related
to the $5 billion battery-cell plant in
Windsor. It is scheduled to produce
its first cells in 2024.
Honda Canada Inc. operates an
engineering facility in Markham,
Ont., while Toyota Canada Inc.
has a safety research centre in
Vancouver.
R&D ON CAMPUS
A number of universities have
automotive research centres,
such as McMaster Automotive
Research Centre (MARC), located at
McMaster University in Hamilton,
Ont., and founded in 2011 with federal
funding.
Canadian universities, especially
their engineering schools, are
well-regarded globally, Kingston
said.
" That can be a reason to put
activity in Canada. "
Kingston:
" Governments
have a
role to play "
in funding
research by
easing the
financial
risk to
automakers,
especially
in the early
stages of
R&D.
FILE PHOTO
Many of those risks are rolled up
in vehicle development.
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Matt Parsons at mparsons@autonews.com
or 248-756-4698.
BUILD IT, AND R&D WILL COME
" Typically, what you see is when
you attract a big investment in an
assembly footprint, you get this
associated spinoff into R&D, which
is attached or adjacent to manufacturing, "
Kingston said.
GM Canada has technical centres
McMaster has received $50 million
in public funding over the past
10 to 12 years to set up MARC, said
Saeid Habibi, professor of mechanical
engineering at the university.
" You're at the inception of a
major change in industry, " he said.
" We're moving toward electric
vehicles; they're going to happen.
And if you don't entrench the technology
right now here in Canada,
you're not going to be able to compete "
with other auto-producing
jurisdictions.
Engineering professor
Narayan Kar runs
the Centre for Hybrid
Automotive Research
and Green Energy on the
University of Windsor
Campus. To receive federal
funding, he said,
projects must include an
industry partner. Kar
counts Ford, parts maker
Magna International,
D&V Electronics and
BorgWarner among the
lab's long-standing stakeholders.
In
2021, for example,
Kar received a $1.8 million
grant for a three-year
project to develop cheaper,
more powerful and
robust electric motors and
drive systems. The project
involves Magna and GaN Systems,
an Ottawa semiconductor firm.
Magna and the National Science
Engineering Research Council
(NSERC) contributed more than
$1 million in cash, while the companies
made in-kind contributions
worth more than $700,000.
" We produce knowledge, and we
use that knowledge to help industry
develop better products, " said Kar.
Mokrini: Although there's little
demand for better battery
production and recycling today,
these are " technologies of the
future. " SUPPLIED PHOTO
Andréa Daigle, spokesperson for
Innovation, Science and Economic
Development Canada, said Ottawa
invested more than $7.6 million
between 2017 and 2022 in university-level
EV research, including for
smart chargers and grid communications.
" Canada's
science and research
sectors are well-positioned to meet
the demands of the 21st Century,
especially in the electric vehicle
industry, with a highly educated
work force, world-class research
institutions and abundant sources
of clean energy, " Daigle said.
COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS
While basic research is done at
campus facilities, much work now
focuses on developing and refining
specific products for industry clients.
Universities have had to shift
their approach to research, said Bill
Van Heyst, dean of engineering at
the University of Windsor.
" We tend to put things more in
line of a business proposal now
rather than 'come do research, and
we'll solve the world's problems.'
People don't buy that anymore;
they need to see a return on their
investment. "
The same goes for a governmental
institution. The National
Research Council (NRC) does commissioned
work for automakers
and suppliers while also conducting
basic research.
The latter includes examining
next-generation batteries - offering
higher capacity and solid-state
design - that might not become
commercial for many years.
" These are the technologies of
the future, " said Asmae Mokrini,
the NRC's senior research officer
for automotive and surface transportation.
Small-
and midsize enterprises
can tap into product-development
help through the NRC's Industrial
Research Assistance Program.
RESEARCH FOR TOMORROW
Industry is also looking for cleaner
methods of battery production
and better recycling methods, said
Mokrini. They include recovery
of lithium, cobalt and manganese.
Expected growth in the EV market
will produce increased volumes of
spent batteries.
Industry participants at a recent
conference on EV development that
Mokrini attended said government
must streamline permitting and
approvals if Canada is to remain
competitive. It's not an issue at
NRC, she said.
" For sure, it's a large organization;
and for sure, there are a lot of
processes, but from the R&D processes, "
it's not as difficult as it is
for manufacturers seeking to set up
a plant. - ANC
- With files from Grace Macaluso
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Automotive News Canada - August 2023

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Automotive News Canada - August 2023

Automotive News Canada - August 2023 - Intro
Automotive News Canada - August 2023 - 1
Automotive News Canada - August 2023 - 2
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Automotive News Canada - August 2023 - 4
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