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In June, the federal Liberal government pushed up its target for 100 per cent ZEV sales by five years to 2035. It said it would develop a combination of investments and regulation to help consumers and industry make the transition.JONATHAN HAYWARD/The Canadian Press

Officials from manufacturing, mining, green groups, academia and organized labour have formed an alliance aimed at speeding up development of zero-emission vehicles within Canada in a push to meet a federal target for all new light-duty cars and trucks to be electric by 2035.

Bus makers Lion Electric Co. and NFI Group Inc., metals producer Teck Resources Ltd. , automotive and battery manufacturers associations and think tank Clean Energy Canada are among 20 organizations that will collaborate under the name Accelerate. The economic and environmentally focused Ivey Foundation provided seed funding for the effort.

The group, which also includes Unifor, the union representing Canadian auto workers, will collaborate over the next five years to establish a domestic supply chain for zero-emission vehicles, or ZEVs, as competition heats up around the world. The initiative is aimed at promoting policies, business models and investments and advance the cause.

The European Union and member countries such as Spain, France and Germany have earmarked billions of euros for the development of emission-free vehicles and batteries. The EU, amid a major push to achieve net-zero carbon emissions, has backed development of a battery supply chain since 2017, earmarking more than €6-billion ($8.86-billion) for the effort. It says Europe could be producing enough batteries for its own needs within four years.

Moe Kabbara, Accelerate’s acting executive director, said the changes the auto industry is going through are the most extensive since the invention of the internal combustion engine, but Canada’s industry remains fragmented.

“One of the barriers for us is recognizing how big this opportunity is and ensuring that government and industry is aligned with policies that are needed to be globally competitive at attracting those opportunities,” said Mr. Kabbara, a consultant at Montreal-based clean-energy advisory firm Dunsky, another member of the new group.

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Canada, a long-time force in auto manufacturing and resource development, should be a global leader and a well-structured supply chain will help that effort, he said. Already, Unifor has been successful in recent collective-bargaining rounds with major automakers in securing agreements to retool plants to build electric vehicles.

Part of the effort is aimed at making sure today’s auto-industry workers can make the transition to ZEV manufacturing while new jobs are created in the sector, the group said.

Last spring, after talks involving a cross-section of industry leaders, Clean Energy Canada released a document with recommendations for an electric-vehicle battery supply-chain system. The report lamented Canada’s limited manufacturing capability, and identified needs for sourcing the necessary minerals to feed it, growing capacity for refining raw materials and manufacturing battery parts. It identified one hurdle as being the lack of a homegrown automaker to champion EV battery development.

Many of the participants in those discussions are now on the Accelerate roster. Asked why none of the major automakers was part of the group, Mr. Kabbara said that the membership could still grow to include other players.

The ZEV group is also not limited to electric vehicles, as the Canadian Hydrogen Fuel Cell Association is also a member.

In June, the federal Liberal government pushed up its target for 100 per cent ZEV sales by five years to 2035. It said it would develop a combination of investments and regulation to help consumers and industry make the transition.

Patrick Gervais, vice-president at Lion Electric and inaugural chairman of Accelerate, said the industry requires four priorities to flourish in Canada: supportive legislation, incentives to reduce ZEV prices and cultivate wider acceptance, a strong supply chain for manufacturers and a network of suppliers – specializing in standard as well as ZEV-specific auto parts.

“The Ontario market has developed a strong service offering to the car business. From our end, as Lion, we’d like to have more [original equipment manufacturers] to come and establish themselves here in Canada to assemble their products. Canada is also a good country to test innovation,” Mr. Gervais said.

“If we have suppliers locally to help them out, then we’re going to create an amazing new economy in electrification of transportation.”

Lion, based in Montreal, is a maker of electric trucks and school buses, and is backed by Power Corp. This year, it announced a financing and supply agreement with Amazon.com.

Besides Lion and NFI Group (the former New Flyer Industries), other EV makers that have joined the group include Quebec-based Nova Bus, a unit of Volvo; and BYD, the California EV maker which has a plant in Newmarket, Ont.

Jeffrey Jones writes about sustainable finance and the ESG sector for The Globe and Mail. E-mail him at jeffjones@globeandmail.com.

The members of the Canadian zero-emission vehicle supply-chain alliance

  • AddÉnergie
  • Automotive Parts Manufacturer’s Association
  • Battery Metals Association of Canada
  • BYD
  • Canada Hydrogen Fuel Cell Association
  • Canadian Critical Minerals and Materials Alliance
  • Canadian Colleges for Resilient Recovery
  • Chargepoint
  • Clean Energy Canada
  • Dunsky Energy + Climate
  • Electric Mobility Canada
  • Ivey Foundation
  • Lion Electric
  • National Research Council (Associate Member)
  • NFI Group
  • Nova Bus
  • Propulsion Quebec
  • Teck Resources
  • The Transition Accelerator
  • Unifor

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