Project Arrow at Electric Autonomy's EV and Charging Expo
If you’ve been to a vehicle show in North America in the last year, there is a good chance that you’ve clapped eyes on Project Arrow. Seen here at Electric Autonomy’s EV & Charging Expo 2023 Photo: Electric Autonomy

Project Arrow 2.0 will produce a series of 10 to 20 vehicles featuring upgraded technology and new suppliers in a program that helps solve Canada’s EV ecosystem challenges

If you’ve been to a vehicle show in North America in the last year, there is a good chance that you’ve clapped eyes on Project Arrow.

From the maple hardwood floors to the gleaming red stripe down the centre and tons of cold weather features, the inaugural made-in-Canada prototype electric vehicle is a conversation piece.

Now, the follow up — Project Arrow 2.0 — hopes to be a conversation starter.

“So, the first time around, of course, we were trying to figure out what a Canadian car looks like,” says Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association (APMA), in an interview with Electric Autonomy.

“This time we have a vehicle, we have a design, we have the engineering. It is an evolution of the product and the platform. Project Arrow is more than just about a car. It should be about the entire Canadian movement into the [EV] space.”

A series of centrepieces

In Volpe’s mind, Arrow 2.0 will exist as a series of unique vehicles that will each contain a custom blend of talent and innovation. And because no two Arrow 2.0s have to be alike, it opens up a world of possibilities for the wheres and hows of the builds.

“We’ve got a series of different options. Let’s call it Arrow 2.1 and 2.2 and 2.3 to be the showcase for how you lightweight an EV. And it might be that in Windsor, you do something with advanced propulsion, so that would be Arrow 2.4. Certainly, across this country, there are clusters that need to come into play here,” says Volpe.

With the number of Arrow vehicles increasing perhaps 20-fold in this next generation of the project, there are that many more opportunities for expanding existing partnerships and creating new ones.

That, for Volpe, is the crux of Arrow: it’s a conversation starter that acts as the catalyst for knitting together industries and players that need to be communicating as transportation moves towards electrification.

“We all see each other at events…we all talk about each other. And we say, ‘What’s the overlap?’ And, ‘We should do something together,'” says Volpe.

“We’d love to see that this Arrow 2.0, while it may be founded by the APMA and coordinated by the APMA, is driven by some of the partners that want to show what Canadian technology, people and policies can do to move to emissions in a thoughtful, but also profitable way. I think that’s the challenge we all have to take on if we’re going to get anywhere close to the targets [for EV adoption] the government has set.”

Not just battery-electric vehicles

“You know, we’re going to do a fuel cell Arrow,” states Volpe in his characteristic way, which usually involves him interrupting himself mid-sentence with an idea that sounds like a cross between whim and an absolute decree.

But, in a way, it makes sense to try the Arrow vehicle body out with multiple zero-emission technologies. Not only does it acknowledge that there is likely not one blanket solution to decarbonizing transportation, but it creates more partner options.

That distinction between suppliers and partners will be how the APMA will evaluate the request for proposals it receives from prospective Arrow 2.0 participants when the RFP process opens in January.

“We sincerely hope that the partner stream of the RFP is going to be as robust or more robust than the supplier stream,” says Volpe. “I think we should be able to platform several 100 suppliers in this, plus any number of non-automotive supplier partners.”

In addition to playing with the vehicles’ power trains, the Arrow 2.0 series will also take a deeper dive into cybersecurity, grid integration and integrated charging technologies.

“I’d love to lend the Project Arrow brand platform and vehicles to leading companies like FLO and major energy generators are distributors like Hydro One to say, ‘Okay, here, I’m going to bring these vehicles into play for you. But I would really love for you to show us how to solve for that specific ecosystem piece. Because, if you do, we all sell more cars.'”

Dollars and cents

The first time the APMA produced Project Arrow, most of the budget went into designing and engineering the body.

This time, Volpe anticipates the allocation of funding — whatever it is — will be more flexible for the simple reason that the vehicle already exists. The costs this time will be for materials, technology advancements and investments by suppliers.

But, perhaps less important than the actual dollar number to make each vehicle, is the value from the long-term the ripple effect after the reveal.

“On the first [Arrow], we had $8 million in public funding. And we’re at $500 million of new contracts and incremental contracts for the companies that participated. I think that’s a pretty good return,” says Volpe.

The budget for the second series of Project Arrow won’t be known until after the RFP submission and consideration period ends next spring. During that time, some important decisions will need to be made: How many vehicles will be in the series? What suppliers and partners will contribute? Will Arrow 2.0 be an all-Canadian IP vehicle again or will it be Canadian-led with foreign participants? Finally, what’s the manufacturing timeline?

Ready to begin

For that last point, Volpe is (perhaps over optimistically) targeting a 2026 reveal of the Project Arrow 2.0 series.

But, then again, he was also told by naysayers in 2020 that making an all-Canadian car of the future was impossible. And we’ve all seen how that turned out.

“This thing has taken on a life of its own. It has kicked up conversations, debates, discussions, proposals and complaints about Canada’s role in electrification. What role we can play? What role we are playing? How do you get to 100 per cent electrification or zero emissions?” asks Volpe.

“Can we use the goodwill generated by a platform that the world is interested in to spotlight the charging challenges and technological solutions or policy reforms? I’d love to do that.”

The APMA will be launching Project Arrow 2.0 request for proposals at CES 2024 in Las Vegas.

A few weeks later, Volpe is participating in Electric Autonomy‘s EV Innovation & Technology Conference in Toronto in early February, where he will be discussing Project Arrow 2.0. Tickets are available here.