Canada’s First EV Assembly Line a Public-Private Venture
Monday, April 4, 2022 was a good day for Marissa West, the new president and managing director at General Motors Canada. That was the day François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, announced the Canadian government's investment of C$259 million to help create the country's first full-scale commercial electric vehicle production facility - a General Motors endeavor.
THIS PARTNERSHIP WITH THE GOVERNMENTS OF ONTARIO AND CANADA IS HELPING GM BUILD A MORE DIVERSE, INNOVATIVE AND SUSTAINABLE INDUSTRY AND EV SUPPLY CHAIN FOR THE FUTURE.
President and Managing Director, General Motors Canada
One of the country's largest export industries, the automotive sector supports the employment of nearly 500,000 Canadians and contributes C$16 billion to Canada's gross domestic product.
Minister Champagne said, "This is proof that Canada's auto sector is here for the long term. What today's announcement means for Canadians is more jobs, more clean vehicles and more economic growth. GM's continued commitment to its facilities in Canada, and its decision to set up the country's first electric vehicle production facility, highlight how Canada is a world leader in building the vehicles of the future."
GM is investing its own C$2 billion as well. Part of the funding total will be used to transform GM Canada's CAMI Assembly Plant in Ingersoll, Ontario from today's production of the Chevrolet Equinox SUV to producing GM's first electric commercial vehicles.
The two new electric vehicles, which use GM's new BrightDrop technology, are expected to start rolling off the CAMI plant assembly line by the end of the year.
BrightDrop, created by General Motors in 2021, offers a system of connected products targeting first-mile and last-mile delivery customers, utilizing light commercial electric vehicles, ePallets, and cloud-based software.
Its first products, the BrightDrop EV600 delivery van and the Trace e-pallet, were unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January 2021.
Since then, GM's BrightDrop has announced its manufacturing goal for the flagship electric delivery van, unveiled a second electric delivery van, and landed some big customers - FedEx Express, Walmart, and Verizon.
Then, on April 1, just days before Canada's funding announcement, GM renamed its two new electric vans. "Originally dubbed the BrightDrop EV600 and BrightDrop EV410, our first two flagship electric delivery vehicles have been renamed the BrightDrop Zevo 600 and BrightDrop Zevo 400," the company said.
"We chose Zevo because it contains ZEV (Zero Emissions Vehicle) and EV (Electric Vehicle) and is a play-off zero - a reference to GM’s Zero Crashes, Zero Emissions, and Zero Congestion vision," the company said.
The Zevo 600 is a full-size electric van, while the Zevo 400 is a mid-size model. Designed specifically for urban delivery, they are capable traveling up to 250 miles on a single charge.
By the end of 2022, the assembly line will build only electric light-duty commercial vehicles, West says. This is expected to support the decarbonization of transportation emissions in light commercial vehicles in Canada and promote this trend globally.
The idea that Canada could claim leadership in the electric vehicle arena is appealing to the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who heads a Liberal government. On April 4, he commented on his government's funding of Canada's first electric vehicle production line.
"Today's investment is an investment in our workers, our communities, and our future," Trudeau said.
PARTNERSHIPS LIKE THESE ARE CRITICAL TO PUTTING CANADA ON THE CUTTING EDGE OF THE CLEAN ECONOMY, CREATING THOUSANDS OF NEW JOBS, AND MAKING SURE THAT FUTURE GENERATIONS HAVE A CLEAN ENVIRONMENT TO LIVE IN.
Prime Minister of Canada
Not all this C$2.259 billion in funding will be used to re-tool the CAMI plant for the two new electric delivery vans. The largest portion will restart production at GM Canada's Oshawa Assembly Plant, after operations stopped in 2019 when GM closed the factory as part of a North American cost-cutting plan.
West said, "Working with our government partners, we have reopened GM's Oshawa plant, creating thousands of new jobs and recruiting a record number of women in production roles."
West, pictured below in a photo from GM Canada, holds a master's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan. She has been with GM since 2003 in a wide variety of positions. Until March 28, she was executive chief engineer for GM's Global Mid-Size Truck and Medium-Duty Truck programs, leading the design, engineering and development of future full-size trucks and SUVs.
GM aims to set an example of responsible leadership in a climate change world, West explains.
GM is planning to introduce 30 new electric vehicles by 2025, eliminate tailpipe emissions from new light-duty vehicles by 2035 and become carbon neutral in its global products and operations by 2040.
Canadians are accepting more electric vehicles into their lives. All forms of EVs made up 11.8 percent of all the country's vehicle registrations in 2021, up from 7.6 percent in 2020, according to London-based consultancy IHS Markit’s year-end 2021 Automotive Insights report.
Naturally, the Province of Ontario is delighted with the latest developments, said Vic Fedeli, provincial minister of economic development, job creation and trade.
"Ontario is proud to support GM's major investment in their Oshawa and Ingersoll plants to manufacture the company's next-generation models, including the new all-electric BrightDrop commercial vehicles," Fedeli said. "By reducing the cost of doing business in Ontario by nearly C$7 billion annually, our government has created the right economic conditions to attract another historic investment that further positions Ontario as a North American leader in developing and building the cars of the future."