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Canadian Manufacturing Technology: Electric Vehicles

The advancement of manufacturing technologies is impacting not only the industrial sector, but also the general population. One example of this is the rising adoption of electric vehicles. Though the concept has been around for a long time, with even some of the first automobiles being electric, the widespread usage of electric vehicles has not been possible until more recently.

Though these types of vehicles are growing in popularity, there are still limitations with the technology. Manufacturers of electric vehicles and their components are working to improve these issues, but they’re still facing external challenges such as a shortage of required materials and lack of infrastructure to support the transition. Despite this, there has been a lot of investment into electric vehicle technology and production plants to manufacture these automobiles.

Canada has seen quite a bit of this investment into electric vehicles, as a spate of recent announcements about Canadian production facilities, battery manufacturing plants, and mining operations attests. Read on to learn all about the manufacturing technology driving electric vehicle production in Canada.

Ford’s Electric Vehicle Manufacturing Hub

Ford Motor Co. announced plans to invest $1.8 billion CAD to transition its Oakville Assembly Plant in Ontario into an electric vehicle hub. When retooling of the plant is completed, it will be known as the Oakville Electric Vehicle Complex. The next generation of Ford’s electric vehicles will be built at this complex. They are expected to hit the market in a few years, around mid-decade.

In addition to producing electric vehicles, the complex will also assemble battery packs. The cells for these batteries are expected to come from a Ford battery plant under construction in Kentucky. However, Ford has also announced plans to build a cathode manufacturing plant in Bécancour, Canada. The company is investing $1.2 billion CAD to build this facility, which will also supply materials for batteries used in Ford electric vehicles.

The factory in Bécancour is expected to begin production in 2026. This facility will mark Ford’s first investment in Québec. When production starts, this plant is expected to have a manufacturing capacity of up to 45,000 tonnes of cathode active materials (CAM) per year, which will be used in the production of up to 225,000 electric vehicles annually. One CAM material the factory will focus on is nickel cobalt manganese. This will be used for rechargeable batteries and is expected to improve the performance and range of Ford’s next generation of electric vehicles.

The Oakville complex will further Ford’s goal to have production capacity for 2 million electric vehicles by the end of 2026. Similarly, the Bécancour plant will help Ford localize raw material processing for batteries used in electric vehicles produced in Oakville and other locations. Both of these investments in Canada help to position Ford as a leader in the country’s electric vehicle ecosystem.

General Motor’s Electric Vehicle Manufacturing in Canada

Similarly to Ford, General Motors (GM) has also made significant investments in electric vehicle production in Canada. Just two months before Ford announced its cathode manufacturing plant, GM revealed plans to build an electric vehicle battery materials plant in Bécancour. GM is investing $500 million CAD in its CAM plant. This facility will help the company create a more secure supply chain for its Ultium batteries, which will power many of GM’s electric vehicle lines — including the Chevrolet Silverado EV, GMC Hummer EV, and Cadillac Lyriq.

The construction of GM’s cathode manufacturing plant follows the successful conversion of its Ontario plant into an electric vehicle production facility. Less than six months prior to the Bécancour plant announcement, production began on electric delivery vans at GM’s Ingersoll facility, making it the first full-scale electric vehicle manufacturing facility in Canada. By the end of 2025, the plant is predicted to manufacture 50,000 electric vehicles annually.

The Ingersoll manufacturing facility is not GM’s only Ontario manufacturing plant focusing on electric vehicles. The company has announced a plan to switch its powertrain plant in St. Catharines over to the manufacture of electric drive systems. GM’s goal is to produce 400,000 electric drive system units annually at this facility. The drive system, known as Ultium Drive, is intended for all of GM’s electric vehicles on the Ultium platform.

All of these GM projects are in support of the company’s goal to manufacture 1 million electric vehicles a year in North America by 2025. GM is committed to growing Canada’s battery supply chain and expanding the country’s electric vehicle ecosystem.

Canada’s Electric Vehicle Battery Plants and Supply Chain

GM and Ford aren’t the only big car companies building battery manufacturing plants in Canada. Volkswagen and Stellantis are also building facilities in the country to produce batteries for their electric vehicle lines. Volkswagen plans to build a gigafactory in St. Thomas, Ontario, for battery cell manufacturing. The facility is expected to be the largest automotive industrial complex in Canada when completed. The 1,500-acre site is slated to begin production in 2027.

Stellantis is working on building an electric vehicle battery plant in Windsor, Ontario. With a $4 billion investment, the venture will help Stellantis hit its target of 50% battery electric vehicle sales in Canada and the U.S. by the end of the decade. The 4.5-million-square-foot facility is expected to begin production in 2024. As it will be completed several years before the Volkswagen plant, this will be the first large-scale electric vehicle battery plant in Canada.

Battery manufacturing plants are cropping up all over Canada due to the country’s abundance of raw materials used for battery cells. One example is lithium, which can be found in mines throughout Canada, from Québec to Alberta. According to reports, one lithium mine currently being explored in Manitoba could produce enough lithium to power 5 million electric vehicles. 

Snow Lake Lithium is expected to open in 2025 with an estimated production of 160,000 tonnes of lithium a year, which is enough to create 500,000 electric vehicle batteries annually. The company has currently identified enough lithium on the site for 10 years of production after only exploring a small percentage of the mine. This mine also aims to take advantage of advanced manufacturing technology to have fully renewable and sustainable operations. The company plans to operate on hydroelectric power to create one of the most sustainable lithium manufacturing approaches. Alberta and Quebec also have significant amounts of lithium, with plans to mine the material in both provinces.  

The Electric Vehicle Ecosystem in Canada

In order to become a leader in the electric vehicle industry, Canada will have to invest in the whole supply chain. Within the country are mining operations for nickel, lithium, cobalt, copper, titanium, and zinc, all of which are materials needed to manufacture batteries for electric vehicles. The abundance of these materials has led multiple car companies to build battery manufacturing plants within Canada.

Many of these companies are also looking to build new electric vehicle manufacturing facilities throughout Canada, as well as to retool some of their current facilities within the country for electric vehicle production. All of this new investment in the Canadian economy is the result of companies’ efforts to localize supply chains and ensure they have all the materials they need to manufacture electric vehicles without relying on China.

Several large automobile companies are turning to Canada as one option to meet their production needs for electric vehicles. Canada has responded by offering subsidies and financial assistance to ensure these companies succeed. This collaboration between the auto industry and the Canadian government is helping to create an electric vehicle ecosystem within the country.

To learn more about the electric vehicle industry in Canada and meet with manufacturing companies who are invested in this technology, attend CMTS.