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An electric concept vehicle designed and built in Canada was revealed at the 2023 Consumer Electronics Show, in Las Vegas, on Jan. 5.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

Among the excitement around new electric and connected vehicles, including an all-electric Ram pickup and a futuristic concept from BMW at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, was a car designed and built entirely in Canada.

It’s aim is to showcase Canadian talent and expertise in zero-emission vehicles and connected and autonomous technology. “Fifty-six Canadian suppliers put together a new concept prototype vehicle – zero emission, Level 3 autonomous, lightweight [with] advanced technology that will show the world what Canada can do in material sciences and applied technology,” said Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association (APMA) President Flavio Volpe.

The vehicle is meant as an example of an EV an automaker could produce 50,000 of a year and costs less than $60,000 for consumers to buy and major players are taking notice.

GM Canada President Marissa West, Ontario Economic Development Minister Vic Fedeli and Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association President Flavio Volpe discuss Project Arrow at CES 2023.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

When Volpe and Ontario Economic Development Minister Vic Fedeli took the wraps off the silver concept SUV on Thursday amid the throngs of international journalists, there were a few unexpected guests, including Stellantis chief executive officer Carlos Tavares and General Motors Canada president Marissa West.

“Impressive,” said West after the reveal. “There’s a lot of talent in Canada.”

After speaking with Volpe and Fedeli, Tavares also seemed interested, but isn’t committing to manufacturing it. When asked if he plans to build it, he said, “No, not this one. It’s a novelty. But I’m learning. That’s why I [came to] see it.”

Project Arrow began nearly three years ago to the day when Volpe announced the venture at CES in 2020. Initially, 535 Canadian companies expressed interest in participating in Project Arrow. Even the design came from a cross-country competition won by Carleton University students in Ottawa.

Right from the start, the SUV was built on a lightweight electric platform with sleek lines and well-balanced proportions. Distinct styling cues include rear-hinged doors that open long and wide to make it easier for passengers to enter the cabin. Inside, it’s spacious, airy and filled with technology. Three large screens span the dash – a driver cluster, a main centre screen and a passenger screen for watching movies or playing video games. The centre screen, which is foldable, can access everything from the audio to the navigation system and the battery information to the Level 3 semi-autonomous Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) features. There are no side view mirrors; they’re replaced with cameras and images from the side-view cameras appear on the far right- and left-hand sides of the dashboard. And there’s real Canadian maple wood on the floor and throughout the cabin.

When it came to the Human Machine Interface smart cockpit, Geotab, an Oakville, Ont., telematics company, added advanced security to protect data, privacy and prevent cybersecurity attacks and vehicle hacking – a growing threat as cars become more like computers on wheels.

“Just like our cellphones are connected, the connected vehicle of the future is really going to be an all-connected vehicle,” said George Kehayas, business development consultant for connected cars at Geotab.

“You can’t have an electric vehicle without proper security,” he said. EVs have more than 100 electronic control units (ECU) and the weakest link for a hacker is going to be the weakest ECU, which could be anywhere from a key fob to an aftermarket product. “Once the hacker goes in and you try to charge your vehicle to your house, your house could potentially be hacked. If your house is hacked, your smart lights, smart refrigerator or your computers are at risk. There are steps we take to ensure the security of vehicles.”

Project Arrow will have an 82.5-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery, 550 horsepower and a dual-motor all-wheel-drive system.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

Other innovative and groundbreaking Canadian technology that helped make Project Arrow a reality included lighter components such as a 3D printed chassis, courtesy of Toronto startup Xaba, and sustainable items from Western Canada’s RBT BioComposites, which supplied natural fibre materials that are a sustainable alternative to carbon fibre, plastic and fibreglass.

While there are still no details on range, Project Arrow will have an 82.5-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery, 550 horsepower and a dual-motor all-wheel-drive system.

Project Arrow is a private sector project with significant government support – $5-million from the federal government, $1.8-million from Ontario and Quebec kicked in $1.4-million to support Quebec-based companies involved in project. Volpe estimated the total cost of bringing this vehicle to life was $20-million.

So far, there are no plans to bring this one-off concept vehicle into production. After CES, Project Arrow will begin a global tour to show off Canada’s talent, including a stop at the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto this February.

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