E-vehicle sales slowdown won’t slow ‘spectacular’ Ontario investments — Fedeli

Dave Waddell/The Windsor Star

Electric vehicle sales may be slowing but a senior member of the Ford government said there’s been no slowdown in the interest or intentions of companies looking to be part of the province’s emerging EV supply chain.

In fact, Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade Minister Vic Fedeli predicts Ontario will have a “spectacular” 2024 in terms of new EV investments.

He said supply chain companies are not distracted by recent announcements such as Ford Motor Company delaying the start of EV production at its Oakville Assembly Plant by two years.

“The best indicator for us is the fact our pipeline of companies wanting to locate in Ontario has not diminished,” Fedeli said during a visit to one such EV supplier in Windsor last week.

“In three years, we landed $28 billion worth of electric vehicle business.

“I would say, stand by in 2024. If you thought $28 billion in three years was some kind of a record, which it is, I think 2024 will be a spectacular year all across Ontario.”

Fedeli confirmed major multinational firms are at various stages of studying, planning or putting down roots in Ontario, including in the Windsor area.

With the multibillion-dollar under-construction NextStar Energy (Windsor) and Volkswagen (St. Thomas) battery plants located less than two hours apart, southwestern Ontario has become a magnet for a new industry.

“Some of those companies will be one-, two-, three- or four-billion-dollar plants,” Fedeli said of the prospective new investments. “These are major decisions companies are making.

“Those companies are top tier — the six major components: cathode, anode, separator, copper foil, electrolyte, lithium hydroxide.”

Fedeli said suppliers haven’t drifted away from Ontario because NextStar and Volkswagen have confirmed deadlines for production. NextStar will begin full cell production in 2025 while Volkswagen will follow two years later.

That list of plants could grow by year’s end as Honda has also confirmed that Ontario is among the locales being studied for an $18-billion battery/production development. The company already has a large vehicle production complex at Alliston.

“There’s not a lot of talk amongst suppliers about a slowdown,” Fedeli said. “There isn’t that kind of discussion at all.

“They’re all in. They’ve got customers (in Ontario).”

Southwestern Ontario, particularly Essex County at the border, also affords the new companies easy access to their American customers in the Great Lakes basin.

Fedeli added the pipeline of EV investments in the province will cover the entire range of the supply chain from mining to recycling.

This spring has seen several announcements involving the mining, critical minerals and mineral processing sectors, including a joint venture between Frontier Lithium and Mitsubishi.

“We saw several lithium companies make announcements about production,” Fedeli said.

“We see in eastern Ontario, Canada Nickel making announcements at the Prospectors’ Development Show about nickel being developed. This is a brand-new mineral coming out of the ground in Timmins and processing the nickel-sulfide there.”

Fedeli said it’s exciting to see mineral processing taking place in Ontario as it’s a significant value-added step in the supply chain.

“We see a lot from the first step, the mining step,” Fedeli said. “Then we see the production, whether it’s of the lithium-hydroxide or the nickel processing as well.

“We see the battery components. We have a long list of battery component manufacturers who are finalizing plans in Ontario.

“We see everything, through recycling, being planned. None of that has slowed down.”

Asked if the provincial government needed to look at doing more to support a speedier transition towards more electric vehicle sales, Fedeli said Ontario is going to remain focused on securing the jobs in the new industrial sector rather than getting into sales incentives.

He pointed out the two battery plants currently being built will employ close to a combined 6,000 people, while another 30,000 additional spinoff jobs will be created in the supply chain.

“Our decision is to invest taxpayer dollars in the workers,” Fedeli said. “Technically, you can call it in the supply side.

“We want EVs to be built here in Ontario.

“Our job with the automakers is to convince them not to leave Ontario when the combustion engine product is at the end of life — stay here and make EVs here.

“That’s where we think taxpayer dollars are best used.”