Home  »  Tech Uncensored – EV Infrastructure Market: Gaps and Opportunities

Tech Uncensored – EV Infrastructure Market: Gaps and Opportunities

originally published: 2022-12-12 13:34:23

Samie Husain (00:01)
Good afternoon, everybody, and welcome back to Altitude Accelerator Tech Uncensored live on LinkedIn. I can’t believe another week has gone by so fast. Today. We’ve got a great, great panel for you and a great topic, and it’s Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Market. What are the gaps? What are the opportunities? So I’m going to start right away and introduce our guest panel. First I’ve got Carmine Pizzurro, who is the co founder and president of eCamion. I’ve got Patrick Marion, the vice President of Product Development at Inmotive, Arthur Kong, who is the Director of Product Development at NGen Canada. Welcome, everyone.

Patrick Marion (00:56)
Hi, Sam.

Carmine Pizzurro (00:57)
Glad to be here.

Samie Husain (00:58)
So why don’t I start off, and you guys can just give us a brief introduction to your company and background. So go ahead, Arthur.

Patrick Marion (01:08)

Arthur Kong (01:08)
Hi, everybody. So, as Sam mentioned, I’m Arthur Kong, the director of project development at NGen canada, we are an industry led, not for profit entity that’s supported by the federal government to essentially help enhance Canada’s advanced manufacturing capabilities. And we do so by supporting the development, commercialization and deployment of advanced technologies across the many different manufacturing protocols that we have here in Canada. So we provide everything from, like, collaborative R and D funding to support for technology adoption for our small to medium sized manufacturers, as well as a workforce development programs as well. So excited to be here together with my industry friends to talk about how to continue enhancing our EV market.

Samie Husain (01:55)
And Carmine.

Carmine Pizzurro (01:57)
Hello, Carmine Pizzurro. Sam said I was one of the cofounders of ECamion, and we build fast charge or ultra fast charge EV charging stations that are energy storage based or lithium battery based. And along with that, we built energy storage systems for grid support. Glad to be here. Thank you.

Samie Husain (02:23)
Thank you, Patrick.

Patrick Marion (02:26)
Yeah, so here at Inmotive, we are developing the world’s most efficient multi speed transmission for electric vehicles. So essentially increasing range on EVs, but we can be applied to any motor and reduce energy usage. We’re just focused on EVs today and glad to get going.

Samie Husain (02:48)
Okay, fantastic. So I think the first thing I think I want to kind of get into is really what the challenges and hurdles with the supply chain logistics and maybe even from a personal perspective. Right. Because one of the things I’m finding, in fact, my sister bought a car, a hybrid, and from the time she bought it, by the time she got it, it was eight months. And my neighbor has just bought an EV car and he hasn’t got it. It’s been six months, and they’re hoping they’re going to get it before next year’s models come out. So why don’t we start with what you see, Arthur, in the market?

Arthur Kong (03:31)
Sorry about that. I had to unmute myself. That’s a very good question. And I think from a supply chain perspective, here at Engine, we always kind of encourage looking at this from a whole of kind of value chain perspective to better understand where the gaps and where the opportunities are. And I think especially when we’re talking about this shift to electrification and thinking about supply chains and also not only from a consumer kind of purchasing perspective, but looking at all the way from initially when you extract the minerals to processing the minerals, all the way to the manufacturing of the manufacturing of the batteries and the vehicles.

Arthur Kong (04:15)
It hinges upon our current suppliers here in Canada to shift their product lines away from internal combustion engine vehicles to electric vehicles. And we conducted a study last year through our colleagues at Porsche Consulting and the Trillion Center for Advanced Manufacturing, and our findings suggest that there are certain kind of segments in the supply chain that are kind of particularly at risk, and that’s, notably, our powertrain suppliers. They currently here in Canada employ more than 25,000 people and generate approximately over $11 billion in revenue. So that’s more than 30% of the total kind of supplier revenue in the entire industry. However, only 5% of that $11 billion is made up of electric vehicle powertrain suppliers like my friends here at ECamion and Inmotive. And I think over 95% of the industry still caters to internal combustion engine vehicles. If suppliers don’t take action to kind of expand their product portfolios, they can certainly expect a proportional drop in revenue to the increase in share of battery electric vehicles. So there’s kind of certainly an urgent need for us to start helping these suppliers transition. So what are the opportunities? I think that that’s really the question.

