It took just a month for Canada to move past its former status as “a speck on the global EV manufacturing map”, after Unifor negotiated separate contracts with Ford Canada and Fiat Chrysler totalling C$3.5 billion in new investment in electric or hybrid vehicle manufacturing, cleantech analyst Dan Woynillowicz writes in a recent opinion piece for Electric Autonomy.
Now, attention quite rightly turns to the jobs to be created and the supply chains to be shifted as production at the Ford and Fiat Chrysler plants ramps up, says Woynillowicz, principal of Victoria-based Polaris Strategy + Insight.
In an assessment published earlier this year, the International Council on Clean Transportation and the Pembina Institute found that Canada held just 0.4% of global electric vehicle production, Woynillowicz recalls. The right policy shifts could jump-start Canada’s domestic EV market, generating nearly 800,000 jobs and C$110 billion in GDP by 2040, the two organizations concluded at the time—but time was of the essence.
“Canada is a huge auto producer,” wrote ICCT co-author Ben Sharpe. “But nobody is really shining a light on the fact that if Canada doesn’t quickly ramp up its EV production, the steady decline we’ve seen in auto manufacturing over the past 20 years is going to accelerate.”
That message landed with Unifor leadership, showing up in an August op ed by National President Jerry Dias. “And then he got busy at the negotiating table,” Woynillowicz writes. “The result? All of a sudden Canada is (or rather, will be) on the EV assembly map.”
While the Ford deal is meant to save 3,000 of the 3,400 jobs at the company’s Oakville plant, the rule of thumb for battery-electric vehicle (BEV) manufacturing is that it requires 30% less work than building an internal combustion (ICE) car. But Woynillowicz, citing a Boston Consulting Group study of automotive labour force requirements, says the industry’s future job prospects “are both illuminating and encouraging—so long as you look across the full value chain.”
“While ICE vehicles require more labour associated with components, engine, motor, and transmission assembly and installation, BEVs require the addition of battery manufacturing (cell production and module and battery pack assembly) and an increase in assembly-related labour,” he writes. “Meanwhile, labour requirements for press, body, and paint shops don’t differ at all. Put that all together. and labour requirements for BEVs are comparable to those of ICE vehicles when viewed across the full value chain.”
The shift in emphasis to automakers’ suppliers shines a light on battery cell manufacturing, an area where Asian manufacturers are in the lead. Woynillowicz says that’s why the European Union and the United Kingdom are working to build their own manufacturing capacity, and Canada must do the same.
“This is about putting workers back in our steel plants. This is about making batteries,” Diaz told Electric Autonomy after the Fiat Chrysler deal was announced. “This is about saying to aluminum workers in Quebec and B.C.…to lithium workers in Quebec…cobalt workers in Northern Ontario, you’re going to be a part of the solution…It is a transformative time.…We’re on the cusp of leading globally for where this incredible industry is going.”