In just a few weeks, an Enwin Utilities truck that once ran on gasoline will be completely transformed into an all-electric vehicle ready to hit the road.
A small team, including students from St. Clair College, completely gutted the innards of the vehicle, removing the 3.5-liter gasoline engine from the 2018 Ford F-150 and replacing it with eight massive batteries that will power it . It is a partnership between Enwin, Canadian Automobility Enterprises and St. Clair College.
“It’s invaluable in terms of what we learn,” said Barry Leavitt, Enwin’s director of business operations and innovation. “We need to be prepared for an electric fleet in the next five to 10 years. As our fleet ages and we restock, we need to be ready for electric platforms. “
Auto mechanics installed the electric motor on Wednesday after beginning the renovation about a month ago.
After removing the connection points between the truck body and the chassis, the truck was essentially hoisted up in two pieces.
In a few months, after the test phase, Enwin plans to put the vehicle into use in daily operations, which will make it the organization’s first fully electric vehicle. Acceleration, towing capacity, battery life, performance are all areas they will monitor when in use.
Vehicle considered as a “showcase piece” for research
It is described as a “masterpiece”, according to Rafal Bulgarski, general manager of Canadian Automobility Enterprises.
It is the first project of its kind for the private company which announced its arrival in Windsor, Ontario last year. It is a joint venture created by people with local experience in automotive manufacturing, mold making, IT development and electric vehicle production.
“It’s beyond the regular project where here’s a vehicle, it’s fun. It’s actually going to be a use case for us to understand how practical this vehicle will be in the field,” Bulgarski said. .
He thinks there’s a market for converting traditional gas-powered vehicles into electric ones, instead of building them from scratch, which he says makes “probably a little more sense”.
“But, in the industry, a lot of these vehicles have a long lifespan and it doesn’t make sense that these vehicles aren’t converted in order to still get the same benefits of an electric system,” Bulgarski said. . “I think there’s this transition period where it’s absolutely the right thing to do.”
Normally, automakers have to go through a number of regulatory steps before a vehicle is deemed roadworthy, including crash testing. But since they leave most of the truck untouched, it will cross fewer obstacles.
“There’s no obligation for us to do any further testing beyond making sure the systems that were slightly impacted are still working,” Leavitt said, referring to anti-lock braking, power steering as well. as well as heating and cooling systems.
How will Enwin’s electric vehicle survive a long power outage?
One of the concerns they are working to address is the ability of Enwin all-electric vehicles to survive a long-term power outage, as some communities in Ontario experienced in May.
“We can’t be on the side of the road with a dead battery while the community relies on us to turn on the power,” Leavitt said.
Conversations began in 2020 about this project and were sparked by Invest Windsor Essex, a non-profit organization tasked with advancing economic development.
“In order to stay in the spotlight and remain a leader, we knew our businesses… had to embrace change and the move towards zero-based electric vehicles,” said Stephen MacKenzie, chairman of Invest Windsor Essex.
Officials could not disclose the overall cost of converting a gas-powered truck to an all-electric version, but highlighted what they call the invaluable aspects of the project.
“This is a great opportunity for our students because we’re really looking at the ground floor of electric vehicles,” said Peter Wawrow, director of research and innovation at St. Clair College.
“We are working with companies, and Enwin being our first company, to look at what kind of research can we do and converting this vehicle is our first project,” Wawrow said. “From there, we can commercialize that and take that knowledge and information and get companies to start bringing their product to market.”
Two college students from the Motive Power Technician program participated in the project. St. Clair College said it plans to develop new programs focused on the electric vehicle industry because students will need “a new set of skills in the future,” he added. .