Arthur Kong (05:49)
And if you break out the current footprint of the battery electric vehicle value chain, we see a lot of some activity across, like, for instance, in the mining sector in terms of mineral extraction and mineral processing. There’s a lot of great companies in the electric vehicle powertrain components, such as our friends and in motive and ECamion, in transmission and high voltage batteries. But there’s not a whole lot of activity, right? I think there could be. There needs to be. This investment and innovation gaps need to be filled. For instance, with the high voltage battery, it makes up over 75%, I’m sure. I’m sure, we’ll talk more about this later. 75% of the total electric vehicle of the value. So, needless to say, it’s a high value component. It’s a dominant component. How can we utilize our kind of resources to kind of help become a leader in the development and manufacturing of those? Currently, there’s a lot of talk about leveraging Canada’s critical minerals, right? And how do we kind of bring value add to those critical minerals? There are certainly gaps that need to be filled in order to make that happen. We could talk about this on and on, but certainly there needs to be more to be done to kind of enhance our help us scale and scale up our startups and innovation that’s coming out of our research labs and startups.

Samie Husain (07:28)
I’m going to go to Carmine then because I think Carmine is going to say, well, we need more funding.

Carmine Pizzurro (07:36)
We always need more funding. But talk about funding and Arthur brings up it’s very important, and I’ll put in 30 seconds here about our minerals. We have tremendous amount of minerals in northern Ontario. We actually have all the minerals we need to build batteries. The problem is not a lot of people know about this, but we don’t refine them. And we need money, and it takes a lot of money to actually refine. I’m not a mining person, but it takes a lot of money. So I think the government is working on that. I’ve worked with people in the US as well because they’re interested and they kind of want us to stop selling our minds to foreign companies. And just about I think I sent the article to you, Sam, about in the US. It’s a national security issue with batteries. Anyway, to go back to your original question about supply chain, we’ve been pretty lucky because at the start of ECamion, and this was ten years ago, before this global problem and Pandemic, we tried to source everything from North America. Second choice was Europe, and then third choice was Asia. So that’s just the way I wanted to run the company.

Carmine Pizzurro (08:52)
I got a lot of pushback back then from people like accountants, like my partner saying, why are you doing that? It’s more expensive. I said, that’s just the way I want to do things. And it’s actually helped. We’ve been actually pretty lucky with our supply chain. So what I would recommend to young companies about supply chain is because we’re going to get out of it right soon. We’re going to get out of it, and it’s getting better all the time. We haven’t had that many problems, but I’ll suggest one very important thing. You got to have a partnership with your supply chain, with your supplier and go visit them, talk to them, become their buddies. I can’t name the supplier, but there’s one supplier that I’m working with that supplies OEMs, big OEMs like GM and Ford and Chrysler. And because of our friendship, I get my stuff first and then they get theirs. That really helps. Okay, now that only helps so far because it did happen to one of our suppliers where we were buying cells from Midland, Michigan, off a company called Exalt, and they got a big order from New Flyer, which is a bus manufacturer.

Carmine Pizzurro (10:08)
So a lot of ourselves there, and I don’t know, just overnight they forgot my name and company that we’ve been dealing with, we got tossed out and baby and bathwater everything. We got tossed out and said they forgot our name. So it does work for some people, and for some supplier it doesn’t work. But that personal relationship is very important. Anyway, as far as other supply chain issues, the other issue that we had was this was about a year ago, and all the ports were clogged up, and we had first choice, second choice, third choice, my third choice. I had to go to Asia, and this is what happened. So it goes to show you that. And then the forest fires hurt us as well. At the same time, there’s forest fire. This is last year, about 21, where there was a forest fire. So that hurt us. So even forest fire will hurt you. So what did we learn? We’re going to come through Montreal if we ever have to do it again. So you have to be, like, very flexible.

