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Sudbury conference on BEVs draws hundreds of delegates

Delegates from various sectors including government, mining, automotive and battery development are in the city to plot the future of battery electric vehicles in the province

The second annual BEV In Depth conference kicked off in Sudbury on May 31 with hundreds of delegates from across Ontario joining the effort on how to continue bringing battery electric vehicles (BEVs) into the mainstream for mining and general automotive purposes.

Greater Sudbury is working to find ways to improve the city's role in developing local industries — not only to serve the automotive battery electric market, but also to promote and enhance the role of the mining industry for the large industrial BEV market. 

The event is being held at Cambrian College and includes public areas where battery electric automobiles and mining equipment is on display for Wednesday and Thursday.

This marks the second year for the conference, which debuted last spring, attracting delegates from across sectors — government, mining, automotive, battery development — to discuss battery-electric vehicles and their future in Ontario.

Sudbury, and other Northern Ontario mining jurisdictions, is positioning itself as a source of the raw materials — critical minerals like nickel, palladium, lithium, and others — to make the components needed to manufacture batteries that will keep these vehicles running.

The conference aims to strengthen the battery-electric supply chain, from mining the ore to developing the technology to manufacturing related equipment.

Cambrian College president Kristine Morrissey said it was fitting for Cambrian to host the BEV event since the college is more than a centre of expertise for mining technology. 

"In hosting this conference, we are signalling to the community that Cambrian is and will continue to be a source of knowledge and opportunity for industry in the areas of battery electric vehicles and critical minerals for years to come." 

Morrissey said the education sector is also contributing to the BEV evolution in Canada by providing not only graduates that can adapt to the technical changes in the marketplace, but also the research and development work to support those changes.

"We truly are stepping up to the challenge. We're launching our new BEV lab this fall, giving industry critical access to research capacity, and data on everything from EV power trains to batteries, as well as technical training and upskilling for EV technicians," said Morrissey. 

"We are also starting to see more and more electrification of our post-secondary curriculum to meet the industry trend toward electric vehicles head on," Morrissey told the delegates. 

Greater Sudbury Mayor Paul Lefebvre also welcomed the delegates and said this year's conference, which is a follow-up to the inaugural BEV conference held in Sudbury last year, will continue to advance the conversation on the BEV supply chain in Ontario and Canada.

"Over the next few days, we will hear from top executives, engineers, researchers and other leaders from across the battery electric vehicle supply chain and learn more about the innovative solutions being developed right here in Greater Sudbury," said Lefebvre.

Lefebvre put out a positive message for Sudbury as a robust mining production, supply and service sector that leads the way in all facets of the mining industry, including the use of electric vehicles in mining. 

"Our firms are guiding the way in developing and adopting new technologies for mining in the digital age, including EVs underground, enhanced automation, and advanced telecommunications," said the mayor.

Lefebvre compared Sudbury to an advanced mining country like Sweden, which he said has nine mines in the entire country. Sudbury has that many mines just inside the city limits, said Lefebvre. And two more will be coming on stream in the next two years.

Lefebvre reminded the delegates that BEVs are very much part of the larger picture to decarbonize industry and provide greener solutions for society.

He said there is no better city than Sudbury to prove how that can be done. He said if one could go back in time as recently as 50 years ago, they would witness how dramatic the change has been in the regreening of Sudbury. Lefebvre told the audience the change has been "really compelling and really amazing."

Over the course of the two-day conference, participants will hear from keynote speakers from across sectors, and post-conference activities such as tours and onsite demonstrations will be available.

Speaker highlights include appearances by: 

  • Jean Marc Leclerc, president and CEO of Honda Canada;
  • Graeme Goodall, vice-president of operations for Frontier Lithium;
  • Carla Y. Neil, vice-president of corporate relations, stakeholder engagement and innovation for the Independent Electric Systems Operator;
  • George Pirie, Ontario's mines minister;
  • Basma Amine, senior manager of small modular reactor development for Ontario Power Generation;
  • Vic Fedeli, Ontario's economic development minister; and
  • Brian Kingston, president of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers Association.

BEV In Depth is an initiative of the city's economic development department.