EV Future Gets a Jump Start
By Henry Stancu
The electric car is no longer just a fleeting concept. It is the future and it is now.
Just as the telephone, computers and the Internet made the world a global village, electric vehicles on land, sea and in the air will alter the way we travel and power our communities.
“We’re at a paradigm shift in the history of transportation and energy,” said Stephen Bieda, director of communications and marketing at Hamilton’s McMaster University, speaking about the McMaster Institute for Automotive Research and Technology (MacAUTO)..
“Rarely do you see such massive infrastructural pieces of society intersecting like this,” he told Toronto Star Wheels this week. “This is extremely exciting. I’ve been involved in electric vehicles for more than 20 years and I’m certain we’re not going to see this go away. It is the future, the next Industrial Revolution, to borrow a page from Jeremy Rifkin.”
RECAP: AJAC Eco-Run Fuel Economy Test
(Rifkin is the principal architect of the Third Industrial Revolution, an economic sustainability plan addressing the challenges of the global economic crisis, energy security, and climate change.)
On Thursday the university held a news conference to announce the $26 million McMaster Automotive Resource Centre (MARC), which when completed this time next year will have brought together the largest team of automotive tech researchers in North America backed by about $150 million in funding.
The occasion was the second last stop of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada’s Brighton-to-London Eco-Run, a public experiment to demonstrate and highlight the range of fuel-economy options that are already available to consumers.
The 23 fuel-efficient, hybrid and electric cars driven by automotive journalists, including three representing Toronto Star Wheels, rallied around the rose garden in front of McMaster’s stately University Hall before heading to Fanshawe College in London.
By the time MacAUTOs new 80,000 square-foot facility is completed next spring, about 150 graduate students, professors and technicians will be engaged in research backed by about $150 million in funding from the university, federal government programs, automotive and electric technology industry partners and sponsors.
The program got its greatest boost a year ago when the leading U.S. developer of electric powertrain technology, Dr. Ali Emadi, joined McMaster’s mechanical engineering department.
Emadi, who holds the title of Canadian Excellence Research Chair in Hybrid Technology and is MacAUTO’s director, has helped to raise the learning institution’s auto tech program to a higher level.
“He’s a real visionary, someone who transcends academia and brings a lot of industry and practical experience. Dr. Emadi has that gleam in his eye of someone who knows something and inspires others because he’s able to excite teamwork and passion,” Bieda said.
The program’s goal is much more than just researching electric vehicles, batteries, power generation, and other electric vehicle components.
“We are really quite bullish on the future of electrification beyond just affecting transportation,” Bieda said.
“It’s interconnected with the energy system. The energy internet is what is emerging, so we’re talking about the vehicle to grid technology’s transformation — doing what the internet has done to communication to empower and democratize people in a way nobody ever anticipated,” he added.
Driven by the ever-increasing price of gasoline and the need for cleaner and greener fuel, research and development of electric-powered mobility and greater battery storage capacity will revolutionize the transfer and storage of energy and connect everyone to the power grid.
“At certain times of the day we produce far more energy than is needed and at other times not enough. When you add electric cars to the mix it allows everyone to store energy and deliver to the grid when necessary. It allows people to sell back energy,” said Bieda.
Just as increased memory storage keeps advancing the power of modern computers; energy storage is the key to expanding battery capacity and vehicle range.
With the aid of a $3.5 million grant provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), General Motors, Heka Electronics and Bruker Ltd., Dr. Gillian Goward, an associate professor of chemistry, heads McMaster’s advanced research project into higher battery capacity.
“She’s using magnetic technology and the Titan microscope — the most powerful — to measure battery life and degradation at the molecular level. It’s pretty advanced research,” Bieda said.
Researchers believe the next Industrial Revolution will do more than just create more efficient and clean ways to travel, store and use energy, but it will also mean more jobs.
“Not only is it exciting from a job creation standpoint, but because the technology is pretty sophisticated it requires training that will produce higher paying jobs,” Bieda said.
“The nature of this vehicle to grid and battery vehicle technology is that things can be localized and not made by an offshore workforce. The whole renovation process that’s going to be required for buildings to accommodate electric vehicles, charging stations and the renovation of the infrastructure means jobs.