Samie Husain (11:21)
So are your supply chains still here or now you have to go overseas for it?

Carmine Pizzurro (11:26)
No, everything is basically here and in Europe right now. We do have a small number. Look, some of the parts that we buy from Europe, for example, have components made in Asia. So I can’t control that, but at least I can control the ones coming from Europe. Most of our suppliers are either from the US. Canada or Germany. In the supply chain.

Samie Husain (11:53)
Again, you’re still having issues with getting everything right? Because.

Carmine Pizzurro (12:01)
There’S a bit of issues, but it’s not hurting us, really. It’s not like when you buy a car, they say, eight months away, we’re not that bad. It’s a couple of months late, but it could been like that before. So right now it’s getting better. And there’s just a few parts that are causing us. One part can cause you a problem. Right.

Samie Husain (12:24)
But as you scale, will that be a problem or it will continue to stay at the level that you’re at now because you’re scaling now, right?

Carmine Pizzurro (12:32)
Yeah. As we scale up, the problems should be better. The reason why I’m saying that is when we got kicked out of Exalt because we didn’t buy enough. The moment you start buying enough, all of a sudden you’re the best friend, right?

Arthur Kong (12:50)

Carmine Pizzurro (12:52)
Everything is volume. Like, I come from the automotive industry, everything is volume. So if you got volume, they’ll be your best friend. They’ll figure it out.

Samie Husain (12:59)

Carmine Pizzurro (13:00)
We just try to not rely on sea shipments. And there’s a container coming from Korea on some parts that we had. And the cost of one container, one C container, refrigerated container, went from 12,000 US to 45,000 US.

Samie Husain (13:25)

Carmine Pizzurro (13:26)
Yeah. I’m sure Patrick knows all about that. There’s a lot of companies now. It’s come back, right? This was only for the last 18 months.

Samie Husain (13:39)
Okay, Patrick. How about you?

Patrick Marion (13:44)
Yeah, well, Sammy, let’s go back to what you started talking about and waiting on the cars. And the thing that hits me the most is if you build it, they will come and look at what we’re seeing with Tesla. Look at what we’re seeing with Ford. Look what we’re seeing with Hyundai. There’s great products coming out and that’s what’s been the gap in the past. Nobody knew if this is going to come. I think we’re still in that transition period. How’s Carmine going to get orders from major players because they don’t know if the market is there. But that’s the thing that’s been changing. That’s the thing that’s actually the most exciting that’s coming. If you bring the product, the products are really going to go. I started seeing Ford Lightnings driving around. So if you bring the product, the people are going to come to it. But now coming back to the supply chain. So actually I am the supplier in the supply chain. And so what we see here is kind of the issues are that you need the customer to take it forward or to ask for this. So now there’s more demand.

Patrick Marion (14:54)
So the customers may be asking for this, but if the customer isn’t really asking for it, it’s so hard to get traction because we’re working on transmissions. So what do you think that the suppliers that make transmissions today the big players day, and then the tier twos, the people that just machine gears, the tier threes that stamp a little plate, don’t you think their world is going to end? They’re going away from transmissions, but what happens is that they only work to what’s being asked for. So if there’s no RFQ for a different type of transmission, then they’re not going to work on it because where’s the money? Where is the business case, where’s the profit? And those are the challenges that you have to start to work through. Going back to what Arthur mentioned, okay, we’ve got a lot of minerals in Canada, Ontario specifically. We also have a huge manufacturing base that could be utilized. And so what we’re seeing here in Emotive, because we’re in a transmission space, there’s a huge manufacturing capability here just in Ontario that could support this. But because there’s no RFQ, there’s no traditional business case, it could end up dying or end up withering on the vine.

