OTTAWA – Canada’s successful shift toward electric-vehicle production is seeing the country’s auto sector expand from its traditional Ontario base across the country.
This is according to new research by two nonprofits, the Trillium Network for Advanced Manufacturing, which raises public and investor awareness, and Accelerate, an alliance of mining, batteries, fuel cells, R&D, the public sector, Indigenous peoples’ interests, labor, vehicle manufacturing and infrastructure groups.
Both groups have identified C$26.8 billion ($19.7 billion) worth of investments across the country, as Canada’s governments and industries strive to build a sustainable minerals-to-assembly EV supply chain. That includes 156 companies in 12 industry segments.
Of these, 72 businesses are in Ontario, the country’s traditional auto-sector base. But neighboring Québec now has 42 EV supply-chain companies and British Columbia has 26, with companies also emerging in Canada’s prairie and Atlantic provinces.
“I think the transformation to electric is perhaps the biggest economic opportunity facing Canada in generations,” says Brian Kingston (pictured, below left), president and CEO of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Assn. “We are fortunate to already have large automotive-assembly industry and there’s a shift to a powertrain that depends on minerals (of which) Canada has large endowments.
“We can expand the supply chain to other parts of Canada. We have lithium everywhere we have copper in British Columbia,” he says. “It’s exciting. If we get the supports right, it could see automotive benefits all over the country.”
Traditional industry hub Ontario is in the lead with high-profile investments such as NextStar Energy, the battery joint venture between Stellantis and LG Energy Solution in Windsor. It announced in July a deal with the Canadian and Ontario governments on subsidies of up to C$15 billion ($11 billion) that would match the assistance available in America under the Inflation Reduction Act.
Investments also include Volkswagen’s St. Thomas, ON, battery plant, whose C$13 billion ($9.5 billion) April subsidy pledge caused Stellantis to stop building its Windsor plant until it secured a similar public spending deal.
But Ontario is not just hosting major battery players. Toronto-based Electrovaya said in November it would develop high-voltage stationary energy storage battery systems.
It is the same situation with assembly, with Trillium and Accelerate noting the established plants with EV plans in Windsor (Stellantis), Ingersoll (General Motors), Cambridge (Toyota), Oakville (Ford) and more, but also smaller players, such as AGT Electric Cars, which makes electric low-speed vehicles, neighborhood electric vehicles, utility task vehicles and golf carts in Scarborough, east of Toronto.
Upstream services in Ontario include Electra Battery Materials (pictured, below), which has invested more than C$100 million ($73 million) to recommission a hydrometallurgical cobalt refinery in Timiskaming to develop an integrated battery-materials park with recycling capabilities.
Similar broad EV supply chains are also being developed in other Canadian provinces. Québec has 42 EV supply chain companies, Trillium and Accelerate say. That includes assembly, such as Volvo’s Nova Bus EV plant at St. Eustache, north of Montréal, which makes the LFSe+, a long-range battery-electric transit bus. Another Québec EV assembler is Taiga Motors, which makes electrified off-road vehicles, including snowmobiles and personal watercraft, at Shawinigan.
The province is developing as a hub for battery-material processing, with five companies noted. These include Germany’s BASF, which has secured land for battery cathode active materials production and a battery materials recycling facility in Bécancour, near Trois-Rivières in central Québec.
Kingston highlights the C$1.2 billion ($886 million) Ford, EcoProBM and SKOn cathode active battery materials production plant, also in Bécancour, that is now under construction (having received August pledges of C$644 million [$473 million] in federal and provincial support). It could supply 28% of North America's cathode materials by 2030, he says.
The third-largest hub of Canada’s emerging EV supply chain is in Pacific province of British Columbia, where there are 26 companies. Two are assembly plants: Demon, for motorcycles, and Vicinity Motor (pictured, below), which makes electric trucks and buses in Aldergrove. The province thus far specializes in fuel cell components and systems, with 12 companies based in and around Vancouver.
There are also six EV chain companies in Atlantic Canada, such as Potential Motors, a New Brunswick-based, AI-powered vehicle control software developer; and six in Alberta, such as Exro, which develops power electronics control systems for electric motors, generators and batteries; and three in the prairie provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba, such as Motor Coach Industries, which makes the J4500 CHARGE luxury electric coach.
In the Northwest Territories, Fortune Minerals is developing cobalt-gold-bismuth-copper mines and ore-concentrates processing for EV batteries.
Kingston says a key benefit is Canada’s inclusion in EV sourcing requirements written into the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act: “U.S. trade and industrial policy is seeking to reduce Chinese dominance of the battery supply chain” with “U.S. sourcing through Canada and other free-trade partners,” he says.
For Canada to leverage these advantages, Kingston says, the Canadian government needs to improve the country’s permitting system for new businesses, with federal government plans to streamline procedures anticipated this fall, he tells Wards.
Secondly, with EV supply chains increasingly crossing Canada, more investment in goods transport is needed, he says: “We have seen serious disruption in Canada,” such as protesting truckers disrupting trade through Michigan in 2021 or strikes, such as the recent ports dispute in British Columbia: “We don’t have enough capacity. If you want to be a global supplier in batteries, you need more redundancy.”
Another Trillium report released in September 2022 stresses the benefits of expanding EV supply chains nationwide. EV battery minerals production would push substantial capital expenditure to sparsely populated regions, with infrastructure development “necessary for these mines to become operational.”
The report predicts the EV battery supply chain will contribute C$2.7 billion ($2 billion) annually to government revenues by 2030 excluding corporate income taxes and mining royalties.
Such businesses would “economically integrate more heavily urbanized regions of Canada with more northerly regions, from Windsor to Whabouchi (site of a lithium mine in Québec [pictured, below]) and from Woodstock, Ontario, to Woodstock, New Brunswick,” the report says.