speaker at BEV conference
The 2023 BEV-In-Depth: Mines to Mobility Conference held at Cambrian College in Sudbury, Ont., industry stakeholders from mining companies to automakers to utilities came together to trade notes on another year of zero-emission learnings. Photo: Greater Sudbury

For several years conversations around the transition to electric vehicles have been held in apprehensive tones. Not anymore at the BEV In-depth Mines to Mobility conference in Sudbury

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This article is sponsored content presented by City of Greater Sudbury.

At the 2023 BEV-In-Depth: Mines to Mobility Conference held at Cambrian College in Sudbury, Ont., industry stakeholders from mining companies to automakers to utilities came together to trade notes on another year of zero-emission learnings.

The spirit and tone of the room over the two-day conference containing keynotes, panel sessions and presentations was decidedly here-and-now. There is a palpable hunger to break down silos and forge new alliances between supply chain players.

“There is no single solution. We are going to need it all,” said Katharine Sparkes, director of Innovation Research and Development at the Independent Electricity System Operator.

Sparkes’ statement sums up a daunting realization, while also underscoring the importance of harnessing as many facets of the EV ecosystem in one room. Everyone needs a seat at the table.

“We need to continue to evolve in order to get the talent to fill the pipeline that we have,” said Samantha Espley, senior advisor at Stantec. “We need to tap into all of the people.”

Sharing toys to solve problems

For the BEV-In-Depth attendees and panelists, a common theme throughout the conference was cross-profession collaboration.

This includes lining up new suppliers to brainstorming unexpected partnerships and making the EV ecosystem workforce more diverse, inclusive and equitable.

Minister Champagne and speaker at BEV conference
Ontario’s minister of job creation, Vic Fedeli, and TVO’s The Agenda host, Steve Paikin, in a fireside chat about the EV ecosystem. Photo: Greater Sudbury

“We’re in it for the jobs — to create jobs,” said Ontario’s minister of Economic Development and Job Creation, Vic Fedeli in a fireside chat with TVO’s The Agenda host, Steve Paiken. “We know how to make things in Ontario, that’s what we do. You need to be part of this ecosystem.”

Getting into the ecosystem is coming in many forms for the stakeholders at the Sudbury conference.

Panelists and speakers gave examples of investing in Indigenous relationships on projects, drawing on experts from different industries and creating workplace policies that attract women, BIPOC and disabled workers to the EV workforce.

“It improves everything when women do well in the workforce,” said Nour Hachem Fawaz, founder and president of workforce equity and diversity non-profit, Build A Dream, in Windsor, Ont.

“But beyond women: diverse cultural backgrounds, BIPOC, Indigenous employees. It helps our society in so many ways.”

Teamwork makes the dreamwork

speaker at BEV conference
Jason Rioux, chief development officer at NRStor Inc presenting on the Oneida Energy Storage Project. Photo: Greater Sudbury

Unlike in some industry conferences or even historically in the auto sector, in place of the fierce competition between automaker is emerging a new phenomenon in 2023: collaboration.

“There is an opportunity to address these issues if we share our toys,” remarked Jason Rioux, chief development officer at NRStor Inc., a power solutions company in Toronto.

Glen Watson, sustainability and regulatory affairs for Vale, echoed a similar sentiment saying, “we understand this is not something we can achieve on our own and what we’re trying to promote is that we need to work together.”

Rioux and Watson’s observation are playing out in a significant way across the EV supply chain and was on full display in Sudbury.

From multiple automakers striking mineral supply deals with the same mining companies, to competitors buying stakes in the same battery cell companies, to test driving each other’s vehicles, to simply trading notes on the challenges of pivoting to manufacturing EVs; the signal is we are in this together.

Even in sourcing talent the industry is stepping up in collaboration. During the conference mining engineering firm, Sandvik Mining, announced a contribution to Cambrian College’s battery electric vehicle lab.

“The right thing to do by Sandvik is to come to the universities and colleges, and like Cambrian, find partners who can now use the equipment, for hands on education,” said Peter Corcoran, vice president of Sandvik mining and rock technology.

“[I]t’s really important that we grow the next level of technology in our students that are here at Cambrian so we can access them, not only for the OEMs but also the mining customers.”

However, while the private sector may be willing to work in harmony, some are voicing concern the government isn’t moving in sync with the industry on adjacent infrastructure.

“It’s a federal mandate, but then when you talk about infrastructure you’re talking about provincial, municipal, stakeholders and the whole ecosystem of charging infrastructure,” said Jean Marc Leclerc, president and CEO of Honda Canada.

“There’s no coordination efforts, and coordination is really key to the speed of implementing that infrastructure.”

Marking the progress of the BEV revolution

The difference in the industry’s attitude towards developing zero-emission technologies and solutions between Sudbury’s BEV In-Depth conferences in 2022 and 2023 is noticeable.

“Our firms are guiding the way in developing and adopting new technologies for mining in the digital age, including EVs underground, enhanced automation, and advanced telecommunications,” said Greater Sudbury mayor, Paul Lefebvre.

Showcasing how forward thinking (and acting) a company is in the transition is now seen as a positive, rather than viewed with trepidation or skepticism.

“Folks, you’ve got to be very proud of what you’re doing; the industry you’re involved with. Because your children are going to be talking about this,” said Ontario Mines minister, George Pirie.

“It’s happening right now. This is our time.”