Ontario is in active talks with at least six battery makers and continues to court considerable global interest in the EV battery supply chain, according to provincial minister Vic Fedeli.

Ontario’s minister of economic development, job creation and trade, Vic Fedeli, took a simple message abroad: get into Ontario while there is still time

Ontario is in active talks with at least six battery makers and continues to court considerable global interest in the EV battery supply chain, according to provincial minister Vic Fedeli.

The head of economic development, job creation and trade for Ontario made the remark to Electric Autonomy Canada after returning from a recent trade trip to Germany and Austria.

“We have more than half a dozen battery makers looking at us right now,” says Fedeli. “Any manufacturer who is either making battery electric vehicles now or making batteries now, or, is looking to make batteries are all prospects for us.”

But, cautions Fedeli, even though Canada is currently seen as the land of minerals and honey for the EV battery supply chain, interested companies shouldn’t make the mistake of delaying their investment.

“It’s like a carousel going around and when it stops, not everybody is going to have a horse, so, you better get to Ontario,” says Fedeli. “Better do your deals with mineral producers, better do your deals with the refineries and let’s get you going here.”

Renewing and evolving ties

The key goals of Fedeli’s trip to Europe were twofold: confirm Ontario’s commitment to companies already doing business in the province or the country and, second, speak to as many auto companies as possible about why they should consider Ontario if they aren’t already.

“I think there was a monumental sound of shifting, backed up by our critical minerals and our ecosystem that companies know they can go into. I was very blunt in our comparisons with other jurisdictions,” says Fedeli. “Yes, there may be some attractions south of the border; I’ll call them shiny baubles. [But] I think we shifted a lot of companies to looking at Ontario versus the U.S.”

Much of the ministry delegation’s time in Germany was spent in Baden-Württemberg — an automotive hub for the country that houses hundreds of manufacturers, many of which are also active in Ontario. The province renewed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Baden-Württemberg region in a demonstration of continued collaboration and support.

Fedeli declined to name specific companies he met with beyond the information already released by the ministry (discussions were had with BMW Group, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Magna Stevr, Kapsch and ElringKlinger), including if there was any overlap with Tesla or a visit to Giga Berlin.

“No names,” demurs Fedeli. However he did offer to size the deals in question: “These are big companies.”

A safe, green haven

On this trip, and especially in Germany, Fedeli says there was a slightly different sales tack to take when selling Ontario in response to a theme that carried through all the boardrooms.

“There’s a lot of pressure with the war in Ukraine and the sourcing of materials from China. Almost every company talked about the tumultuous world that we’re in right now and Ontario being a sea of calm — stable, reliable, predictable, certain,” says Fedeli. “We really found that was underlying an important factor.”

That’s not to say the well-trotted out taglines like: “We reduced the cost of doing business by $7 billion annually. We were able to land $16 billion in investments in the last 21 months. We have 65,000 STEM grads every year,” didn’t resonate, says Fedeli — they did.

But in a country like Germany that is further pivoting to become one of the world leaders in emission reductions and emissions accountability (legislation will sooner require all German automakers to account for every kilogram of emissions from every part of a vehicle down to the nuts and bolts), companies are equally if not more interested in how their infrastructure locations will serve their environmental and sustainability goals as they will contribute to their bottom line.

“They all acknowledged somewhat that their ESG rating could become even more important in time than their Moody’s rating,” says Fedeli. “It was really a startling point.”

Landing the leads

In his own words Fedeli is confident “we’ll close on deals,” in the coming months and continue to build out Ontario’s EV battery supply chain.

Already, he says, his ministry officials are following up with the priority companies of interest from this latest trip to see what they need in order to advance to the next stage of setting up in Ontario.

Those follow-ups could include personally searching out tracts of land with potential for commercial development to arranging site visits at mines or making introductions to key ecosystem players.

“They’re going to be getting down to the nitty gritty: here’s the the ecosystem, the critical mineral companies who do your deals. Now here’s the new program at U of T for AI and quantum that involves batteries or battery testing. I mean, this really gets into the one-offs of each of the items that we gave them the big picture on,” explains Fedeli.

“[Companies] just look at us and think, ‘Wow, yeah, this is where we’ve got to be.’ That’s the feeling I had as I flew out of Germany.”