engineers working in front of computer

NGen, the industry-led organization behind Canada’s Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster, wants to fund projects that help strengthen the Canadian auto sector’s ability to transition to zero emission vehicles

Next Generation Manufacturing Canada (NGen) is issuing a call for advanced manufacturing projects and innovations to help move Canada forward in the global shift to zero-emission vehicles.

And it’s backing it up with a $20-million investment — paired with an additional $20-million industry match — to finance development of those solutions and, in the process, accelerate the Canadian auto sector’s crucial transition from internal combustion to electric.

Specifically, the $40 million in funds will go towards research and development projects that focus on innovations in manufacturing processes as well as systems and component design for battery electric and fuel cell vehicles.

According to NGen, demand for traditional powertrain components will drop precipitously by 2030. In contrast, it says production of components for EV powertrains is expected to grow from US$6 billion in 2019 to US$26 billion in 2030.

While this transition is exciting, Canada needs to be ready to step up with a properly designed roadmap and strategy. As NGen’s chief technology officer, John Laughlin, explains, “the new production capabilities must be the cutting edge, the most efficient, the highest quality and the greenest if we are to enter this market, gain share and stay competitive.”

Opportunity awaits

NGen is an industry-led think tank out of McMaster University Innovation Park, dedicated to “securing supply chains, protecting the environment, improving healthcare, and supporting technology adoption across Canada.” It’s one of five national networks supported by Canada’s Innovation Superclusters Initiative and has over 3,800 members.

According to the NGen funding release, there are three categories of automotive manufacturing where Canada can take advantage, contribute, and lead the changing landscape:

ZEV Manufacturing. Canada is in better shape than a year ago because of a new EV production mandates announced by legacy automakers Ford, GM and Stellantis. Our position has been boosted further by newcomers like Lion Electric, which is also building a dedicated assembly factory. However, Canada will need more mandates in order to become a bigger part of the ZEV automotive supply chain, including ones that specifically address the manufacture of zero-emission buses and heavy trucks.

ZEV Systems and Components. Already well-positioned with Linamar, Magna, Martinrea and hundreds of other competitive companies with a global reach along the EV supply chain, Canada needs to support manufacturing of the latest technologies in-country.

Batteries. Canada’s brain trust, natural resources and room to grow the manufacturing industry to scale lends itself well to a vertically integrated EV battery supply chain. Through collaboration efforts of manufacturers, the mining industry and public and private sector stakeholders, Canada is well-positioned to develop some of the most technologically and environmentally advanced solutions for the industry.

Defining years

Experts agree that the next five years are crucial if Canada is to step-up and take a leadership role in the future of electric vehicles and the automotive supply chain. According to NGen, that means the time to build on the country’s research, technology and manufacturing strengths is now.

In the coming months, the think tank says it will release results from a collaborative study of the Canadian ZEV environment, which studied the risks and benefits of a transition. “Moreover, and importantly, it will provide a roadmap and a timeline to help enable manufacturers in Canada to deploy advanced manufacturing technologies to capitalize on this revolution in transportation and play a leading role in the automotive industry of the future,” reads the challenge announcement.

The NGen study was done in partnership with Porsche Consulting, the Trillium Network for Advanced Manufacturing, and the Automotive Parts Manufacturing Association.

Find the full NGen press release here.