Patrick Marion (16:23)
So as a supplier now, you need to really make those connections. So what Carmine said, you have to do it on the opposite side. You have to make those connections to say, hey, here’s what we could do in a different space. Another opportunity that we’ve seen too, in the manufacturing side is that if you look at ice vehicles, traditional gas vehicles, they’re not going to go away completely. And what you see in the industry, the latest news is that I think that the Renault Group is spinning off some of their traditional ice engineering or ice manufacturing capability over into the Gala Group. They’re going to gobble this all up, consolidate the engine manufacturing into a few engines, and just take that over and just ride that into the sunset. We also see that there was a Burke Warner bought the older assets, not the new electrification assets, but the older ice kind of assets of the previous Delphi. So they’re positioning themselves to ride out, you know, the Ice version out into the sunset, and they’re in lie opportunities, kind of like the old Pony Express. You know, it’s ending. You know, the railroad is going to change everything.

Patrick Marion (17:53)
But the railroad took a long time to make, and Ice vehicles are going to be around here for a long time, too. So there is an opportunity, but you have to, as Carmine said, as a supplier, you need to really make those connections and position yourself to be able to support those things, because if they’re not asking for them, you have to go out and try and take it. And that’s what we’re living here at Inmotive on a daily basis.

Samie Husain (18:19)
Yeah, I think we’ve lost Carmine here.

Samie Husain (18:24)
Yeah. Hopefully he comes back on. Yes, that’s very interesting. I mean, I was just reading an article on Tesla where Tesla is the dominant EV car in the market today, and they still control up to 70%, but they’re predicting, like, literally in two more years they’re going to be down to 20% of the market, because everybody is now, as we can see, is coming out with the EV vehicles and some really great vehicles. So I think one of the next question I want to just talk to you about is what are the data security issues that occur around this EV market? So, for instance and I wish Carmine was back on here, I don’t know what happened, but for instance, if you go charge at one of the Ecamion stations, what are they doing to protect the data security? Even for Inmotive, you’re going to have to have some type of data security around not only your technology, because it’s going to be embedded in the car. I’m hearing things like people can sit beside a Tesla and record you opening your car as the same signal, and then they go and they have the recording, and then they go and steal the car.

Samie Husain (19:51)
What’s happening around that? Arthur, you want to start there and tell me if you see anything that’s happening around that?

Arthur Kong (19:59)
Yes, and I think that goes without saying, not only on the vehicle. I think from the manufacturing side as well, we’re starting to see everything become more connected, right. From industrial IoT, as well as more connected autonomous. Not so much autonomous yet, but like, connected vehicles and the technology within the vehicle becoming more connected. So from an engine perspective, we support a lot of collaborative R and D in the automotive sector, and we’re starting to see more and more kind of desire, not only from the government, from the industry side, to tap into the cybersecurity space and looking at how they can be part of that collaborative R Amp D project. And I think that’s a key solution that has been missing over the past decade. And I think we’re starting to see more of that interest in bringing that player in. So yes, I think it’s definitely something that that’s becoming more important to consider when putting together, when kind of developing novel innovation.

Samie Husain (21:02)
What about you, Patrick?

Patrick Marion (21:05)
Yeah, well, you’re right. We’re a mechatronic device or software that has to be embedded into the vehicle and in our space, it’s really our IP. How do we protect our IP, how do we protect against competitors? And some of the thoughts that we put around here is that you’re never going to be able to stop some of these things. There’s always a way that you can get around it. There’s actually just a story I read yesterday that I think researchers were able to exploit a problem in cell phone apps that went and they were able to steal a vehicle through another way yet again. Also, where is the data? And you look at Tesla’s now, and part of the if you’ve ever been in a Tesla is that it’s really a cell phone on wheels and it’s connected to your life now. There’s going to be an option that they’re rolling out already, but you just tap something on the screen and you can change. And now that’s your new insurance provider, because they know all of your data and you can get a cheaper rate, you just tap it on your screen with your Tesla and you just change your car insurance.

