The driver utilizes coil switching — the ability to switch electric motor configurations while in use, to maximize speed and torque. That concept is not new, but most electric vehicle (EV) models require multiple motors and gearboxes, while the Coil Driver eliminates that requirement.
The facility, also in Calgary, boasts what Exro (EXRO-T) states is the first automotive clean room in Canada. The room employs filtration systems to maintain air cleanliness levels of a maximum of 10,000 particles per cubic foot.
“Definitely over the last few years, one of the things that we recognized, especially being North American-based, was that the supply chain was limited for being able to take new technology to market. As we took on the challenge to put up the facility, it really marked the ability to take the tech to market,” Sue Ozdemir, Exro’s CEO, told SustainableBiz.
“This has been about two years in the making, just to get the facility up. The fact that it's on Canadian soil is great.”
The net-zero targeted facility will be capable of producing 100,000 Coil Driver units per year under an eight-hour work shift.
Exro’s Calgary facility
Ozdemir explained the facility will run off solar power on the roof, incorporating its own Cell Driver energy storage technology.
The Cell Driver can utilize regular batteries in their “first life” as well as reusing batteries in their “second life,” establishing its own circular economy supply chain for battery power.
“We also have a really rigorous process for (water) drainage waste. So there's actually no drains inside of our clean room,” she said. “Even though we wash the boards, all of our water and chemicals are fully recycled and not put into the ground.”
Ozdemir noted it was easier to achieve the company’s sustainability goals by building a site from the ground up than it would have been to retrofit an existing facility.
“Probably, we would have liked to have built-out the entire facility earlier on, and just been prepared for what we see ahead of us. But for the most part, I would say, we're really happy with what we ended up with,” she said.
“We think we found a good balance between what becomes sustainable and smart and thinks about the environment that we are in, and how we spend our dollars.”
Exro’s Coil Driver production
The start of production is backed by initial purchase order commitments for low-voltage Coil Driver units from Italian original equipment manufacturer supplier HB4 Group, and high-voltage Coil Driver motor-inverter systems for Aldergrove, B.C.-based electric bus and commercial vehicle manufacturer Vicinity Motor Corp.
Deliveries of high-voltage systems, consisting of a 400-volt TSA motor paired with the Coil Driver, are scheduled to begin by mid-Q4 2023. Exro and Vicinity (VMC-X) will unveil the combined technology intended for electric buses at the APTA Expo in Orlando in early October.
Exro's low-voltage Coil Driver is paired with an HB4 Group electric motor designed and manufactured by SM4E, part of HB4. It was commissioned in two applications – a small passenger vehicle and a small commercial truck manufactured by Casalini in Italy. Under the purchase order agreement, HB4 Group placed an initial order of 500 units to supply its customers with a baseload of Coil Drivers, backed with growing volumes over an initial three-year term.
HB4 CEO Renato Bruno stated in a release the Coil Driver’s on-road testing in a Casalini commercial truck took its range from 100 kilometres to over 120 kilometres.
The companies will co-market their products in Europe and North America on a non-exclusive basis.
“In Europe we tend to see more low voltage because the charging tends to be lower charging. (There's) not as much fast charging. In North America . . . we tend to see the trends to DC fast charging, which is backed by higher voltage equipment,” Ozdemir explained.
“So passenger vehicles through commercial trucks, even motorcycles will tend to have the higher voltage.”
Exro’s future plans
Ozdemir said Exro will spend the rest of 2023 building its order backlog with other customers that are currently under non-disclosure agreements in Canada, Europe, South America and the U.S.
Its other patented technology, the Cell Driver, is still on its way to commercialization.
“The actual technology and the actual product is going as we foresaw and as we wished. And so we'll continue working through our (UL) certification,” Ozdemir said. “We'll be commercializing that towards the end of this year, and into next year. We'll be taking orders through the end of this year.”
An Exro release cites the latest Bloomberg NEF Electric Vehicle Outlook report. It states the market for inverter technology like the Coil Driver across all EV applications is forecast to grow at a compound annual rate of 22 per cent between 2023 and 2030, to approximately $45 billion per year.
The company is also exploring iterative versions of the Coil Driver. Ozdemir mentioned silicon carbide as a material that will enter the market in the years to come.
“We're thinking about things that help improve harmonics. We filed patent applications on that,” she said. “We're thinking about things that tie it into a complete system, motor and battery. We're thinking about thermal management and . . . generational changes.”
The Coil Driver will continue to undergo third-party testing via customers, and internally by Exro, for the rest of the year.