Quebec’s diverse pool of electric vehicle innovators


Electric transportation in Quebec seems to be a popular choice among entrepreneurs. For starters, the consumer side of the equation is growing: the number of people buying electric cars in the province has doubled every year over the past four years.

The government has also introduced incentives, wrote CBC’s Sarah Leavitt. Drivers can receive a rebate of up to $8,000 on the purchase of an electric vehicle. And last October, the government announced it was spending $420 million over the next five years on its new vehicle-electrification plan. The Quebec government wants zero-emission vehicles to make up 15.5 per cent of all car sales by 2025.

We’ve chosen four news-making Quebec companies that are playing a role in changing the cars, buses, motorcycles and other vehicles that we see every day.

1. eLion bus – Saint-Jérôme

The eLion school bus is a 100 per cent electric creation that nets a 75 mile range at 105 kWh. It’s the only electric Type C School bus in North America and has been shipping to Quebec and California since 2015. The eLion TM4 electric motor provides equal power to the traditional diesel equivalent and provides real-time data to end users and Lion’s customer service team for on-the-road support.

In November 2015 the eLion was approved and listed by the California Air Ressources Board for the Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project (HVIP). The program offers funding opportunities to California school districts interested in buying eLions. Here in Canada, the Quebec Government launched an Electric School Bus Purchase Incentive to all bus Quebec contractors and school districts in March 2016.

Marc-Andre Page, the company’s business development manager, told Schoolbusfleet.com that Lion expects to have about 70 eLions in operation in the province by the end of this school year.

And things have been going well on that front too: on Wednesday a US company called Adomani signed a contract with eLion to provide the fully-electric buses in the Western states of Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington.

2. Lito Sora electric motorcycle – Longueuil

Lito

Founded in 2009, Lito is the mastermind behind the first luxury electric “superbike,” the Sora. The startup is also a graduate of Montreal’s Ecofuel accelerator program, and is the first electric vehicle manufacturer approved by Transport Canada in Canada for a personal vehicle.

In fact, CEO Jean-Pierre Legris told MTLinTECH Friday that Lito will build and deliver two police bikes to the Longueuil police force within a month. Montreal’s force has requested two bikes as well.

Lito’s machine comes with a hefty price tag – at least $100,000 – and includes a hand-assembled 12kWh lithium-polymer battery which can be recharged in 9 hours with the on-board J1772-compatible charger. Its frame is made from carbon fibre and machined aluminum elements.

The company delivered its first luxury motorcycle to a customer in 2014. They positioned it as high-end from the start – and dealt with the growing pains along the way.

3. Azastra Opto – Ottawa, Ontario and Sherbrooke

Founded in 2013, the profitable Azastra Opto is doing about $850,000 in revenue while focusing on the design and sales of phototransducers and related photo power conversion and photo detection applications. Phototransduction is the process through which photons (particles of light) are converted into electrical signals.The company’s energy conversion efficiencies are in the 65 to 70 per cent range, and devices can deliver several watts of power.

“We started in 2013 with a new invention called the VEHSA® technology, which is basically the highest efficiency optical-to electrical conversion on the planet,” said CEO Simon Fafard. “Electric cars are going towards next-gen power control units and they’re all trying to increase their range to increase efficiency. To do that there’s a bunch of challenges you need to solve and we’re solving the biggest ones.”

Azastra Opto was one of the graduating companies in Montreal’s Ecofuel Accelerator program last year, along with Lito. In fact, Fafard says the two companies may well do business together in the future.

One of the main applications for its technology is electric vehicles. Electric vehicles and charging stations are often based on emerging SiC and GaN technologies. Azastra Opto’s optical coupler technology is a “natural fit to drive and switch this new generation of high current and high voltage power electronic devices.”

While the startup company is based in Ottawa, it does most of its testing at a facility in Sherbrooke.

“Right now we’re working with one of the big car manufacturers. We did two contracts starting in 2015 with them and we’re starting our third contract soon. Going forward I think we’ll see the same thing from all the manufacturers invested in that technology to move to their next-gen platforms,” Fafard told MTLinTECH.

While the electric car is its go-to market, Azastra Opto is also earning revenue in specialty markets and biomedical, avionics, telecom and more, most of which are using its products for high-efficiency converters.

4. Taiga Motors electric snowmobile – Shawinigan

PHOTO: Taiga Motors

In October the Montreal Gazette’s Tracey Lindeman reported that a trio of former McGill students in Shawinigan are working on “the next invention to take a niche market by storm.”

The trio formed Taiga Motors and are creating an electric snowmobile.

Cofounders Samuel Bruneau, Gabriel Bernatchez and Paul Achard, all of whom are 25, won top honours in the Society of Automotive Engineers’ (SAE International) electric snowmobile and race car competitions in 2013 and 2014.

While attacking their idea they called over 100 ski hills across North America asking if they would buy an electric snowmobile, receiving a flurry of positive responses.

Lindeman wrote about how Quebec has a long history of snowmobile invention.

“Joseph-Armand Bombardier created a seven-seat snowcoach in 1937 after being unable to transport his dying son to a doctor in a snowstorm. The Bombardier company was born, eventually leading him to design his popular Ski-Doo personal snowmobile in 1959. Since then, the snowmobile has transformed transportation in wintry, remote communities, and has also become a popular sport.”

Taiga Motors is attacking a traditionally polluting business by offering a zero emissions product that weighs under 230 kg. They can go from zero to 100 km/h in 3.2 seconds, their extended electric range goes up to 100 km and 15 or 50 minutes charges make it a quick turnaround.

According to Lindeman, the company plans to launch a limited pre-order in spring 2018 and scale up production to 5,000 units by 2020

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