Patrick Marion (22:25)
Right, but where’s all that data going? But kind of the issues is that it makes your daily life better. So we’re opting in, and when you opt in, you’re kind of giving permission. And I wonder, just following the industry, that we’re going to get to a certain point where now government may step in and start to regulate it a little bit more, just like what we see with kind of the bigger tech behemoths today, such as like Amazon and Facebook, Meta and others. If that’s kind of what may be the future holds for all of this data in the automotive EV space.

Samie Husain (23:10)
Yeah. What are some of the challenges you’re seeing out there right now, and maybe not necessarily ECamion or Arthur, that you see entrepreneurs can fill the spot. What do you see? What sectors? Arthur, why don’t we start with you?

Arthur Kong (23:33)
Sure. Semi. Are you referring to challenges faced by startups?

Samie Husain (23:38)
Yeah, challenges that are faced. You see like, look, there are gaps that are not being filled here by Canadian entrepreneurs. What are those sectors that can be filled to feed into this kind of vertical of electric vehicles?

Arthur Kong (23:52)
Yeah, as I mentioned before, there’s certainly I mentioned kind of looking at the electric vehicle supply chain all the way from the mine to the factory. We do have some pieces of the puzzle in place, but that’s not all there. Right to Carmine’s point, for instance, we don’t have a lot of capabilities here in Canada to process and refine the raw materials that we extract from the ground, right? We have the materials, but how do we bring it?

Samie Husain (24:28)
What’s it going to take to do that?

Arthur Kong (24:30)
Yeah, absolutely. And I think Patrick brought up a great point about kind of market awareness by entrepreneurs, right? Kind of understanding where the opportunities are along the supply chain, understanding who the decision makers are to kind of tap into those relationships, and understanding what the consumer is demanding. So I think from an engine perspective, we kind of play that role as a convener in the ecosystem. Time and time again, we always hear like, oh, I would have never thought about collaborating with this company or collaborating with that company if Ngen kind of hadn’t brought everyone together, whether it be through like Simple Matchmaking or through collaborative R&D funding. Right. And I think you just need that person to be that catalyst. Right. And time and time again, I’ve seen these tier one manufacturers and OEMs open to kind of understand, like, kind of exploring the innovations that could help complete their product lines or also in their manufacturing capabilities. So there is that appetite for collaboration and partnerships, and that’s certainly Canada. Needless to say, a lot of the world leading kind of innovations in this sector come from our universities and come from our startups.

Arthur Kong (25:56)
How do we kind of bring everyone together through greater awareness and kind of understanding each other’s needs and what we’re offering putting on the table?

Samie Husain (26:10)
What about you, Patrick?

Patrick Marion (26:12)
Yes, I kind of see two steps to this. And so when we go through funding, as Carmine mentioned earlier, funding is really critical because it takes a lot of effort to take an idea and move it to the next level and then get it into being mass produced, right? So if we go now to Arthur and we try to get a grant, an engine grant, or it could be any other type of grant, kind of the gap that’s there is to go along with that application, you have to have a customer and that customer who’s committed to using your product. So science projects are just not really supported anywhere. And you can understand why, because where is the business case? But then as it filters down into interest for Canadians, where the Canadian jobs to work in Canada on your idea. And so you have to get that customer, you need that production support or kind of end goal. And then going back to what I was saying earlier, the second part of that is that customer needs to see the business case that they have and then in some ways you say, issue the RFQ or in a funding grant perspective, offer that support and they’ll sign on and support a grant for funding that the government would then love.

Patrick Marion (27:45)
So there’s kind of two places you have to go. So let’s say in an EV world over the past ten years, there just really wasn’t that there. Ten years ago, people said it’ll never catch on, it’s just too expensive. Cars will never reach Parity. Now look at where we are now. They are on their way to reaching paridy. But even aside from that, customers are willing to spend more money on EVs because they’re amazing vehicles and they’re an amazing product. So now we are on our way. So I think that opportunities are opening up where more of the customers will be willing to support funding, but the funding is critical.

