That wasn’t the only awesome auto, though. Among the various fleets was another particularly hip car fans were lining up to get a glimpse of. In the main showroom on level 800, near the EV Test Drive Track, across from Lexus and Toyota, was Canada’s first zero-
emissions concept vehicle in its domestic debut. The ultra-sleek and super-sexy Project Arrow is a silver-and-black SUV, with a solar-panelled roof and a 3D-printed chassis. Designed, engineered and built here in Ontario, the four-seater is the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association’s (APMA) answer to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s call for a zero-emissions future by 2050. (Cole’s Notes on the government’s challenge: To avert the worst impacts of climate change, the goal is to achieve net-zero emissions, which means our economy either offsets its emissions or emits no greenhouse gas emissions. Canada’s plan to achieve this became law in 2021 under the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act. We are one of more than 120 countries committed to be net-zero in the next 27 years.)
Here’s the thing: The Arrow (named after Avro Canada’s CF-105 Arrow, a supersonic interceptor jet aircraft designed and built in Canada in the 1950s) isn’t your average eco-friendly automobile. This car was an ambitious three-year, all-Canadian-hands-on-deck endeavour — it’s proof positive that Ontario has the talent, innovation and technology to create a vehicle of this calibre. APMA announced the Arrow in 2020, and in that time, more than 50 partners collaborated on the vehicle, including some of the biggest players in the country’s automotive supply sector. It also received more than $8 million in funding (including initial support to the tune of $1.8 million from the provincial government and $5 million through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario). The SUV has the most advanced electric-drive, alternative-fuel, lightweight, connected and autonomous automotive technology currently available. Since its debut in January at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Project Arrow has garnered worldwide attention and has put Ontario in the limelight.
The Arrow features parts from across the country, but it has an especially strong tie to Durham Region. While the concept was designed by a team of students from Ottawa’s Carleton University, the fully operational, zero-emissions concept prototype was built at Ontario Tech University’s north Oshawa campus location. The university was selected by APMA as the lead academic institution for Project Arrow’s build (dubbed “Phase 2”), thanks to the institution’s strong reputation for its experience in engineering, its background in smart mobility and energy and its deep connection to the automotive industry. Ontario Tech boasts a unique automotive engineering program and the Automotive Centre of Excellence (ACE) — a research-and-development facility recognized internationally that focuses on technologies supporting the future of mobility. It features a one-of-a-kind climatic wind tunnel and the ability to handle aerodynamic testing and thermal management of products in the automotive space. “We were brought in when APMA’s president, Flavio Volpe, was looking for academic institutes to work with that could make this project a priority,” says Dr. Steven Murphy, the president and vice-chancellor of Ontario Tech. “We have the perfect facility in ACE where cars can be built and tested, we have the expertise in terms of globally-
recognized researchers, engineering staff and students, and we have partners who could help our team see this through. We’re ensconced in the ecosystem, and we were up to the challenge of creating a car you can take out on the street and be proud to own.”
Once the design for the vehicle was approved, the team started the build from the chassis up. The timeline was tight — they had four months to create, problem solve and bring the car to life in the ACE facility. “It was the perfect place to do what we needed to do. Not only do we have the wind tunnel and the ability to charge batteries incredibly quickly, but there are also eight bays where various components of the project could be tested. Important research work was integrated into the build, led by the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science’s Dr. Ahmad Barari, and several graduate and undergraduate students. We had multiple people working on multiple parts at the same time — that was fun to watch,” he says, adding he visited the team at ACE every couple of weeks to offer support. This was the kind of project Murphy says he gravitates toward — innovative endeavours that involve students. “Everyone was really professional about putting in the extra time and hours on the weekend to do the build. The students realized this was the chance of a lifetime in a short period and threw themselves into it,” he says. “What’s better than working on the first Canadian EV in your undergrad? I love that we can give these kinds of opportunities to our students.”
Andrew Genovese is a case in point. The fourth-year automotive engineering student at Ontario Tech was a key member of the Project Arrow build team, along with his peer Izzy Cossarin, a fourth-year mechatronics engineering student. Genovese was involved in several parts of the car’s creation, including working on motors, the installation of body panels and subframes. “Being hands-on and developing almost every Arrow component has helped me further understand the challenges faced when designing and building a vehicle,” he says in a statement released by Ontario Tech. “I have learned how to use and operate many new tools and machines, and I have advanced my soft skills such as teamwork, communication and problem-solving.”
Synkar, a Brazilian-Canadian startup with a focus on robotics and autonomous vehicles, was founded in 2017. The founders — Matheus Theodoro, Evandro Barros and Lucas Assis — were clear on their mission from the beginning: To bring robotics, artificial intelligence and automation into everyday logistics. From their first project, which was the automatization of a tug vehicle for heavy load transporation, that mission has been the company’s North Star. Service delivery is also at the core of what Synkar does, in order to keep up with the client demand for customized customer service. Using the Robot as a Service (RaaS) model, they work to offer affordable, scaleable convenience services for in-company delivery, public maintenance, closed communities and more.
Murphy says expectations were high going into CES and the AutoShow, but he’s been overwhelmed by the coverage of Project Arrow and his team. “I’ve received so many highly congratulatory comments about our team’s ability and participation. Everyone’s impressed with the dual-drive engine in the front and back, the horsepower involved and how high performance it is. It’s exceeded expectations,” he says. “Ontario Tech has been seen as a real facilitator in the EV supply chain. When you’re so close to something for so long, you don’t necessarily realize your accomplishments, so it’s been great for the team to receive so many international accolades.”
Of course, the Arrow isn’t just
receiving praise from abroad — the
federal and provincial governments have expressed their pride in the project. Ontario’s Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, Vic Fedeli, says he had the pleasure and honour of unveiling Project Arrow at both CES and the AutoShow. “When this project started, we knew our province was the logical choice to take the lead because we have such an unbelievable EV ecosystem here, with 700 parts makers, 500 tool-and-die makers and 300 companies in the connected and autonomous sectors that are designing the EVs of the future,” he says. “The work the students at Ontario Tech did was spectacular, and now it’s their entrée into the EV sector. For these young people to say they were part of the build of an actual concept car that’s doing a world tour is incredible. Now, when people ask us to tell them about Ontario’s role in the EV revolution, we can literally use Project Arrow as our business card.”