Canada Investing in Next Generation of Electric Cars

Canadian drivers will benefit from research into new technologies for the automobile industry that will develop a battery pack thermal management system for hybrid electric vehicles, more efficient systems for wheel production, performance-enhancing catalytic converters, enhanced fuel cell technology and improved automotive manufacturing workplace design and ergonomics.

The Honourable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology), was joined today by Nina Grewal, Member of Parliament for Fleetwood-Port Kells, and by Suzanne Fortier, President of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, to announce five new projects to be supported by the Automotive Partnership Canada initiative.

"Our government is investing in research and development with the Canadian automobile industry to make sure these businesses continue to grow, create jobs and increase our ability to compete internationally," said Minister Goodyear. "These projects will develop new technologies and bring them to the marketplace for the benefit of Canadians."

These university-industry partnerships will receive more than $16 million in total project support. This includes $6.5 million in funding through the Automotive Partnership Canada initiative, and close to $10 million from industry and other contributions. Two of Simon Fraser University’s projects will be in partnership with Future Vehicle Technologies and Ballard Power Systems; the University of British Columbia will work with Canadian Autoparts Toyota Inc; the University of Alberta will team up with Vida Holdings Incorporated; and McMaster University will collaborate with the United States Council for Automotive Research. These partnerships will be supported with funding through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

"When Canadian researchers collaborate with industry, new technologies emerge that contribute to a sustainable automotive industry," said NSERC President Dr. Fortier. "The projects supported through Automotive Partnership Canada also contribute to training, attracting and retaining the highly qualified workers we need for a strong, resilient economy."

"Working side-by-side in state-of-the-art research facilities, researchers and their private-sector partners will help build Canada’s reputation as a global leader in automotive innovation," said Gilles G. Patry, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Canada Foundation for Innovation. "It is this kind of strong collaboration that is creating safer, greener, smarter cars for Canadians."

Announced by the Government of Canada in April 2009, Automotive Partnership Canada is a five-year, $145-million initiative that supports collaborative research and development and pushes the Canadian automotive industry to greater levels of innovation. As an industry-driven initiative, automotive companies play a key role by providing both financial support and essential in-kind contributions to ensure the research projects’ success. Other previously funded Automotive Partnership Canada research projects focus on addressing the widespread adoption of electric vehicles, developing natural gas and diesel engine technologies, and creating on-board storage and reuse of waste thermal energy.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada is a federal agency that helps make Canada a country of discoverers and innovators for all Canadians. The agency supports some 30,000 post-secondary students and postdoctoral fellows in their advanced studies. The agency promotes discovery by funding more than 12,000 professors every year and fosters innovation by encouraging more than 1,500 Canadian companies to participate and invest in post-secondary research projects.

The Canada Foundation for Innovation strives to build our nation’s capacity to undertake world-class research and technology development to benefit Canadians through investments in state-of-the-art facilities and equipment at universities, colleges, research hospitals and non-profit research institutions.


Automotive Partnership Canada

Automotive Partnership Canada (APC) is a five-year, $145-million initiative that supports collaborative research and development (R&D) activities benefiting the Canadian automotive industry through partnerships between industry and academia and/or National Research Council Canada.

APC’s funding partners are:

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) ($85 million);
National Research Council Canada (NRC) ($30 million);
Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) ($15 million);
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) ($5 million); and
Canada Excellence Research Chairs (CERC) Program ($10 million).

Research Areas

An industry task force guided the development of APC. This included identifying research priorities, grouped under three strategic themes. To be supported, research must fall under at least one of the following themes:

Improving the Automobile’s Environmental Performance and Impact;
The Cognitive Car; and/or
Next Generation Manufacturing.

For more information about Automotive Partnership Canada, visit:

What follows are descriptions of each of the newly funded APC projects:
Project: Integrated, Intelligent Energy Management Systems for Hybrid Electric Vehicles
Partners: Simon Fraser University and Future Vehicle Technologies Inc.
APC Investment: $798,906 (through NSERC and CFI)

Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs) are currently considered the most viable alternative propulsion system in the automotive industry. They offer a wide range of improvements including the most efficient fuel consumption, ability to fuel from the grid, emission reduction, and enhanced power performance. The ultimate goal of this project is to develop efficient thermal management systems to reduce the cost and weight, and ensure long-term, problem-free operation while increasing the efficiency of HEVs.

