Proposed rally from Texas to Manitoba seeks to raise Thompson’s profile as EV winter testing centre

Organizers are hoping that next summer could see the first Northern American electric vehicle (EV) rally with participants travelling from the Gulf of Mexico to Hudson Bay to help shine the spotlight on the potential for EV winter weather testing in Thompson.

A briefing on the rally, which is still in the planning stages, was held Nov. 10 with participants including a former Member of Parliament, the Manitoba Electric Vehicle Association (MEVA) and a Texas-based association focused on promoting North America’s competitiveness in the global economy.

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Volker Beckmann, chair of the Thompson Chamber of Commerce’s winter weather testing committee, which hopes to expand that industry in Thompson by attracting electric vehicle manufacturers to test their batteries under winter conditions, says the goal is to hold the moving rally from Texas to Manitoba in August 2021 if possible.

“In about the middle of April we would know what the COVID conditions are and we would know what the commitments are for the level three charge stations along the route, whether it’s a go or a no-go,” he said during the zoom meeting. “The worst happens, it gets delayed. We need about six months to plan this.”

MEVA president Robert Elms says that currently, because of the cost, many EV owners are people with the time and money to take part in something like this rally, which he hopes could generate more interest in the EV industry in North America.

“The Chinese are so far ahead of us in the development and manufacture of this technology, we don’t have a choice here,” he said. “This is really going to be catapulting so many different industries over the next decade.”

Tiffany Melvin, president of Dallas, Texas-based NASCO (North American Strategy for Competitiveness) said Nov. 10 that the EV rally idea aligns well with that organization’s focus areas, which include supply chain and logistics, closing the skilled workforce gap, and energy and the environment.

“This EV rally you’re talking about is right at the heart of our original missions,” said Melvin, who thinks it could become a regular event. “I almost envision it in some locations beings like a Sturgis but for electric vehicles instead of the motorcycles.”

Thompson city council voted in July to take part in a partnership with Communities Economic Development Fund (CEDF) and Natural Resources Canada, to get a level three charging station, which can fully charge an electric vehicle in 20 minutes, installed in Thompson at a net cost of $20,000 after a Natural Resources Canada rebate of 50 per cent and a CEDF/Look North contribution of 25 per cent on the base cost of $80,000.

The idea of getting such a charging station in Thompson dates back to at least 2011, when then-Thompson Unlimited development co-ordinator Roxie Binns gave Mayor Tim Johnston and his councillors a presentation on electric vehicles and the role the city could play in their development.

An expanding EV industry could also be good for Thompson because the lithium batteries that power the vehicles require nickel for their manufacture. Mayor Colleen Smook told council in July that when she was at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada conference in Toronto last spring that mining companies are investing into development of electric vehicles and equipment.

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