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A collaboration with Curiosity Lab enabled Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association of Canada to introduce its $20 million vehicle for the first time on a public street.

Why would a consortium of manufacturers unveil the first publicly viewed test drive of its Canadian-built electric vehicle in the Atlanta suburb of Peachtree Corners?

If you’re asking that question, you probably haven’t paid much attention to the synergy emitting from the city’s Technology Park. By providing testing facilities and opportunities for collaboration among disparate entities, the city has changed the way innovation meets the real world.

The Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association (APMA) of Canada presented its first, original, full-build, zero-emission concept vehicle named Project Arrow at CES, an annual trade show organized by the Consumer Technology Association, in Las Vegas in January. Then the $20 million wonder car made its street debut on April 11 at Peachtree Corners City Hall.

Colin Singh Dhillon, chief technical officer at APMA in front of the zero-emission concept vehicle named Project Arrow, at City Hall.
Colin Singh Dhillon, chief technical officer at APMA in front of the zero-emission concept vehicle named Project Arrow, at City Hall.

Challenge accepted and met

In response to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s call for zero-emissions in that country by 2050, Project Arrow has brought together the best of the best of Canada’s electric-drive, alternative-fuel, connected and autonomous and light-weight technology companies. When it all came together, 58 businesses were part of the production.

“I was reminded of a comment from [Albert] Einstein — not one of his scientific quotes, one of his nerdy [ones],” said APMA President Flavio Volpe at the street launch. “He said, ‘If you do what you’ve always done, you get what you’ve always got.’”

He congratulated the collaboration. “You guys took that challenge and …look where you are today,” he said.

He also applauded the city’s vision for cultivating invention. “When we talked to Curiosity Lab, [we realized most] cities don’t do that. Cities don’t create learning laboratories where you can test smart city technology and intelligent mobility. Cities don’t go up to their clientele and say, ‘What would it take if we built it here for you and provided it at no charge? Would that encourage you to come?” Volpe added.

APMA President Flavio Volpe
APMA President Flavio Volpe

He went on to explain why Project Arrow is a perfect fit right here, right now. “When I arrived here a little over one year ago, …I really didn’t understand the scope and the depth of the automotive sector and the ingenuity and the dedication and the strategic focus that this state has brought to that that sector. It’s been impressive to see that sector develop into something that is a formidable force,” Volpe said.

Peachtree Corners has placed itself as a leader in nurturing development. The city has accomplished that with: a live 5G wireless environment; a lack of red tape when deploying/testing/developing IoT technologies; no charge for use of the smart city ecosystem; no requirement for intellectual property rights when companies invent, develop, etc. technologies here; respect of proprietary data; and the highest level of cybersecurity available.

“Just as unique as this project is this area. What you guys have done on the roads here is absolutely unique. It’s a great moment for Canada/U.S. technology relations,” added Volpe.

Besides being very friendly for technology growth, Peachtree Corners’ location in the U.S. Southeast is well-situated among automotive manufacturers. The six states that the Canadian consulate covers from its base in Atlanta represent a market valued at more than $60 billion. According to Volpe, that’s a 20% increase over 2021 figures. 

“Pandemic aside, COVID aside, this sector is dynamic and it’s continuing to evolve,” said Volpe. “And the electrical vehicle element is an element that we want to see Georgia embrace together with the Canadian technologies.”

The $20 million car

the concept car (photos Courtesy City of Peachtree Corners)
The concept car (photos Courtesy City of Peachtree Corners)

There’s a lot more to an all-electric car than just the battery. Everything must be just as durable but weigh less. All the systems — radio, air, etc. — must work just as efficiently but use less energy. And the design must be able to endure extreme of temperature to maintain power. 

“The most important part of this project is everything that’s on it,” said Volpe. “And a lot of these companies are investing on both sides of the border and in the region.” 

the concept car (photos Courtesy City of Peachtree Corners)
The concept car (photos Courtesy City of Peachtree Corners)

For example, the original chassis was produced on a 3D printer. The manufacturer got the thickness down to .8 millimeters. Brakes were made of graphite because it’s a lighter material than the metal typically used. And even the paint was a consideration. It was tested to withstand minus 20-degree weather without weighing more.

“[This project] has been a labor of love for a lot of us in this room for three years,” said Colin Singh Dhillon, chief technical officer at APMA.

Beyond what a typical car requires, one company came up with an internet protocol (IP) for a trunk. It has a sliding drawer that can carry up to 500 pounds. Parts of the interior may look like aluminum, but they’re actually magnesium. That metal isn’t typically used a lot in car manufacturing, but it may become a staple out of necessity.

“We also built a virtual model of this and an extended reality model,” added Dhillon. 

Besides being environmentally friendly, safety considerations were built into the design. Electronic control unit computers work toward collision avoidance and cybersecurity. Dhillon explained that seven Canadian companies, such as Blackberry, were involved to create the ultimate security protection.

Car tours set

Although Volpe joked that anyone with $20 million to spare can buy the car outright, the goal is to showcase Canadian ingenuity that can be integrated in vehicles manufactured anywhere.

“This car is going to go around the world over the course of the next year — automotive capitals, technology capitals and some places where we just want to wave the flag,” said Volpe. “But more importantly, it’s going to go places like Ohio for Honda, Kentucky for Toyota, down here for all of the assembled German and Korean companies. We’re going to Detroit; we’re going to Palo Alto; we’re going to Germany; we’re going to Japan.”

Dhillion echoed that sentiment, letting the crowd assembled at the launch know that although Canada doesn’t have any car manufacturers, it has plenty of companies that make excellent car parts.

“[This car] is here to represent Canada’s capabilities,” he said. “[The major manufacturers may only know about] 20 of the companies, but by the end of this tour, they will get to know all 58 of them. And that’s the objective.”

Dhillion added that APMA has already gotten feedback. “Because of our association with the project, we’ve actually gained business. And that means that we’ve actually done our job,” he said.

Photos by George Hunter and courtesey of The City of Peachtree Corners

Arlinda Smith Broady
Arlinda Smith Broady

Arlinda Smith Broady is part of the Boomerang Generation of Blacks that moved back to the South after their ancestors moved North. With approximately three decades of journalism experience (she doesn’t look it), she’s worked in tiny, minority-based newsrooms to major metropolitans. At every endeavor she brings professionalism, passion, pluck, and the desire to spread the news to the people.