A greener future for Canada is on the horizon—at least that is the promise of our different levels of government. Canada has joined over 120 other countries, including all other G7 nations, in committing to be net-zero emissions by 2050. To acquire that, our economic infrastructure must change a lot and some of these modifications have already been planned and are being put in place.
Among them is the focus on electric vehicle production, charging stations, battery material and everything that is needed for this market. Canada and Ontario’s governments are working to attract these kinds of companies back home, especially because by 2035, combustion engines vehicles will be banned in this country.
In this scenario the Durham Regional Technology Development Site (DRTDS) was brought to life and plays a key role in the development of this industry. They work as a consortium funded by the Ontario government with the mission of facilitating the adoption of cutting-edge technologies by municipalities and the private sector, supporting start-up entrepreneurs, municipalities, industry and other interested parties in these technologies. In this interview, a representative of DRTDS explain us the importance of the work they develop with these key players, analyze the path Canada is taking to acquire these new technologies and points out that governments must introduce more aggressive incentives to make it easier, and more affordable, to the population to acquire this kind of product and help build a greener future.
Milénio Stadium: What is the main purpose of Durham RTDS, and how many companies/ start-ups related to electric vehicles are part of it?
Durham Regional Technology Development Site: The Durham Regional Technology Development Site (DRTDS) is a consortium funded by the Ontario government with the mission of facilitating the adoption of cutting-edge technologies by Municipalities and the private sector, supporting startup entrepreneurs, Municipalities, Industry and other interested parties in working together and demonstrating those technologies in the real grounds of Ontario. We provide local and international startups and SMEs with the vital resources to develop, validate, prototype, and commercialize products and services in electric and connected transportation, smart mobility and smart community solutions for Canadian and global markets. Our reason d’etre is to provide C/A/EV founders with a regional sandbox for developing solutions that are required to adopt an all-electric future. We fill the adoption gap that Automotive OEMs are not focused on, showcasing with real-world users what community adoption of technologies of the future can really look like today.
MS: How do you see the electric vehicle market and smart mobility solutions here in Canada nowadays?
DRTDS: Durham RTDS is excited about the progress that Canada is making in the EV industry. In the last twelve months Ontario secured over $ 7.1 Bi in investments in partnership with leading Automotive OEMS such as GM, Volkswagen, Stellantis and Mercedes. Some examples are the retooling of both GM’s and Stellantis’ plants for electric vehicle production, and the new EV battery material manufacturing plants in Ontario, notably from world mining giant VALE. However, at Durham RTDS, we feel that EV technology should be viewed as more than electric vehicles, batteries and charging stations. There are countless opportunities that electrification can present for Canada — not only for vehicles but for communities as well. That said, communities in Canada must be willing and ready to adopt what these technologies offer, or these opportunities will remain as just that — opportunities. Municipalities in Ontario can look to Durham Region as an example of what all communities can become when adopting technology is a priority. Named in 2022 as one of the top seven smart communities of the year, Durham Region has a strong history of bolstering innovation to improve municipal services. The first regional municipality in Canada to implement ai for pothole detection and the first to launch a pilot project for an autonomous shuttle fully integrated into an existing transit service, Durham Region is at the center of electrification adoption.The key to the region’s success is a forward-thinking mentality and strong collaboration between Regional and local municipalities, an incubator, post-secondary institutions, testing and R&D facilities, industry leaders, innovators and startups. This collective works together to identify municipal challenges and puts out calls to innovators for solutions, not only from across Ontario but from around the world as well and creates a test bed for the actual deployment of these technologies to bring these solutions to market.
MS: Do you consider there’s an increased interest of companies and start-ups in the EV market, considering it will be the future of the global vehicle sector?
DRTDS: Absolutely! Regardless of the different paces of adoption across the globe, the fundamental truth is that Electrification has gained considerable momentum. In Europe, there is a consensus to shutting the production of ICE vehicles (internal combustion engines) in the early 2030s, which is less than ten years away.
In Canada, the federal government will be banning combustion engines by 2035. The generation and utility industries worldwide are just starting to figure out how generation can meet electricity demand and how the grid can get that to charging stations and homes. Solar, micro-grids and housing electrification/preparation for EVs is an industry that’s just begun. Robotics, an industry based on autonomous vehicles and mostly electric, is also gaining momentum in the warehouses and manufacturing yards. In 2022 robots for road and sidewalk maintenance are still in the beginning stages. With all of that, in Ontario and more specifically, what we see through Durham RTDS is a considerable increase in demand for the adoption solutions and open discussion focused on coping with those disruptions in the municipal and private sector spaces.
MS: Electric vehicles and all the technologies involved are still something pricey for the majority of Canadians. How does the industry work to change this reality and make this technology more accessible in the future?
DRTDS: In Norway, which has the highest electric vehicle adoption rate in the world, government incentives such as no import duties and the waving of various taxes on the purchase of an electric vehicle have helped to fuel record consumer adoption. At this early stage in EV adoption in Canada, manufacturers have been offering incentives; however, more aggressive federal and provincial government incentives would have more impact in driving consumer adoption in the country.
MS: According to experts, the EV market will expand dramatically over the next two decades. What is the role you think Canada will be playing in this industry?
DRTDS: The Ontario and Federal governments have helped to attract unprecedented investment in the Ontario EV manufacturing sector, which we believe positions Ontario in a leading role in North America and possibly globally. However, these electric, connected, and automated vehicles will operate in our communities with untapped abilities to make driving safer (zero accidents), reduce congestion, and improve the quality of life with new and innovative mobility solutions if communities do not engage in shaping the use of these new technologies. This is the mission of the Durham RTDS: to engage with communities by running demonstration projects that will inform technology developers and policymakers to further EV adoption in a safe and responsible manner that maximizes the benefits to communities.