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ProEV president talks about new facility, EV adoption

Promark Electronics Inc. (ProEV) has begun production at its new 60,000-square-foot manufacturing...


A rendering of the ProEV facility in Montreal. (Courtesy Promark Electronics Inc.)

Promark Electronics Inc. (ProEV) has begun production at its new 60,000-square-foot manufacturing and engineering site in Montreal, where it builds high-voltage harnesses, chargers and other components for medium- and heavy-duty electric vehicles.

And there’s plenty of room for ProEV to expand with the pending electrification of Canada’s transportation network.

The opening of the site on Côte-de-Liesse Road in Greater Montreal — which the company states is the largest of its kind in the continent — was coupled with a $10 million investment from ProEV over five years to support new facilities on the site.

“(We’ve) always focused on medium- and heavy-duty electric vehicles, commercial (and) industrial,” ProEV president Jarred Knecht told SustainableBiz. “So recreational vehicles, trucks, buses (or) anything that’s not a passenger vehicle, really, was our specialization. Manufacturing high-voltage cables and harnesses, low-voltage chargers, all the electronic guts inside these vehicles.

“Then two years ago, we realized with the growth that was starting to happen in the sector, that we need to really expand our footprint and plant the flag in Canada, here in Montreal, to service the customers that we have across North America.”

Currently, the facility is producing 30,000 high-voltage harnesses per year, and has the capacity to expand tenfold to 300,000 annually.

ProEV is a subsidiary of Electrical Components International Inc. (ECI), a global supplier of electrical distribution systems, control box assemblies and other components. ProEV is headquartered in Pointe-Claire, Que., while ECI has approximately 25,000 employees and 38 manufacturing locations worldwide.

ECI was established in 1953 and is headquartered in St. Louis, Mo.

The Côte-de-Liesse facility

The new facility is creating 250 jobs, including manufacturing technicians, engineers, project managers and developers.

Knecht said ProEV is only utilizing around 30 per cent of the facility at this point.

“Continued orders from our customers and building our long-term partnerships with them,” Knecht said, when asked about the factors which will decide the company’s future growth. “We work with a lot of OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) across North America and really, just as they grow, we’re going to just grow into this space. We have everything we need here, so it’s really just timing.”

A portion of the $10 million in funding will go toward staffing and training.

Further investments aren’t off the table if needed. Knecht expects the current facility to reach its annual capacity of 300,000 components during the next two to five years, by which point the company will be “moving on to the next one, or building something bigger.”

Knecht said ProEV is also housing its research and development at the new facility. So far, it has developed a patent-pending quality inspection system, Konnect AI, meant to assist in production.

There’s also work being done with collaborative robotics in assembly procedures.

“We’re a technology company, so we’re trying to use technology to build technology,” Knecht said. “That’s kind of the mantra.”

The company has its roots in Montreal, where it has operated a wire harness business servicing aerospace, defence and medical customers for 35 years. Knecht said that is the main reason it built in the city, but also singled out the breadth of tech talent in Quebec — specifically mentioning companies such as Lion Electric, BRP Inc. and Taiga Motors Corporation.

In fact, its established wire harness operation is what led to ProEV’s transition to the EV space seven years ago. Company executives began to see a need for components which might have some similar characteristics, but would need to be designed specifically for electric vehicles.

The future of EV adoption

In the electric vehicle sphere, Knecht believes Canada is well on its way to meeting its carbon reduction goals, which include having only zero-emission light passenger vehicles on the road by 2035. Concerning medium and heavy-duty vehicles, ProEV’s bread and butter, the business case keeps getting better in part thanks to federal and provincial incentives.

“I think it’s going to accelerate a lot in the next one to three years, just because all the companies have been preparing for scale production for the last several years,’ Knecht said. “They’re about to come into that mass production mode.”

The decision to switch to the electric vehicle market wasn’t just motivated by technological similarities, but a desire to contribute to the ongoing transportation electrification.

According to Knecht, 80 per cent of vehicle volume is passenger vehicles, which create 20 per cent of emissions. Medium and heavy-duty vehicles comprise 20 per cent of transportation vehicles, but emit 80 per cent of the GHGs.

“They’re the worst culprits. So we really want to help with that mission of getting all of these trucks, school buses, last-mile delivery vans and all those guys, get them electrified as fast as possible,” Knecht said.

“Because that’s where we’re actually going to see a difference in the environment.”

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