For over 30 years, Thompson has been a centre for winter weather testing for various transportation sectors – cars, trucks, snowmobiles, helicopters and jet engines. Over the past few years, it is being predicted that a “disruption in transportation” is coming, as the world moves toward clean, sustainable energy use. Thompson is currently researching what needs to be done to attract new vehicle manufacturers to do their winter and cold weather testing in Northern Manitoba.
Of course, not every transportation manufacturer wants extreme cold to test. Snowmobile companies often just need early snow and ice at just below freezing to test their latest sleds before they hit the race circuit in North America in November. Jet engine manufacturers – Rolls Royce and Pratt and Whitney – bring the largest engines in the world to Thompson for icing testing that is found at 40,000 feet above sea level. Even at the equator. Which is a good thing to do – for your air safety and mine!
As the world moves towards clean, sustainable energy and zero-emission vehicles to provide a cleaner atmosphere, many companies are making the transition to meet marketplace demand. Tesla has become the fastest-growing electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer in the world. Ford, GM, and Chrysler are building their own electric platforms in order to compete. Fiat Chrysler is building a new EV plant in Ontario. More so, many countries in Europe are banning the sales of gas-powered cars after 2025. The oil giant, Shell, will install 500,000 EV charging stations across the world in the next five years. PetroCan and Canadian Tire are already doing that in Canada along Trans-Canada Highway from coast to coast. Oil companies are selling electricity? The world is changing rapidly!
President Joe Biden’s recent announcement to cancel the Keystone pipeline project may be bad news for Alberta, but good news for Manitoba. His directive to convert 600,000 federal government fleet vehicles powered by gas and diesel to clean electric vehicles is the impetus to spur the clean energy economy. His promise to have 50,000 fast charging stations installed in the USA is the icing on the cake. There will be more hydroelectricity sales required.
There is no turning back. The global trend is clear. The move to clean energy has many advantages for Thompson and Manitoba. As a 98 per cent sustainable energy province using hydroelectricity and windmills as its energy sources, Manitoban EV owners could divert some of the $2 billion spent a year on gas and diesel fuel that goes to oil suppliers elsewhere and instead keep that money for hydroelectricity to stay in Manitoba.
The world is realizing that the less fossil fuels are used, the cleaner our atmosphere will become. Reduced travel on the road and in the air during the pandemic showed how pollution levels were reduced. No doubt, this full transition may take a generation, and your old family car may be around for a while yet. Or will it? That depends on government policies, incentives, and penalties, as are currently being implemented in Europe and China. Some countries in Europe are already using a reward and malice plan – offer incentives to buy zero emission vehicles (ZEV) and penalties if you use your old gas-powered car too long. Where is Manitoba in all this?
A tsunami energy shift is coming very quickly that Manitoba should take advantage of. The opportunities are significant and exciting. Changes in transportation technology will require the use of assets that Manitoba has plenty of – winter weather testing facilities in Thompson for performance and durability research of vehicles and batteries, discovered and undiscovered nickel reserves that the EV and AV (autonomous vehicle) industry needs to meet the battery demand over the next 10 to 20 years, an abundance of clean hydroelectricity power, as well as some of the lowest electricity rates in North America. Why not a lithium battery manufacturing plant in Manitoba before the first one is built somewhere else in Canada?
These assets collectively can position Manitoba for a new industry in the making. Can public and private stakeholders collaborate and work on a strategic plan to develop and grow the EV and AV industry? If so, new investment, businesses, and jobs will arise and compound. Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia already have made great strides in this direction over the past 10 years. Will Manitoba catch up and take the lead?
Does it make sense to sell electricity to Manitobans at night to charge their EVs at 8 cents per kilowatt hour (Kwh) than to sell it to the USA at off-peak demand time for 1.5 cents? Especially, if it cost Manitoba Hydro 12 cents per Kwh to build the latest Keeyask dam in Northern Manitoba. There are many considerations and some blue sky, strategic thinking is needed, because the EV and AV industry is moving at warp speed.
The economic and environmental benefits of clean energy use for Thompson, Northern Manitoba, and the province, as a whole, are real. The Thompson Chamber of Commerce will soon be releasing a discussion paper titled “Manitoba as the green energy capital of North America.” It’s a bold, exciting, innovative concept that suggests numerous stakeholders can drive this action forward. Thompson wants to be part of that progress and prosperity.
Many northerners see the value for Manitoba to become the greenest province in Canada that will attract investment and job creation spurred by a post-pandemic recovery economy. Currently, there are gaps that need to filled such as more mining investment, development of public EV charging infrastructure, better winter weather testing facilities, and more EV user changes in Manitoba Hydro policies to boost EV sales and use. We haven’t even discussed the advantages of building an EV tourism sector, as Alberta has started to. We need to take advantage of the many opportunities that will arise including large-scale EV infrastructure projects in our rural and northern regions.
Our province can become the green energy capital of North America. Let’s make it so!