CES attendees marvel at the revealed Arrow SUV.

Engineering students and industry leaders showcase Ontario’s massive EV capabilities

When the Arrow made its debut at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, on January 5, 2023, the global auto industry took notice.

That’s because the concept vehicle is not only cool looking, but the all-electric, zero-emissions SUV comes loaded with the latest and greatest technology—from smart cabin control systems and wireless charging capabilities to multi-layered cybersecurity defences and health-monitoring software. The Arrow features 25 brand-new technologies, including an embedded 5G antennae in the roof panel and Level 3 Autonomous Technology.

It’s a marvel of engineering ingenuity and skill, and it was designed and built from the ground up in Ontario, Canada.

Behind the scenes: Project Arrow development at Ontario Tech

Disclaimer: This third-party video may not have been made accessible and may only be available in English.

The Arrow is named after Canada’s legendary Avro Arrow supersonic interceptor aircraft, one of the most advanced of its era. Like its namesake, the Arrow SUV boasts several “firsts.” Among them: a solar panel embedded in the roof that helps power some of the car’s smaller systems, extending the vehicle’s range.

“The main goal of the Arrow is to showcase Ontario’s design, engineering and manufacturing expertise,” says Paula Ambra, assistant chief engineer for Project Arrow at Ontario Tech University in Oshawa. “And there’s no question it’s achieved it. The Arrow clearly demonstrates that we have what it takes in Ontario to design, build and assemble the cars of the future with today’s talent and technology.”

The story behind the Arrow

Project Arrow began three years ago when Ontario’s auto industry was challenged to design and build a net-zero vehicle.

The Canadian Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association (APMA) took up the challenge, first running a design competition that saw students from Carleton University’s School of Industrial Design, located in Ottawa, Ontario, come up with the winning concept.

Then the organization reached out to its members to see what advanced, commercially ready technology they would make available to support the project.

Finally, with funding support from the governments of Ontario and Canada, APMA tapped Ontario Tech and its ACE Climatic Aerodynamic Wind Tunnel to build the Arrow for the real world. It was a natural choice, given the university’s strong industry ties and exceptional automotive R&D capabilities, coupled with years of experience working with competing companies while ensuring the safety of their intellectual property.

“ACE really provides unparalleled testing capabilities,” says Dr. Justin Gammage, the university’s senior executive advisor for strategic research priorities and industry collaborations. As he notes, it comes with a full-service support staff and academic faculty who are among the world’s brightest engineers and technicians in all areas of automotive, from EV charging systems to alternate fuels to artificial intelligence.

With an ambitious target of launching a prototype at the world’s most influential tech event in early 2023, immediate and complete collaboration was needed from the outset.

“It was a compressed timeframe, so we knew going in that it would be challenging,” says Ambra. “We were working with multiple partners to test and assemble a brand-new, all-electric, autonomous vehicle that was full of cutting-edge technologies that were evolving as we went along.”

Throw in a pandemic, supply chain challenges and a trade blockade crisis, and it’s no wonder there were moments when some of the team members wondered if it would be done on time.

Workers observing the car’s assembly process.
The final assembly, which took place behind closed doors at Ontario Tech’s ACE, was completed in just four months. Unique in the world, ACE has been helping global OEMs perfect their components and systems for more than a decade.
Source: University of Ontario Institute of Technology

“We had an exceptionally strong and committed team,” says Ambra. This included a handful of Ontario Tech students from the faculty of engineering and applied science, who worked long hours alongside industry professionals and ACE staff while attending university full-time.

It was an unprecedented opportunity for them to get hands-on experience.

Ambra was in Las Vegas for the unveiling. “It was so exciting to be there. The reception the Arrow received from the delegates was amazing. Literally, thousands of industry people and media visited our booth over the four days. They were intrigued by the Arrow and interested in finding out more about its technologies—and the talent behind them.”

The Arrow wasn’t the only thing that captured the attention of the international delegates at CES. The students were also there, and they were peppered with questions about the vehicle, their involvement—and their career plans.

Engineering students sitting in front of the newly completed Arrow SUV.
As well as students from Ontario Tech, the Project Arrow team included automotive professionals from 50+ companies supplying the hardware and software technology, designers, engineers, technicians and project managers.
Source: University of Ontario Institute of Technology

For fourth-year automotive engineering student Andrew Genovese, the whole experience was a dream come true—and confirmed his career choice. “I’ve always had a passion for cars, but working on the Arrow really helped me understand the complexity of what goes into designing and building a vehicle—and helped to hone my problem-solving and personal skills.”

Izzy Cossarin, who will graduate in mechatronics in Spring 2023, says, “It was the best learning experience. It gave me the chance to apply theoretical engineering knowledge to real-world applications. I was so lucky to work with a team of exceptional engineers, skilled tradespeople and industry professionals—and then to actually be at CES for the unveiling and see the reaction was just amazing.”

Both Genovese and Cossarin agree on the message the Arrow sends to the international auto community, “We don’t need to take a back seat to anyone. We can design and build our own vehicles here in Ontario.”

Ontario’s ambitious auto strategy

That confidence in Ontario’s automotive capabilities, coupled with a can-do attitude, is key to the success of the province’s EV strategy, Driving Prosperity, an aggressive push to position Ontario as a leader in EV manufacturing and autonomous research.

The strategy builds on Ontario’s formidable automotive advantages. The province has had a thriving auto industry for more than a century and has built a highly skilled workforce, award-winning manufacturing capabilities and state-of-the-art research and development facilities. And, looking to the future, Ontario has another leg-up on its competitors: it’s the only jurisdiction in North America that has all the minerals required to make lithium-ion batteries.

Specifically, the strategy aims to see a significant ramp-up of EV and hybrid production to 400,000 vehicles by 2030, a goal seen as eminently doable given that three of the province’s five car manufacturers have, or are in the process of, retooling their plants for EV production.

Also in the works is the creation of a domestic battery ecosystem to connect Northern Ontario’s mineral wealth with the manufacturing strength of southern Ontario. This includes a $5-billion investment from LG Energy Solution and Stellantis to build a Gigafactory in Windsor, Ontario and a $1.5-billion investment from Umicore to build a first-of-its-kind, industrial-scale cathode and precursor materials manufacturing plant, in eastern Ontario. As for the Arrow, the goal is to see it mass-produced down the road. For now, it will spend the next two years travelling to events and auto shows around the globe to demonstrate what Ontario’s automotive talent is capable of—and helping Arrow’s suppliers sell their technology to automakers worldwide.

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