'Accelerator on steroids' for EVs launches in Windsor

On Wednesday, Invest Windsor-Essex unveiled the Canadian Automobility Hub — a startup accelerator that it's calling the "first of its kind in Canada." 

'First of its kind in Canada' hub to bring innovative design, production to Windsor

Zero-emissions, electric delivery vehicle at the Canadian Automobility Hub. Vehicles such as these are ones that the hub looks to research and produce. (Darrin Di Carlo/CBC)

As Windsor aims to become the "automobility capital of Canada," a new hub in the city seeks to push the envelope on electric vehicle research and production. 

On Wednesday morning, Invest Windsor-Essex launched the Canadian Automobility Hub — a startup accelerator that it's calling the "first of its kind in Canada." 

According to Invest Windsor-Essex executive director of mobility partnership and innovation Matthew Johnson, "there is no physical space like this" in the country, adding that it's an "accelerator on steroids."

The hub includes a "ramp-up factory" where people can research and build  zero-emission, electric vehicles or other autonomous devices, such as drones. 

The unveiling at St. Clair College is exciting for motive power technician student Drew Reaume, who said he's passionate about limiting the environmental impact vehicles have. 

"We see the impact that gasoline engines have on the environment, how the EV is a much cleaner design and how the cars are produced and made, everything is much cleaner and environmental friendly," he said. 

"It seems that gasoline, diesel are becoming limited in the future so having the opportunity to work on electric cars at St. Clair will open a lot of doors ... for the future," he said. 

Drew Reaume, left, and Jacob Shafar, right, are motive power technician students at St. Clair College. They told CBC News Wednesday that the opening of the hub presents exciting new career opportunities for them. (Darrin Di Carlo/CBC)

This announcement comes as Windsor continues to move toward electric vehicle production opportunities.

This past summer, the Liberal government said it is committed to turning all new cars and light-duty trucks sold in the country to zero-emission by 2035. 

Hub spans 3 locations in city 

Three locations across the city will host the research and enterprise sections of the new Canadian Automobility Hub: St. Clair College, the University of Windsor and automotive manufacturing company Windsor Mold Group.

The University of Windsor space is expected to be completed by mid-summer 2022, but the other two are ready to be used. 

"[The space] is encompassing all of the business advisory services as well as the manufacturing and entrepreneurial services in one place," he said. 

"The ultimate goal is that the entrepreneur or startup company that starts at the ramp-up factory will eventually get to a point where they will actually need to open up their own facility to meet demands of their own customer base." 

The creation of the hub — funded by private and public sector groups, along with government supports — costs between $15 and $20 million, according to Johnson. 

Job-wise, Johnson said the number of people hired will depend on the contracts that come through. 

To start, he said there is a request from ENWIN Utilities to transition some of their vehicles into electric ones — it's a job that Johnson said will take about three to five people.

Invest Windsor-Essex said some funding for the hub was taken from a $5 million FedDev Ontario grant. The remainder came from private sector investment, but Johnson couldn't provide an exact breakdown. 

PEM Motion and Integris, alongside Windsor Mold Group, are the private sector partners. Though PEM Motion is a German-based company, Johnson said the country has "advanced" knowledge on battery electric vehicles that they want to benefit from. 

Meanwhile, the public sector partners, like St. Clair College and the University of Windsor, are providing the space and equipment, he said. 


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