The Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto is wrapping up this weekend. But one particular car is getting a lot of attention — and it has ties to Durham Region.
It’s a fully electric autonomous vehicle with a futuristic look and it’s turning heads, according to the president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association.
“It’s cause for a discussion about the future of Canadian automotive,” says the APMA president and brainchild for the project, Flavio Volpe.
“This really shows what role Canadian companies have here.”
The first all-Canadian-made electric vehicle is called Project Arrow, a nod to the Avro Arrow. The car is even being named the RL-205, an homage to the Arrow’s call sign number, CF-105. The lead designer is also part of the creation of the Virgin Galactic program.
It’s thanks to a collaboration of more than 50 different partners, including Ontario Tech University in Oshawa. The design was created by students at Carleton University, after they won a design competition.
Ontario Tech was tasked with the assembly of the project.
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“There’s a couple things that are drawing people to this car,” says Volpe.
“First of all the design is rather futuristic. You have wide-open doors, so you can see inside the car,” he says.
Volpe set forth on the journey to build the car after a challenge from Prime Minister Trudeau in 2019.
Then, the prime minister challenged auto makers to show him what a Canadian-made zero-emissions auto industry looks like. That challenge was accepted by the APMA, creating Project Arrow.
“We said as the association that represents auto companies that make about 75 per cent of the components, what if? What if we had a Canadian car? Could we use that one to demonstrate?” says Volpe.
Fourth-year student in automotive engineering at Ontario Tech, Andrew Genovese, was one of the hundreds of people that had a hand in making the vehicle.
“It’s been phenomenal. Working on it has been quite an experience for me,” says Genovese, who has been dreaming of creating new vehicles since the days he was a master builder with Lego sets as a kid.
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He was part of the assembly team for Project Arrow, after the parts were built by suppliers. His team put it together in the ACE Research Centre at Ontario Tech.
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“I had my hands on the body panels, the suspension system, brake lines, motors. Pretty much anything that’s in the vehicle I had my hands on,” he says.
“I’ve really been learning, and applying all the knowledge I’ve learned in school and being able to demonstrate that with a physical vehicle is a really cool experience.”
Every piece of the car is Canadian as well. One feature pays tribute to the Raptors Championship — floors made of maple, with a red stripe down the middle of the floor. The chassis was made from composite materials on a 3D printer, provided by a company in London. The battery, wheels and other components were made in Quebec.
And perhaps the most unique aspect of the car — which is a working prototype — is its safety features.
“The vehicle can actually adjust the lighting or change the audio, based on your heartrate,” says Genovese.
There’s a retina scanner to monitor your eyes, and a sensor built into the steering wheel to keep a check on your vitals as well. And because of the AI involved in the car, if anything were to happen to the driver, the vehicle knows to pull over and keep the driver safe.
After several days on display at the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto, the design is definitely charging people up for where technology could go, including Durham’s regional chair, John Henry.
“It was done here, it’s a great partnership. And it’s a game changer,” says Henry.
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“This is just one of things done here in Durham that is going to shock the world,” he adds.
The car, which has a price tag of more than $20M, was covered by funding from Ottawa and the province of Ontario and Quebec, along with other stakeholders. Though there are no plans to mass produce at this time, attendees at the show were impressed.
“It took me by surprise, the look was very unique,” said Ezekiel Tolly, a self-described car enthusiast.
“It definitely draws your attention in, but that being said, if you don’t like the look, it’s not going to appeal to you.”.
The car is just coming off a tour at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and will finish off at the AutoShow this weekend. From there, Project Arrow will also be shown in various other expos around the world, including Tokyo and Germany.
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