There’s a definite buzz in the air at Ontario Tech University’s Automotive Centre of Excellence – ACE for short.
Ontario is moving quickly and decisively to become a leading global hub for developing and building the cars of the future, and ACE is primed to play a pivotal role.
Unique in the world, ACE offers a range of full-sized test chambers that allow for full climatic, aerodynamic, structural durability, and lifecycle testing. Its signature chamber is the Climatic Wind Tunnel. One of the most sophisticated of its kind anywhere, it’s designed to validate prototype vehicles under a wide range of climatic conditions -- including sun, rain, freezing rain, light snow and blizzards – with wind speeds capable of 300 km/h and temperatures ranging from -40C to +60C.
A recent addition to the Climatic Wind Tunnel is a Moving Ground Plane (MGP). Essentially a giant belt that acts as a road moving under a vehicle, the MGP allows original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to test the aerodynamics of their vehicles and measure their physical characteristics in real-world conditions.
“It really gives us unparalleled capabilities,” enthuses Dr. Justin Gammage, the university’s senior executive advisor for strategic research priorities and industry collaborations. “And the fact that we are able to test remotely is an added bonus, particularly during COVID-19.”
Remarkable though it is, the facility is only part of the reason an ever-increasing number of OEMs – established and emerging – are beating a path to ACE’s door in Oshawa, Ontario, much to the delight of the university. They’re also drawn by the “full-service support staff” and academic faculty who happen to be some of the world’s brightest engineers in areas ranging from security to electric vehicle (EV) charging systems, alternate fuels to artificial intelligence.
It’s not just OEMs that are eager to collaborate with ACE. Ontario Tech recently announced it is part of a Big Data research project involving the University of Miami’s Institute for Data Science and Computing, and High-Performance Computing (HPC) leader GlassHouse Systems. Together, the three partners are creating a powerful high-performance cloud based on IBM technologies. Combining massive amounts of data to mirror real-world weather events and analyzing them, the goal is to ensure safe, connected and accessible movement of people and goods and build resiliency against severe weather occurrences driven by climate change.
With all that ACE and Ontario Tech have to offer, it’s no surprise they’ve been tapped to take the lead on phase two of Project Arrow, a visionary and ambitious pan-Canadian automotive project. Conceived by the Canadian Automotive Manufacturers’ Association and supported by more than 400 companies and research partners, Project Arrow’s mission is to build an all-Canadian, zero emissions, EV prototype – and to have it ready for unveiling at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January 2023.
There’s a lot riding on its success. Project Arrow aims to turn Ontario into a major centre for EV production by increasing the province’s EV development capacity, supporting future-thinking industry R&D, ensuring a growing EV supply chain and paving the way for new OEM EV assembly mandates.
With the design phase complete, ACE is now tasked with rapid prototype build and proof-of-concept testing – a tall order in the short time frame allowed, but one the university is confident it will meet.
Carleton University’s School of Industrial Design provided the design for the Arrow zero-emissions, EV car, which will feature connected and autonomous tech and the latest in propulsion technology. Engineers at Ontario Tech’s ACE Innovation Garage now take over to build the Arrow for the real world.
“ACE has been heavily focused on the development and deployment of new advanced manufacturing technologies that are going to be key to us producing the Arrow,” says Les Jacobs, Ontario Tech’s vice president of research and innovation.
Still, it’s a first for Ontario’s auto industry which has never seen a university integrated quite this way in the creation of a new vehicle.
ACE – and Ontario Tech – are used to pulling off a series of “firsts”. And with a global reputation built over the past 10 years, together with a growing number of international partnerships, they’re attracting highly qualified faculty and bright, ambitious students.
A big drawing card for potential students at Ontario Tech is the prospect of using the facilities at ACE and its Innovation Garage, a collaborative space where industry, academic researchers and students come together.
“Experiential learning is at the centre of what we do at ACE,” says Gammage. “Students get to work with innovative companies on real-word projects using one-of-a-kind facilities, which is invaluable for them. It also means that companies can take a good look at our students, assess them and recruit, knowing what they’re capable of.”
It all makes for a win-win scenario that showcases how a new generation of auto makers are partnering to make Ontario, Canada a global centre of influence in the world of transportation and innovation.