Samie Husain (28:32)
Okay, I’m going to ask you one more question, Patrick, and that is what are the some of the challenges that Inmotive has faced in their journey? How long has motive been around? Ten years?

Patrick Marion (28:48)
Yeah, that’s right. Ten years. Actually started in industrial, but then moved our way and pivoted into automotive just because it’s a much more direct and more beneficial use of our technology. But what I just mentioned is what we’ve lived. So those are some of the challenges that we had. But the other challenge that we had is that people just didn’t believe what we were selling. Here we have this concept and we’re saying, why don’t you fund this? Why don’t you support funding or support a grant application? Because look what we could do. And here’s how we have it all planned out and how the mathematics work and how the simulations work, these kinds of things. But what the challenges were for us is and that many startups faces, well, we just don’t believe you. We really need to see it work first. And therein lies the problem. That’s the chasm you have to cross, the startup chasm that you have to get across. And you can either jump over the chasm or you can build a bridge. Building a bridge is more secure, but it takes a lot of money to do it, or you need to try and take that leap.

Patrick Marion (30:02)
And those are the challenges. And actually, we had to, as Carmen mentioned earlier, you just need to survive. And so we’ve been able to hear the motive survive to the point, but actually make improvements to the point where we could answer the things that they were asking. So now we’ve got a running driving vehicle that proves the claims we made. And so now there’s the interest coming back to say we didn’t believe you before we really had to see it. Well, now we see it. Oh, I didn’t think you could do this. Oh, here’s where I just didn’t have the time to look at it or I just didn’t understand. Now they can see it. But that is very difficult because to get there without the funding to be able to get you to that point, you may just run out of money or the idea may just die, or you may not just get enough excitement around it and it will fizzle out. And so those are the challenges that Inmotive has had.

Samie Husain (31:04)
Okay, that’s great to know, I think. I guess even going forward, you always have to continue to raise capital, and then once you’re over that threshold of creating positive cash flow and you’re on your way, then a little bit of the stress is off you. But until then, there’s always some type of stress there, but it’s all good stress. You’re moving in the right direction. So I think it’s all good stress.

Patrick Marion (31:29)
But you have to make sure that you are focused, because you can’t build three bridges because one of those bridges or if you’re building the wrong bridge, because you’re not going to get to what gets to market adoption. And so back to what we talked about before. As a supplier, a new idea, or a startup founder, you have to identify who that customer is and are you meeting exactly what they need? Because if you’re a little bit off or talking to the wrong group, a lot of people could just say no, but there’s only a few that can say yes. You have to find those people, and those are the ones that will champion. You be your champions going forward.

Samie Husain (32:13)
Yeah, well, look, I’ve already gone over time here, but I could keep talking about this, too, with you all afternoon. I love this topic. I want to thank all of you for coming on and taking the time to come on, and I hope to have you guys back on again in the new year. I hope you’ll come back on in the new year. Okay, so from me, happy holidays and have a wonderful weekend.

Arthur Kong (32:37)
Thanks, Arthur.

Samie Husain (32:38)
Thank you, Patrick.

Arthur Kong (32:39)
Okay, take care.

Samie Husain (32:40)
Okay, bye bye. Bye. And that’s it from us. Have a wonderful weekend and tune in again next Friday for another edition of Tech uncensored your night off the truth. Take care and bye.

Altitude Accelerator
Altitude Accelerator is a not-for-profit innovation hub and business incubator for Brampton, Mississauga, Caledon, and other communities in Southern Ontario. Altitude Accelerators’ focus is to be a dynamic catalyst for tech companies. We help our companies grow faster and stronger. Our strength is our proven ability to foster growth for companies in Advanced Manufacturing, Internet of Things, Hardware & Software, Cleantech and Life Sciences. Our team consists of more than 100 expert advisors, industry, academic, government partners. The team helps companies in Advanced Manufacturing, Internet of Things, Hardware & Software, Cleantech and Life Sciences to commercialize their products and get them to market faster.

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