Following the COVID-19 pandemic, governments around the globe will be massively investing in, and defining policies for, economic recovery. With all fossil fuel sectors in decline, what better time to make the transition to a green economy?

And what better time for the federal government to develop an electric vehicle (EV) national strategy?

Canada does have a significant electric vehicle sector, primarily lin Quebec, and the beginnings of an EV segment in the Ontario auto industry. The current Canadian EV sector covers the entire ecosystem, such as EV school buses, trucks, urban transit buses, powertrains, batteries and raw materials, and charging infrastructure. This is backed up by world-class research capabilities.

But the piecemeal, one project at-a-time approach doesn’t make any sense when we are up against 400 electric vehicle technology manufacturers in China. In Quebec, there are 147 EV firms, which collectively employ 6,000 people.

Among the opportunities for Canada are legislative measures taken by China and the European Union, the largest and third- largest vehicle markets, requiring a transition to electric vehicles within a few years. And once global automakers bite the bullet, despite the years to amortize their investments for the most radical change in the industry in a century, the EV technologies wrapped in newly designed vehicle platforms will be available anywhere in the world.

Traditionally, Canada has cloned U.S. initiatives to address vehicle fuel consumption. The rationale for this has been Canada is part of an integrated North American market. Yet, if there is anything we have learned from the COVID-19 crisis, it is that Canada must become more self-reliant.

To be a part of this global EV transition, Canada must look east and west, rather than habitually south. The Canadian EV sector already has ties with China and Europe.

Canada’s EV manufacturing sector

A core player in the Quebec EV sector is Dana TM4. Hydro-Québec holds a 45 per cent stake in the joint venture with Ohio-based Dana . The firm has electric and hybrid drivetrain manufacturing capabilities in Boucherville, where it produces 5,000 EV motors a year, mainly for export to China. It also has a 50/50 joint venture facility in China with Prestolite E-Propulsion Systems, a supplier for trucks and buses for China and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

“To be a part of this global EV transition, Canada must look east and west, rather than habitually south. The Canadian EV sector already has ties with China and Europe.”

A user of TM4 electric direct drive technology is Lion of St-Jérôme, Que., one of the pioneers in the manufacturings of electric school buse. Its buses come with options for ranges of 90, 120 and 150 kilometres. Lion has about 600 suppliers, 25 per cent from Quebec.

As of early 2020, 300 Lion school buses were on the roads. In July 2019, Lion won a California contract for 200 electric school buses to be delivered by 2021. And other big contracts appear to be on the horizon.

Lion Electric is now on the verge of introducing an electric truck, the Lion8, expected sometime in 2020 . In March 2019, the Québec government injected $8.6 million in the firm. The first order is for one pilot vehicle for the Société des alcools du Québec (liquor board), with an option to buy more later on. In the works for the immediate future are Lion8 garbage/recycling trucks in collaboration with Boivin Évolution, fire trucks, tool trucks, giraffe crane models and ambulances. Partners include Demers for the ambulances and Posi-+ Technologies of Victoriaville, the second-largest giraffe crane truck manufacturer in North America. Lion is also collaborating with Fourgons TRANSIT, Systèmes PRAN et MAXIMETAL.

Manufacturers of electric urban transit buses in Canada are Nova Bus, owned by Volvo, and China’s BYD facility, which is in Newmarket, Ont.

As of January, seven three-minute charge with pantographs Nova Bus LFSe+ electric models with up to 600 km of autonomy are being used by the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) on its No. 36 Monk route. The pantographs automatically deploy in the presence of a bus via WiFi. During 2020, the STM will take delivery of four more all-electric Nova Bus vehicles for the Monk route, rendering the route entirely electric. The LFSe+ drivetrain is from Dana TM4.

Supporting the plans of the Montreal, Laval (STL) and Longueuil (RTL) transit authorities, the Quebec government plan originally called for all urban bus purchases to be electric by 2025. But the government of Québec is accelerating the timeline by supporting 95 per cent of the initiativeterminating subsidies for buses running on diesel or gasoline only.

In Ontario, the BYD Newmarket plant announced the delivery of its first two zero-emission, battery-electric buses to the Toronto Transit Commission, part of a total order by the TTC for 10 of its 40-foot K9M buses.

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