How Ford’s bet on Ontario is adding tens of thousands of electric cars | Samuel Tremblay

When we chose Ford to back the ARPEN Alliance, it wasn’t just the massive manufacturing know-how and bold vision that it has to offer. In 2016, when our organization – Automotive Policy Alliance – formed and decided to launch ARPEN Alliance, we also asked for a minimum investment of $1bn to fund EVs.

We talked to colleagues in Ohio who had a similar discussion – they were ready to invest $500m for EVs, but only if they got a $1bn commitment. That’s a $1bn bet on Ontario.

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OPAA joined ARPEN Alliance not only because we’re bullish on EVs, but because Ontario’s government represents a great opportunity to make that bet work.

Three weeks ago, Ford Motor Company announced that it would invest $1bn into Tesla-like initiatives in Ontario. To reach the $1bn goal, Ford will spend at least another $800m by 2020. With partners Nissan and General Motors, Ford also plans to build a network of charging stations – starting with 1,000 nationwide by 2020. In comparison, the Ontario government is expected to invest $90m in its Green Automotive Strategy in coming years. This is a huge incentive for companies such as Ford.

It’s great news for Ontario – and the entire North American region. With the rolling out of smart charging networks, battery changes and growing use of autonomous vehicles – all on a $1bn platform – we have the key infrastructure we need to bring our future to a cleaner, more resilient energy future.

Ford’s ARPEN announcement comes two weeks after Tesla unveiled its massively-hyped big and long-range cars, the Model Y and Model Y 100D. The combined Model Y range is more than 800 miles on a single charge. That’s a car that can change your life without ever leaving the driveway.

With Ford’s major investment in Ontario and its addition of a fleet of 100 or so new EVs a year, we’re on the road to a car-free lifestyle. We’re turning the spigot on that thirst for fossil fuels. The good news is we now have the grid we need to accomplish that. When we invest in something like this, we achieve the greatest bang for our buck.

We also know the renewables we’ll be relying on: it’s not windmills or solar panels. We know the manufacturing base for those – like Tesla and Ford – where most of these investment decisions are being made.

But right now, many of us working on EVs are skeptical of whether we’ll even need to worry about those clean and efficient technologies if the banks and the oil companies take the lead. Automakers and oil companies have been major players in the market to date, and they’re often at the top of the price chain for oil. Sometimes that comes with big rewards and sometimes it comes with significant losses.

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In the long run, the bottom line, we know that oil companies tend to lose more money on the things they invest in than the things they turn out. We’ve seen this time and time again in the fossil fuel industry.

In the early phases of the development of electric vehicles, for instance, Tesla faced a threat from cheap petrol-powered cars from the Japanese automakers. Now Tesla’s electric cars are priced like a luxury car. Our largest manufacturers are also competing with low-cost German diesels that are being sold all over the world. This may seem like a slippery slope, but we just have to remember that most of these companies are also large makers of plastics and plastics resins. It is very likely that we’ll be seeing a wealth of specialized chemical companies in the not-too-distant future.

The near future is looking very bright in the next decade. We don’t have to go far to find proof of the direction EVs are going. Thousands of electric trucks, dozens of types of EVs, and the same kinds of batteries that power Tesla’s electric cars will be pouring out of car manufacturers all across the globe.

That’s a $1bn bet on a big future for electric vehicles, and Ontario.

• Samuel Tremblay is co-founder of Automotive Policy Alliance and managing director of Trillium

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