Unveiling of Project Arrow shines spotlight on local companies

Dave Waddell/The Windsor Star

There was plenty of Windsor-Essex content on display at the Consumer Electronics Show Thursday as Project Arrow, the first Canadian zero-emissions vehicle and the first Canadian car of any kind designed and built in this country in over 100 years, had its full reveal.

Among the local companies and organizations playing a role in the project were Ettractive, Papp Plastics, YQG Technologies, Narmco Group, BASF, TRQSS, Vehiqilla, the Automobility and Innovation Centre at Invest WindsorEssex.

“The importance of this shouldn’t be underestimated,” said Ettractive chief technical officer Pat Troy, who was in Las Vegas for the unveiling.

“What has been achieved in this time period is really exceptional.

“For local companies, it’s the highest profile way of demonstrating our technical and service abilities to a humungous audience. To get to share the stage at CES with some really exciting major players is a huge opportunity for us.”

The prototype vehicle was the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association response to the federal government’s call to embrace zero emission transportation options as part of the transition to a green economy. The project was also sold to Canadian suppliers as the best way to advertise their capabilities to the global automotive players who are in the midst of investing billions of dollars to reinvent the industry.

“What we set out to do is challenge the industry and wider Canadian society to answer the question could we make a zero-emissions car and tell a story?” said APMA president Flavio Volpe, who noted over 500 companies applied to be part of Project Arrow.

“We’ve brought it in on time and slightly under budget ($20 million) during a period when the world crashed (COVID-19).

“It’s been produced by 58 companies and it couldn’t have been done without Invest WindsorEssex’s virtual reality cave in 2020. They turned designs into reliable engineering.”

Volpe said about 35 per cent of the companies involved in the project are in Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent.

The project has been a partnership between the private and public sectors with Ontario Tech University in Oshawa completing the physical build.

After the Las Vegas show, the Arrow will return to Windsor for a couple weeks to allow Ettractive to do some finetuning of its systems. The Arrow’s Canadian debut will be at the Toronto Auto Show that opens Feb. 17.

In many ways, Ettractive is the example of precisely the goal Volpe hopes to achieve of showing the world how advanced Canadian automobility technology has become.

The Oldcastle-based firm is now just over two years old, but was given the task of integrating all the electronics, software and control systems needed to run the Arrow’s various systems.

It’s also led to new business and collaborations with the other Arrow project participants.

“We (participating companies) are demonstrating capabilities others in the industry may not have realized we have,” Troy said.

“We’re not known for prototype development, but we’ve shown we’re not just suppliers that fit certain needs.

“This conglomeration delivered a world-class designed vehicle concept very quickly.”

Volpe said because the project was designed as a zero-emissions solution and an advertisement for Canadian industry, companies shared their cutting-edge technology to offer what he says are at least 25 unique features in the vehicle.

Concepts that may have been talked about and studied at the OEM level have been adapted for use in the Arrow.

Among the unique elements in the Arrow are the use of nano technical materials to enhance connectivity, graphene to increase battery range, new software and sophisticated lidar technology that add driver assistance features and makes the Arrow a Level 3 autonomous vehicle. The Arrow also features cameras inside and outside for real time internet of things applications both in the cockpit and with outside infrastructure.

“We have about a dozen meetings scheduled with OEMs attending CES,” Volpe said.

“They can see suppliers who are technically and commercially ready. The technology players around will be looking for Canadian companies for collaboration.”

Volpe said 16 of the 58 suppliers involved with the project are in Las Vegas.

There will also be a significant representation from local organizations such Invest WindsorEssex, the University of Windsor, St. Clair College and WEtech Alliance. Some played roles in Project Arrow while all will be pitching the opportunities presented by the area’s expanding presence in the automobility, electric battery and other technology sectors.

“The Arrow was a project that really allowed us to show the value of our virtual reality cave,” said Invest WindsorEssex CEO Stephen MacKenzie.

“Now we have something to show people what is possible and we’re getting to do that for major players on a global stage.”