Experts call for federal strategy to advance Canada’s electric vehicle battery supply chain
Panelists speaking at the premiere Electric autonomy weekly discussion rounds cite benefits of regional collaboration and implications for economic security of further delay
This week, Electric autonomy Canada hosted the premiere of a six-part national roundtable on Canada’s national electric vehicle battery supply chain. Four leading experts provided insight and even sharper commentary on the merits and challenges of establishing a national electric vehicle battery supply chain, and set the bar high for all five sessions. to come up.
Here is a summary of the main themes and comments. To view a recording of the entire event, click on the video player at the top of this page.
A Canadian Strategy: Why Do We Need It?
Canada is spoiled for choice: technology, minerals, scientists, manufacturers and markets. Across nearly 10 million square kilometers, this country has all the ingredients to build a leading global supply chain of electric vehicle batteries. It’s the recipe for success, but it will take cooperation, collaboration and a national commitment to excellence to get there – quickly.
It is important to act now on the development of electric vehicle batteries, because without a national strategy, Canada is “lagging behind.” [and] left in the dust, ”said Daniel Breton, CEO of Electric Mobility Canada. ” We need to act. “
So far, Europe and Asia have created well-established battery supply chains. The United States, too, is striving to create their own.
“We are following the market in Europe very closely. It’s really exciting… to see the real emergence over the last few years of battery capacity, ”said Ben Sharpe, Senior Researcher and Regional Manager for Canada at the International Council for Clean Transportation. “One of the most important developments, I think, on this front has been the European Battery Alliance, which is a consortium of industries, governments and universities. This is a truly bold vision for Europe to be self-sufficient in battery technology by 2025. ”
These markets, the panelists say, are possible “models” for Canada. The theme across the world in places where a successful value chain has been established is that, in large part, these are governments taking a strong stand to bring key stakeholders to the table.
“There’s really no way that you need government investments substantial enough to help reduce some of the risks involved,” Sharpe said. “You really can’t overstate the importance of having a very strong vision from the federal government, in terms of the overall amount and just having a comprehensive strategy and an action plan. ”
Battery and geopolitical alliances
If Canada is to be a factor in the global electric vehicle battery supply chain, it must harness and integrate the resources and talents found across the country into a cooperative whole.
“There is definitely a great benefit to working together in Canada. Each province has something to offer, ”said Sarah Houde, CEO of Propulsion Québec. In particular, Houde stressed the importance of combining natural resources and technological expertise between provinces, creating jobs and integrating the existing supply chain with auto and vehicle manufacturers in places like Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba.
“We would really benefit from working together. It’s a [matter] of primary importance and it should be a priority for our government to invest in this business.
The group also noted that having complete or almost total control over its own battery supply chain would provide Canada with some isolation from the ups and downs of geopolitics.
“As a resident US citizen… the politics here can get a little squirrel,” Sharpe said. “It is important that Canada has the protections and uses a really smart policy to ensure that Canada does not depend solely on the United States”
Keeping value at home
Resource exports have long been a pillar of the Canadian economy. This fact, together with commercial contracts and foreign ownership of Canadian mines, means that a substantial amount of Canada’s current production of essential minerals ends up in China, Japan and the United States. This is a situation that calls for new strategies, according to the panel, to preserve more of this production for processing in Canada.
There is also a similar urgency when it comes to retaining and capitalizing on Canada’s renowned talent in batteries and R&D resources.
“Too often we do research, but we don’t end up owning the intellectual property that is generated,” said Josh Nye, senior economist at RBC Economics. “So that means when we look at expanding these things, we lose some of the benefits of this intellectual property. “
The panel cited the recent renewal of an agreement between Tesla, lead researcher Jeff Dahn and Dalhousie University as an example of regional success. But even there, while innovations from Dahn’s lab are cutting edge, many graduate scientists are pursuing their careers in the United States or abroad. Such opportunities are one of the reasons Dahn’s lab is such a big draw for international students, but the panel said the goal must be to see more of this Canadian-formed intellectual property incorporated into finished products. made here rather than elsewhere.
By retaining control over raw materials and turning innovations into products, Nye said, Canada could afford to plug a few leak holes in an otherwise strong ship.
“We really have a lot more to do to capture [all] parts of that value chain, ”Nye said,“ And I really think that’s going to be the difference between, over the next 10 years, if our automotive industry… grows and thrives or if we see a further shrinkage in there .
Electric Autonomy’s next roundtable on Canadian R&D and battery innovation will take place on June 9. You can register for the event here.