Neil Vorano

Neil Vorano

November 15, 2021 7:00 am


With a Level 3 charger, the battery of a standard-range Ford Mustang Mach-E can top up to 80 per cent from 20 per cent in about 30 minutes. We take that time to talk with Moe Kabbara, a consultant at Dunsky Energy Consulting. He’s also the former interim CEO of Accelerate, an alliance of companies and key players in clean energy and industry in Canada, formed in September with the goal of advancing EV technology and production in the country.

Earlier this week, Ontario premier Doug Ford announced that the province would be “the number one manufacturer of electric, battery-operated cars in North America.” And while Ford touted the province’s cache of natural resources and its alliance with mainstream automakers, Canadians have yet to hear of solid plans from any government here on how the country can become a leader in EV supply chains and production.

That’s where Accelerate comes in. Formed in September, Accelerate was founded by 21 core members representing industries such as mining, manufacturing, transportation and mobility in Canada. The five-year plan is to, as it says on its website, ‘collaborate, strategize and advocate for priorities that will support the accelerated development of a Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) supply chain in Canada.’

“As you well know, Canada has a lot of potential to be a global leader,” says Kabarra. “In the zero-emission vehicle manufacturing, we have the natural resources, we have a long history of manufacturing vehicles here in Canada, we have access to the US and European markets through our trade agreements, we have the rule of law and stability, and we have a clean energy system to power it all.

Moe Kabbara of Accelerate

Moe Kabbara of Accelerate

“What Accelerate really wants to bring together is players from across the country and across the supply chain that are actively engaged in the space to develop a national strategy, so that we can be really well aligned on what needs to happen to accelerate the development of the supply chain and to ensure that all the activities are coordinated and that we’re leveraging each other’s strength, both from a sectoral and geographical perspective.”

Kabbara reiterates that, while Canada is rich in natural resources, we need to do more than just mine and ship it out of the country. Keeping production in-house is not only doable, but also key to the country’s success.

“This is an initiative that comes from motivation to not wanting to see natural resources exported raw from Canada, but wanting to see the natural resources and the value added process happen here in Canada, leveraging that advantage to be able to not only retain the automotive sector, but also add new jobs across this new emerging supply chain.

“The motivation for North American manufacturing investments has grown significantly over the last couple of years. And that that has several reasons. One is the North American market is maturing and is getting on board with EVs. If you look at the European and Asian markets, they were well ahead of us in terms of the adoption side. So we’re seeing the market demand grow, and we’re seeing interest at manufacturer here to meet that market demand.

‘If you look at the European and Asian markets, they were well ahead of us in terms of the adoption side’

“And then the second piece is that there are also a lot of different regulations and policies that are being put in place by jurisdictions like provincial and federal, and a state level as well. So we’re seeing kind of what we’re calling ZEV mandates. So that’s really pushing the market forward.”

There’s another reason for this push to keep everything Canadian; with the world’s currently unstable geopolitics and security issues, Canada needs to ensure its supply of materials and end-products remains consistent, and not left to third parties out of our control.

“I think one thing that became clear, and became even clearer during COVID, is that securing the products we use is going to be very, very important moving forward. And this is why, traditionally, Canada and the US have played together as part of a North American integrated market. We feel that relationship needs to be maintained and developed as, is especially important to maintain that relationship and leverage those efficiencies, to be able to be competitive with Asia and Europe.

An operator at FCA’s Brampton (Ontario) Assembly Plant

An operator at FCA’s Brampton (Ontario) Assembly Plant

“If you look at where the batteries are coming from, if you look at where the vast majority of lithium is being processed, it’s all in China. The idea is that China will continue to dominate over the next several years, but a reduction from 80 per cent to 50 per cent [of our dependency] is going to be pretty significant. And I think there’s a lot of appetite to reduce that dependency on China for that manufacturing.”

Unlike governments, Accelerate has a plan to push this EV agenda. Kabbara sees our potential, and the goal of Accelerate is to make that happen.

“One of the key things that that is needed is a national strategy or national plan for the Canadian industry. And that includes figuring out exactly what the size of the opportunity is, where are the specific segments of the supply chain that Canada has a strategic advantage, and how it can coordinate and strategize alongside the US to kind of preserve the nature of the integrated North American market the auto sector has enjoyed over the last two decades.

‘One of the key things that that is needed is a national strategy or national plan for the Canadian industry’

“And essentially, figuring out what that national strategy is by bringing the key players together, to really spell out what will put us in a position that is competitive with other jurisdictions that are actually doing that already.”

Lest you may think this EV push may not affect you, think again. Kabbara describes how manufacturing and supply chain industries can help Canadians, even if you may not be directly a part of it all.

“We know the automotive industry contributes around 500,000 direct and indirect jobs to Canadians, and it really contributes a lot to our GDP. And we feel there’s a lot of economic benefits to ensuring that that industry remains here in Canada and grows as well as part of this new emerging supply chain.

“So I think for Canadians, we’re looking at supporting the families and the workers that have been dependent on these kind of jobs for the past few decades and ensuring that these types of jobs remain here; good, well-paying jobs.”

So, the plan is there, the key players of industry are on board, but apart from a combined $590 million investment in the Ford Oshawa plant for EV production from both the Ontario and federal governments, we have yet to hear of any action plan when it comes to developing new, homegrown manufacturing in the country. And this is not the time for Canada to drag its feet on implementing a course of action for industry.

“I think I think the window of opportunity is still open. But it’s definitely a narrow, narrow window of opportunity that is closing.

“Making it very clear, the future is going to be electric. So the market has to adapt to be able to meet that new demand. And we want to ensure that our automotive sector evolves with that transition and is not left behind.”

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