The Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association’s (APMA) electric concept vehicle is on track to hit both the digital and real-world pavement late next year, despite the added challenges the pandemic has created for the all-Canadian design and engineering project.
Project Arrow’s Chief Engineer Fraser Dunn shared fresh details about the collaborative initiative to parcel together the four-seat SUV at last week’s APMA’s annual conference in Vaughan, Ont.
Dunn said the concept vehicle will stick to the initial “design cues” laid out by a team of Carleton University students, while making certain adjustments to allow the vehicle to go from the design page to reality. The Arrow team plans to keep the vehicle simple, stripping away superfluous components that have worked their way into other contemporary vehicle designs, while reducing the number of individual parts to a minimum.
“You just have to drive down the road nowadays and any SUV on the road has plastic bits on plastic bits on plastic bits for no reason,” Dunn said, noting the concept will buck the trend. “Even structural elements that are normally hidden away behind plastic trim will be on show and become part of the design.”
For peer benchmarks, the team is working off the Volkswagen ID.4, as well as Tesla’s models X and Y — which the concept sits between from a size perspective.
Ultimately, Project Arrow aims to showcase the capabilities of Canadian parts suppliers, with the final concept vehicle relying on the collaborative efforts and engineering expertise of companies throughout the supply chain.
Colin Dhillon, the APMA’s chief technical officer, said the association has registered more than 400 companies interested in taking part in the project and has begun going through statements of work and supplier agreements with several dozen.
The supply-chain-led design method, Dunn said, differs from the one taken by conventional automakers, which “tend to be a little bit more reserved in their approaches. We’re kind of having to cut the cloth we’re given as opposed to designing the car to exact specifications and everything we would normally do as an OEM.”
The team has focused considerable energy on its light-weighting approach and on reducing complexity. Dunn said eight mega-stampings, all laser-welded tailored blanks, make up the body structure.
Inspired by Tesla, the concept’s front and rear frames will rely on magnesium mega-castings to minimize traditional steel bracketry.
For the all-important battery, which Dunn said “basically defines” whether an EV will be “good or not,” Project Arrow is employing a collaborative model which will see technical partners working with academic institutions led by Ontario Tech University and its Automotive Centre of Excellence in Oshawa. The battery itself will rely on cylindrical cells from VoltaXplore, a joint venture announced this spring between Martinrea International Inc. and graphene Montreal-based firm NanoXplore Inc.
The concept will also address the other major trend driving the auto industry, with its engineers targeting no less than Level 3 autonomy.
Being a Canadian effort from the ground up, the design team has laid out range of cold-weather features as well. Dunn pointed to a first-of-its-kind battery preconditioning system, a super-efficient de-icing system and a low-energy cabin heating system as among the non-traditional add-ons.
“People like Tesla do take cold-climate seriously, but it isn’t their priority,” Dunn said, adding that any “credible” Canadian vehicle must perform in its home market.
Marcello Grassi, Project Arrow’s advisory board chair, said the key focus is setting the country’s parts suppliers up for growth within the EV market.
“The legacy for Arrow from the Canadian supply chain perspective and from my point of view would be putting the Canadian flag on the international market of zero-emission vehicles,” he told about 200 attendees of the APMA 69th annual conference.
The team has also spent time working out a high-volume manufacturing strategy and costing.
“We wanted to make sure we were … designing the car in a manner that basically was credible for a vehicle that was shooting for between 50,000 and 60,000 units per year,” Dunn said. To align with typical SUV price points, the designers are targeting a cost of between $40,000 to $60,000.
The APMA said it plans to unveil the drivable prototype vehicle next December and will take it on the roadshow circuit, likely starting with CES 2023.