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Research Partnerships & Innovation

Red River College teams with Mitsubishi to test electric bus technology and charging

August 23, 2011


Re$earch Money
Written by: Mark Henderson
Winnipeg’s Red River College of Applied Arts, Science and Technology (RRC) has teamed with two industrial heavyweights and Manitoba Hydro on an ambitious project to develop and demonstrate an all-electric bus and charging system. The $3-million project brings together Winnipeg-based New Flyer Industries Inc and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), a core unit of the Mitsubishi Group with more than 60,000 employees worldwide.
The project closely follows an MOU signed last December between the provincial government and MHI to collaborate on the expansion of renewable energy utilization and the development of associated technologies, focusing on several areas related to the electrification of transportation and recharging infrastructure. The RRC-based project is the first to arise from the MOU.
The MOU is part of Manitoba’s electric vehicle strategy and includes a second MOU with Mitsubishi Motor Sales of Canada, which enables the company to use the province as a testing environment for further development on its i-MiEV electric vehicle.
The development project is expected to be completed within one year, followed by two years of testing in the province. To accommodate the project, RRC received $100,000 in provincial support to create an Electric Vehicle Technology and Learning Centre (EV-TEC) to help demonstrate electric vehicle development and enhance student training.
“This is a new relationship with MHI. We’re working with a number of partners — some old, some new — on a locally made commercial product. They’re all active partners,” says Ray Hoemsen, RRC’s director of applied research. “This is not a science project, it’s a development project focused on the technical side.”
While not large, the electric bus and charging system project is a potent example of the distinct yet growing role that Canada’s colleges are playing in the national system of innovation.
4th R&D centre
The college is now home to four R&D centres. In addition to EV-TEC, it has the Centre for Applied Research in Sustainable Infrastructure and two aerospace-related centres co-located with Magellan Aerospace Corp and StandardAero respectively.
For MHI, the electric bus project provides an opportunity for the company to test and demonstrate its lithium-ion secondary battery packs in a cold weather climate. The company says it is hopeful the project will mark the beginning of a long and productive relationship with Manitoba. New Flyer has already developed an all-electric bus and is eager to demonstrate its reliability. Development work will be split between RRC and New Flyer facilities. For its part, Manitoba Hydro is focused on the charging aspect of the project to determine how a growing number of electric charging stations will impact the grid. Manitoba currently has about 500,000 recharging outlets and derives the bulk of its energy from hydro.
For RRC, the project is helping to boost the amount of R&D it conducts annually. Since 2004, it has gone from just $50,000 in R&D income to $4.3 million in 2010.
“Our research activity has been evolving for the past 10 years. Each college is at a different stage in evolution and we’ve been fairly engaged with industry,” says Hoemsen, who joined RRC in 2004.
Hoemsen role in building RRC’s R&D capabilities was honoured earlier this week with the Association of Canadian Community College Gold Leadership Excellence Award. The award acknowledges his success in creating the college’s Applied Research and Commercialization unit and attracting major funding to RRC., which was described as “a model for other colleges regionally and nationally”.