This project builds on an existing collaboration between Simon Fraser University and Future Vehicle Technologies Inc. (FVT)—a research and development company specializing in the development of HEVs. The results and experience gained from the proposed project will provide engineering design tools and new, efficient energy management systems specifically designed for HEVs that will aid Canadian automotive companies such as FVT.
Project: Development of the Next Generation Heavy Duty (Bus) Fuel Cells with Enhanced Durability
Partners: Simon Fraser University and Ballard Power Systems
APC Investment: $4,051,075 (through NSERC)

Fuel cell-powered buses provide a clean, quiet, low-emission solution for urban transit services. Depending on the source of hydrogen, these buses can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 60 to 100 percent, versus incumbent diesel engine technology, while offering similar driving performance and route flexibility. The focus of the proposed research program is on the development and enhancement of the proton exchange membrane (PEM) that is currently a bottleneck for the overall durability and lifetime of the fuel cell stack and hybrid electric drive for transit buses.

With APC support, the overall objective is to develop improved stack technology capable of increasing the fuel cell stack durability without impacting functionality and cost. The project brings together a cohesive research team of multidisciplinary expertise from Ballard Power Systems, Simon Fraser University and University of Victoria, with close interaction between academia and industry.
Project: Next Generation Water-Cooled Low-Pressure Die for the Production of Automotive Wheels
Partners: University of British Columbia and Canadian Autoparts Toyota Inc. (CAPTIN)
APC Investment: $726,859 (through NSERC and CFI)

The University of British Columbia and CAPTIN will work together to develop an advanced water-cooled low-pressure die for the production of automotive wheels. The project will focus on the development of water-cooling elements that will be placed within the die at key locations to rapidly cool the wheel in a manner that will carefully control the path of the solidification front to eliminate void formation.

Advanced computational tools will be developed based on commercial software packages and on in-house codes to design the cooling elements, their optimal placement within the die structure and the timing for when they are switched on and off. Heat transfer analysis, thermal stress analysis and inverse heat transfer tools will be developed and applied during the project. The overall objective is to design an advanced die system that will allow for production yield ratios and operating costs comparable with conventional air-cooled die technology.
Project: Development of a Multi-Chamber Catalytic Converter
Partners: University of Alberta and Vida Holdings Inc.
APC Investment: $180,629 (through NSERC)

Concern over pollutants in vehicle exhaust has led to the development of the catalytic converter, which is a key component of exhaust gas mitigation systems. One of the chief areas of concern is the so-called cold start period, where the catalytic converter is below the light-off temperature, and the conversion of emissions is low. For many automobile journeys, the majority of the emissions are emitted during this period, and thus any method that can reduce this period prior to ignition will give a performance enhancement.

The main concept to be explored in this project is the Multi-Chamber Catalytic Converter (MCCC)—a relatively simple modification to the current catalytic converter design in which thin layers of insulating material are introduced into the ceramic honeycomb in a concentric fashion. This layer alters the thermal characteristics of the ceramic honeycomb and disrupts the flow of heat from the inner to the outer parts of the ceramic, which increases the thermal intake of the catalytic converter and reduces the time necessary to reach light-off temperature. Even minor improvements in energy retention could lead to significant reductions in emissions during this critical period.
Project: Improving Automotive Manufacturing Design and Ergonomics through Work Simulation and Digital Human Modelling
Partners: McMaster University and United States Council for Automotive Research (USCAR)
APC Investment: $798, 625 (through NSERC)

Ergonomics is the science of designing work tasks to fit the capabilities of a worker so that injuries can be prevented. For many years, workers would have to get hurt before ergonomics was used to guide improvements to their work environment. However, recently, a number of larger companies have begun to use digital human modelling technologies and computer simulations of tasks, to allow for ergonomic assessments to be performed before these tasks even exist in reality. This technology allows ergonomists to place a digital human model (ie. avatar) within created virtual computer-aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) environments. A variety of virtual analyses can be performed to predict the effectiveness and injury risk associated with a workstation layout, and most of these software packages allow for the prediction of posture, reach, line of sight and joint strength demands. There is evidence to suggest that this process can be extremely cost effective.

The overall purpose of the proposed research is to contribute to a reduction in workplace musculoskeletal disorders and an improvement in the efficiency of the automotive manufacturing design and launch cycle.

The partnership with USCAR brings significant industrial input from all three major North American automotive manufacturers—Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. USCAR provides the framework for these companies to work together on pre-competitive R&D projects and the companies will use their Canadian operations for this research project.