Canada on its way to becoming a powerhouse in automotive electrification

I never stop, the 52-year-old former lawyer and business development strategist said in an interview. he says to be quite persistent.

Since taking over the Innovation portfolio in January 2021, at least 10 different companies have announced investments totaling $15.7 billion in Canada to build electric vehicles and manufacture the batteries that power them, supply or even extract the minerals and produce the materials. used in the manufacture of these batteries.

His perseverance has taken him around the world championing Canada for some of the biggest tech and automotive companies: Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Suzuki, Panasonic, Hitachi and Subaru, to name a few. Some, like Honda and Toyota, are already producing in Canada, but most are not present here.

Champagne argued that Canada needs to be more entrepreneurial if it believes it can attract new business.

No one on his team remembers the last time Canada spoke to German automakers at the senior management level, he said. He opened this door for the first time with the CEO of the Volkswagen Canada Group, which oversees its dealerships.

So we had the CEO from the Volkswagen Group, which produces around 30 million cars a day, who spent two days with me, and now we are exchanging messages. »

a quote from François-Philippe Champagne, Federal Minister for Innovation


According to Volkswagen’s website, its 70 factories produce around 40,000 vehicles a day. Finally, according to the website Statista, Volkswagen production stood at 8.28 million vehicles in 2021.

In August, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hosted German Chancellor Olaf Scholz for a state visit, Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz signed agreements with Canada to explore the possibility of forming partnerships in the electric vehicle supply chain.

It’s amazing that in just a few months we’ve gone from a basically very limited relationship outside the Canadian dealerships to the highest level with the signatures of the German Chancellor, the Prime Minister of Canada, myself and the [président de Volkswagen] Herbert Diess.

Lots to do to stay competitive

Champagne praised Canada’s EV industry in Germany in May, Japan in July and Detroit in September. In November, he has dates set in South Korea.

A few weeks ago, he flew to Fremont, California to visit the Tesla factory. Rumors of Tesla’s expansion into Canada abound and Champagne remains cautious, just saying to stay tuned.

Clean Energy Canada program manager Evan Pivnick believes the country has had an incredible journey building its electric vehicle and battery supply chain in the past year.

I think that […] we are way ahead of what most people in the industry would have predicted we were capable of achieving. »

a quote from Evan Pivnick, Clean Energy Canada

However, Mr. Pivnick highlighted that much more needs to be done for Canada to remain competitive as a power in this area.

His company recently released an analysis that indicates that, with announcements made over the past two years, this sector will support between 60,000 and 110,000 direct and indirect jobs and contribute $12 billion to $19 billion to the economy nationally by 2030.

Mr. Pivnick said that if Canada play your cards rightthese numbers could reach 250,000 jobs and $48 billion in GDP.

This will require a comprehensive battery strategy, leading Canadian automakers to convert nearly all of their assembly facilities to produce electric cars, open new mines and invest heavily in battery materials, cathode production and recycling.

Plenty of clean energy

It takes a rapid expansion of the electricity supply to power it all with clean energy, as one of Canada’s main selling points abroad is the abundance of clean energy here.

Pivnick said he also calls for a workforce transition plan, something liberals have been promising for years but have yet to deliver.

We need to start working on the worker transition now so that the automotive worker of today is the electric vehicle assembly worker of tomorrow. »

a quote from Evan Pivnick, Clean Energy Canada

All of Canada’s auto plants are in the midst of a refit process to produce electric vehicles, though none have promised a complete conversion. Several mining projects, whether entirely new or in the process of expansion, have already been launched or are under discussion. At least four battery material factories are under construction.

In March, LG Energy Solution and Stellantis announced a five billion dollar investment to build the first gigafactory“,”text”:”gigafactory”}}”>gigafactory in Canada, a term coined by the Tesla company to describe large-scale battery production plants.

Pivnick estimates that Canada may need at least one more large plant and two or three smaller plants by 2030. The country also needs to increase domestic demand for electric vehicles and hopes the United States can do the same.

Most people think of Southern Ontario when they think of the Canadian automotive sector, but geographic expansion is underway. Two of the battery materials factories under construction are located in Bécancour, a small town of 12,000 halfway between Montreal and Quebec.

In July, Belgian company Umicore announced a $1.5 billion investment to build a materials production facility outside Kingston, Ontario.

Minister Champagne said the electric vehicle supply chain is a golden opportunity to Canada and that the consequences could be disastrous for workers if we don’t seize this opportunity.

According to him, the world noticed the success of the last two years, but Champagne believes the best is yet to come.

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