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AVL opens new branch in Mississauga to spur EV R&D

Company hopes to help electric vehicle sector overcome loss of sales, growth momentum

AVL TSI Canada business directoryCorey Miller. (Courtesy AVL TSI Canada, Inc.)
AVL TSI Canada business director Corey Miller. (Courtesy AVL TSI Canada)

Global mobility technology giant AVL is opening a state-of-the-art research and development centre in Mississauga to spur further development in Canada's fast-growing battery technology and electric vehicle (EV) sector.

The facility will see AVL provide advanced testing equipment and software to leading Canadian original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), universities and research labs as part of the company's strategic effort to become a major player in the highly competitive and, more recently, beleaguered vehicle electrification industry.

The launch of the Mississauga research complex also serves as recognition on the part of AVL that Canada is becoming a global R&D epicentre in the fields of battery tech and EV manufacturing.

"AVL has very strong aspirational goals to grow in Canada and we are talking to a number of different partner companies about furthering this expansion and making our company more successful," Corey Miller, business director of AVL TSI Canada, Inc., said in an interview with Sustainable Biz Canada.

"(The Mississauga facility) marks the launch of our third company in Canada but is the first AVL unit related to electric vehicles and other forms of powertrain technologies . . . We already have two companies operating in the Vancouver area, and they are both connected to the fuel cell business."

AVL a global leader in auto, rail, marine and energy tech sectors 

Headquartered in Graz, Austria, AVL maintains a global workforce of 12,200 employees spread out over 90 locations and 45 tech and engineering centres across Germany, South Korea, India, China, Argentina and the Czech Republic.

A world leader in the field of mobility technology, in 2023 AVL generated a turnover of $3.03 billion, 10 per cent of which the company invested in R&D.

"Our goal at AVL is to promote and provide the technologies to help support the sustainable development in every sector where we can (apply our expertise)," Miller said. "In fact, AVL operates across the entire transportation industry, not just in the area of electric vehicles, but also with trucks and hybrid vehicles, buses . . . and outside of transportation in areas like grid storage."

AVL intends to partner with major Canadian EV players

As part of its expansion plans for Canada, AVL is anxious to work with the major global companies that are already leading the way in the burgeoning Canadian EV sector.

"Our goal at AVL is to work with all of the OEMs and all of the major battery suppliers, wherever they are in Canada," Miller explained. 

"There's already been four really large announcements: Honda, Powerco (a Volkswagen company), the Swedish company Northvolt which has announced a ($7-billion) battery facility outside of Montreal, and Stellantis in Windsor, Ont.

"AVL is already part of this (battery tech and EV) ecosystem in Ontario, in Canada, and throughout the world. And my job is to support the growth of that ecosystem and support the role that AVL plays in the sector."

Helping EV sector overcome current sluggish sales period

Recently, Canadian and the U.S. EV manufacturers have reported lower-than-expected sales. In the first quarter of 2024, U.S. EV sales declined by 7.3 per cent from the final quarter of 2023, even though that still represented a 2.6 per cent growth in EV sales as compared to the first three months of 2023.

In April, Tesla responded to this slowing in EV sales momentum by revealing it would slash its workforce 10 per cent. Meanwhile, Ford Motor Co. announced it will postpone EV production at its Oakville, Ont. assembly plant by two years to 2027 from 2025.

The cooling of the EV market represents a challenge for companies like AVL which are committed to decarbonizing the automotive sector. Miller believes the EV industry needs to further incentivize customers sooner rather than later to make what it considers an inevitable switch to electric. 

"From the AVL perspective, two advances are required," Miller said. "Ultimately, consumers need to adopt EVs for the industry to be successful, and what we are seeing is that consumers want longer range and shorter charging times."

Tech improvements needed for extended range, faster charging

An important element of AVL's Canadian strategy is to work with the battery manufacturers and provide them with the technical solutions to develop advanced new battery cells, modules and packs that will have extend driving range and also allow for faster charging.

Miller argues the industry needs to respond urgently to these two issues that are of uppermost concern to potential EV buyers in order to maintain public enthusiasm for EVs while the industry still has high visibility despite the recent "peaking" in consumer demand.

"What we are seeing is a bit of a plateau in the adoption of EVs where the early adopters have jumped on board and then everybody else is taking a wait-and-see attitude. Consumers are afraid of not being able to drive, for example, from Toronto to Montreal on a single charge and that they might have to recharge on the way," Miller observed.

"From the perspective of the EV industry as a whole, and with AVL support, we must respond to these concerns quickly. We need to get (more efficient EVs) into consumers' hands while they are still interested in this product.

"Right now the emphasis in the industry is to develop batteries capable of extending the range EVs and offering faster charging times so that the importance of charging stations would be reduced.

"That's where we have to go and that's why we've launched the Mississauga office in Canada so we can work with these EV battery companies."

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