An EV on a lift at Durham College
For over 30 years, Durham College has offered a suite of spaces and resources to the auto industry to encourage problem solving and technology development. Photo: Durham College

Whether its research, maintenance, or training, Durham College is a one-stop shop for all you need to know about EVs

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For over 30 years, Durham College has offered a suite of spaces and resources to the auto industry to encourage problem solving and technology development.

Now, Durham College is building on its legacy as an automotive solutions hub with the launch of EV-specific training labs and incubator areas. 

In August, the college announced a new 9,000 square foot facility housing two new learning spaces called PROTO and the Electrical Vehicle (EV) Lab.

PROTO is a collaborative, solution-oriented industry space to develop technologies that address challenges in the EV industry, while the EV Lab helps train students with the skills to meet the needs of the future automotive industry.

The facility is one of a few spaces in Ontario that is solely dedicated to EV industry training and research.

“We have equipment, chargers, and other things people can work on,” says Chris Gillis, manager of applied research and business development at Durham College. “General Motors put on an event [at the EV lab] for first responders on how to respond to EV accidents.”

The lab is a valuable tool during a time where many OEMs are scaling up electrification efforts, but there is a lack of consumer knowledge around EV adoption, Gillis adds.  

“Through a lot of these activities, Durham College can Gillis said.  better inform industry in terms of, practically, what is going to happen, and provide a space for experiments,” Gillis says.

“One of the things you could do here is create training in immersive reality. If you remember the holodeck in Starship Enterprises, well, that’s kind of what we are.” The spaces are open to students and faculty, but the college also works directly with industry.

A tradition of automotive training

There are multiple contact points within Durham College that work directly with businesses to listen to their problems or new ideas and put them in touch with the department that will suit them the best.

“We just like to have a conversation,” Gillis said. “No one size fits all. Fundamentally, it’s trying to understand particular challenges and either who, or what combination of who, could help address their challenges.”

Durham College — with the launch of the new EV spaces — can play a critical role in fostering innovation and, with existing resources at the school, teach businesses about the benefits of EVs.

But PROTO and the EV Lab are also building on an existing strong foundation for tried and tested industry learning spaces at the college.

One of Durham College’s most successful programs is a customizable education tool: Corporate Training Services (CTS).

“[CTS] will develop training for organizations in specific areas,” said Gillis, adding that CTS offers media and content creation training, workforce training strategies and artificial intelligence services for companies in advanced automotive, energy, and other industries. CTS is already used by a variety of major clients including General Motors, Hyundai and Ontario Power Generation.

On top of CTS, Durham College’s Office Research Service, a department in the college that facilitates applied research projects and entrepreneurial ideas, runs a mixed-reality studio that works with non-profits, start-ups and other companies to test products in a virtual space.

By way of example, Gillis says, the studio is a boon for companies training technicians who may be working with high-voltage technology for the first time.

“Propulsion systems for electric cars or buses are running at very high voltages where, if you make a mistake, it can be lethal,” says Gillis. “Virtual immersive reality creates a safe space for introductory training.”

‘The entities go hand-in-hand’

All of Durham College’s research and innovation services — the EV Lab, CTS and Office Research Services — offer different EV resources for users.

CTS is an outward-facing branches of the college that provides knowledge, testing and training for companies. The EV lab and Office Research Services are services that foster entrepreneurship and innovative ideas on campus.

And, eventually, the EV lab will offer a one-year graduate certificate to students focused on EV maintenance.

“I think all three of the entities have interesting overlaps and intersections,” Gillis said. “And the opportunity to involve students who will be job ready, move not only into dealerships, but other areas of application to support the adoption of EVs in our cities.” 

Ultimately, as EV adoption ramps up in the years to come, Durham College hopes to be at the forefront of that movement — supporting the local community and workforce to be on the leading edge of new technology.

“As our motto ‘leading the way’ says, we’re here to help prepare a workforce, community, and industry for the future.”  Gillis says.