The consortium brought to Vancouver some body panels that may make it onto the Kestrel; body panels made of hemp. Yes, hemp, which is made from a plant in the Cannabis family, but one more suited for use as a fibre, and less so as a recreational product.

Steve Dallas wanted to build a helicopter. His wife said no. So he designed and built a state-of-the-art electric car — from the ground up. During a ride last summer in said electric car, Dallas turns to me and says, “turns out, the helicopter would have been cheaper.”

Cheaper maybe, but certainly not as interesting, and certainly not as potentially instrumental in igniting a domestic EV industry.

By building this vehicle, called A2B, Dallas and his company, Toronto Electric, essentially demonstrated that one could build a world-class EV using Canadian know-how, and using a wide assortment of Canadian-sourced components.

His investigations into going to the next level—serial production for the A2B and other EVs in Canada—made him and other industry players conclude that what was needed was an industry-led consortium; one that could focus the diverse range of EV-related talent already present in this country.

That necessary consortium had its hard launch today at the Vancouver EV Expo. It’s called Project Eve.

All consortium members were revealed today (see list below), as was the sketches of the range of models it would be willing to build for fleet customers on a per-order basis: the 2-seat A2B; the 2+2 Kestrel; the single-seat thee-wheeled Go-4; a 7-seat SUV; and a Fleet Van.

One of the founding members of Project Eve is Calgary’s Motive Industries, which has expertise in pre-production. Its first order of business is building one more A2B prototype, and building up the first Kestrel prototype (from a Motive design).

Motive’s president, Nathan Armstrong, brought to Vancouver some body panels that may make it onto the Kestrel; body panels made of hemp. Yes, hemp, which is made from a plant in the Cannabis family, but one more suited for use as a fibre, and less so as a recreational product. 

Hemp is light, strong, and green (fast growing and easy on the soil), but extremely susceptible to stoner references. We’ll refrain.
Hemp is also somewhat of a Canadian exclusive, as it is illegal to grow the stuff south of the border.

Dallas notes that the first “production” models will by built by students and staff at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, but subsequent production could be assembled “right across Canada.”

“The aviation industry is everything the EV industry should be… They work with neat stuff, like composites, and other cool technologies, and they build production in small batches, using cells in various places. For example, if a Quebec fleet wanted a number of vehicles, we could look at setting up an cell in the province to manufacture some components of the vehicles.”

Like all proposed production cars, Project Eve EVs will need to meet all of rules and regulations set forth by Transport Canada. Dallas notes that all of the regulations, including those for crash testing, are geared for mass produced gasoline powered vehicles. “There is not a single rule or regulation for an EV.” 

The consortium is hoping that certain crash test exemptions will be granted to low volume manufacturers, and for new protocols that recognize the unique way EVs need to be constructed (crumple zones as designed for conventional vehicles, are not ideal for an EV).   

Designing and building cars via a consortium seems complex. But Project Eve spokesperson, John Scott, begs to differ: “It’s based on a very simple premise: Put the smartest people in electric mobility at the same table, then say, ‘Let’s build a vehicle, and let’s have it embody certain characteristics, so it thrives in the Canadian environment, and boom, the damn things get built.”

This is not an exclusive club. Project Eve is hoping to attract other companies and institutions.

Noted Nathan Armstrong: “We see a unique opportunity with Project Eve to move electric mobility towards a production reality. We also wish to support the Canadian auto sector by providing sustainable products and opportunities to create new manufacturing jobs.”

The goal of Project EV is not necessarily to become an OEM, like Ford, GM or Chrysler, but to enable member companies and the EV industry at large in this country, to get a leg up, through collaboration and technology sharing.

The one-piece fibreglass body of the Toronto Electric A2B was styled by noted Canadian auto designer, Paul Deutschman. The lithium battery pack is located as low as possible and dead centre in the vehicle, on a belly pan made of carbon fibre. Lowdown Hot Rods of Cambridge, Ontario, built the super-strong chromolly frame and roll cage. The three-phase 43kW motor and single-speed gearbox is nestled under the tiny hood. The whole thing weights about 1,600 lbs. Virtually everything can be monitored and adjusted via a console mounted touch screen, which can also be tethered to an iPad. The car is basically a programmable computer on wheels, because electric cars will need to be infinitely update-able, on both powertrain and software sides — otherwise they will be as disposable as cell phones. 

Motive Industries, Alberta (vehicle development)

Toronto Electric, Ontario (material handling)

Vecture (battery management systems)

New Media Architects, Ontario, (business information for green technologies)

Westward Industries, Manitoba (manufacturer of three-wheeled fleet vehicles)

Arcx, Ontario (software systems for touch screen devices)

Toxco, B.C. (lithium battery recycling)

Delta-Q Technologies, B.C. (on-board charging systems)

• Revolute Technologies, Alberta (auxiliary HVAC power systems)

University of Toronto, Ontario

Red Deer College, Alberta

Southern Alberta Institute of Technology

TM4, subsidiary of Hydro Quebec (electric drivetrains)

ENMAX Power Corporation, Calgary (electrical distribution)