Windsor companies seeing $25 million investments in electric vehicle research projects

Trevor Wilhelm/The Windsor Star

A series of zero-emission research projects to be announced Friday will put Windsor at the centre of a worldwide push to make the electric auto industry sustainable and practical on a mass scale.

The three initiatives involving Windsor companies — with $25 million worth of investments — are among 15 new projects across Canada.

Next Generation Manufacturing Canada (NGen), the industry-led organization behind Canada’s Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster, will announce the projects Friday morning.

CEO Jayson Myers said that while the future of mobility is electric, the industry as it stands now is not sustainable. Batteries are too big, can’t run far enough and don’t do well in cold weather. Critical minerals are hard to get and their extraction has massive environmental impacts. The Windsor projects will help change that.

“Windsor in particular stands to really benefit in this transformation of the auto sector,” said Myers. “It’s great to see the investments that have gone in. If these projects are successful they’re really going to revolutionize battery and EV production not just in Canada but around the world.”

A total of $76 million is going into the 15 projects for research in areas including critical minerals and metals, traction battery and efficiency gains, power electronics, fuel cells and lightweight materials.

About $36 million is coming from the federal government through NGen. The rest is private sector investment. Roughly a third of the investments are focused on projects involving Windsor companies.

“This is putting Windsor companies and Windsor at the centre of this huge Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster,” said Windsor—Tecumseh MP Irek Kusmierczyk. “That’s what is important here.”

Windsor’s AIS Technologies is part of a $7.8 million project, based in Mississauga, exploring high-volume manufacturing of hydrogen fuel cells.

Ventra Group will oversee two innovation projects, with investments totalling $16.9 million, out of its parent company’s recently announced Flex-Ion Battery and Innovation Centre in Windsor.

Their research will focus on building better lithium-ion batteries, as well as increasing the efficiency and quality of high-volume battery production.

“Both product improvement as well as development of new production processes,” said Myers.

Kusmierczyk said the investments will result in 40 or 50 “immediate” jobs in the Windsor region.

“This is just their research phase,” he said. “Once they start to commercialize, once they have batteries to sell and stuff like that, you’re looking at hundreds of potential jobs here in this area.”

News of the research spending is the latest in a series of blockbuster announcements giving Windsor a huge foothold in the electrified vehicle sector.

In February, Windsor was chosen as the location for the new Flex-Ion Battery and Innovation Centre. The City of Windsor committed $500,000 for the centre and the province pledged $1.5 million.

Ventra parent company Flex-N-Gate is initially spending $18.5 million to cover the cost of machinery, but officials have said its overall investment will be significantly larger than that.

The centre is expected to open in July, with 18 battery engineers, scientists and process engineers to start.

Then in March, Stellantis and LG Energy Solution announced they will build a $5-billion automobile battery plant in Windsor that will employ around 2,500 people. It’s the largest investment in the history of the Canadian auto industry.

Covering 4.5 million square feet, Canada’s first giga factory — producing at least one million watts of power — will be slightly larger than Windsor Assembly Plant.

Construction is expected to begin this summer.

“I think the battery plant is a huge catalyst and it’s a huge multiplier,” said Kusmierczyk. “You’re going to see a lot of these companies locating here and a lot of research and development that is going to be moving into Windsor-Essex.”

After securing investments on the production side with the battery plant, he said Friday’s announcement means Windsor is now making inroads in other areas of this vital industry.

“This is the research and innovation side of that,” said Kusmierczyk. “The two fit nicely together. We can expect to see more of these kinds of investments that are really helping to make our region a leader and a centre for this transition to zero-emission vehicles. It’s a total transformation here. It’s a generational change.”

He hinted there might be even more good news to come.

“Our federal government right now is at the table with Stellantis discussing bringing electric vehicle manufacturing here,” said Kusmierczyk. “This is a golden era for our community, our region.”