The City of Windsor is getting an electric vehicle battery plant: here’s what that means for the University.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford came to Windsor to attend an announcement by Stellantis, regarding new investments for the Windsor Assembly Plant and the recently announced battery plant set to be built in Windsor.
The European Automaker Stellantis and South Korean battery manufacturer announced in March they would invest in a $4.9 Billion electric battery plant in Windsor, Ontario. This is the first plant of its kind in the entire country. It is set to provide 2500 jobs at the plant alone, plus 10,000 ‘spin-off jobs’. It will be constructed at 9865 Twin Oaks Drive, just south of EC Row Expressway in the Forest Glade area.
The automotive industry has always been central to the city of Windsor; as the industry began to move and change, the city suffered significant job losses in recent years. The industry has seen a rapidly growing market for electrical vehicles, something that Windsor had struggled to keep up with. The batteries produced at the new facility will be supplied to Stellantis assembly plants throughout the US, Canada, and Mexico for installation in next-generation electric vehicles ranging from plug-in hybrids to full battery-electric vehicles that will be sold under the Stellantis family of brands.
This is a much-welcomed boost to Windsor’s local economy. As of March 22, Windsor’s unemployment rate remains at 8.3%, far above the national unemployment rate of 5.3%. Stellantis, the automotive company behind the new plant, already has an assembly plant for minivans in the city of Windsor; and it recently cut one of the shifts there.
This is big news for the engineering program at the University of Windsor.
Dr. Peter Frise, Professor of Engineering at the University of Windsor says: ‘’ one of the most engineering-driven cities in Canada and because of our location adjacent to Detroit, we are right in the middle of one of the largest concentrations of engineering activity in North America.’’
The University of Windsor’s Faculty of Engineering Dean Dr. Van Heyst, says ‘’ the landscape is changing, (however), especially in the auto sector, and it’s moving towards electrification. As such, Engineering at UWindsor will also need to change and adapt our programs to help address the shortage of talent in this new and emerging field. ‘’
He added that the University of Windsor has always had ‘’ strong programs in mechanical, automotive, and electrical engineering but I also foresee the need for engineering graduates who understand the high-level integration of these three fields’’.
The plant is set to become operational in 2024
The Prime Minister and Premier Speak.
On May 2, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford personally came to Windsor to attend another announcement by Stellantis. Stellantis’ Chief Operating Officer announced that in addition to the $4.9 billion being invested in the new electric vehicle battery plant, an additional 3.6 billion would be invested to upgrade their existing facilities in Windsor and Brampton.
The event was held at Stellantis’ Center of Research and Development at 3939 Rhodes Drive. ‘’ When we talk about all the things Canada has to offer as we pitch international investors to set up shops and production facilities in Canada, yes, it’s great we have access to natural resources and minerals, but the number one seller is always Canadians themselves, hardworking, willing to build a better future and put innovation and creativity into everything they do.’’
‘’’As Prime Minister, I get to work with Canadians coast to coast, but I would be hard-pressed to point out a community where hard work hasn’t been as much of a driver of success as here in Windsor’’
He continued: ‘’We reached a deal with Stellantis to make this Windsor plant and the one in Brampton global leaders on building electric vehicles. Investing in this multi-billion project will deliver for workers, the community, our economy, and the environment. Not only are we growing a world-leading auto industry creating hundreds of jobs and securing thousands more, but we are also keeping our air clean by building and driving more Electric Vehicles here at home. ‘’
‘’Surprisingly there are still some politicians who say we have to choose between the environment and the economy, and to them, I say ‘look what we are building here in Windsor, in Brampton, and right here across the country. Folks here get it. We are growing a strong middle class in Canada so workers, their families, and everyone can succeed. ‘’
This is a reference to the Trudeau government’s drive to substantially reduce GHG emissions by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050. The controversy is much more complicated than Trudeau let on in his speech at the Stellantis Research Center. According to a study by Toronto Dominion Bank, up to 450,000 workers currently employed in the oil and gas sector in the prairies and Atlantic provinces are at risk of displacement throughout such a net-zero transition. Electric Vehicle battery plants may help with the manufacturing sector, but it will take more than that to manage all economic disruptions caused by the planned net-zero transition.
Premier Doug Ford, who is up for re-election on June 2, had arrived at the event just after the Prime Minister’s speech. ‘’While previous (Ontario) governments may have given up on Ontario’s manufacturing and watched from the sidelines while 300,000 jobs left this province, our government is bringing good jobs back to Ontario’s workers. Since we took office, Ontario has added over 500,000 new manufacturing jobs all over Ontario, and I must thank our partnership with the federal government and municipal governments because this wouldn’t have happened without them. We know we can and should build the vehicles of the future right here in Ontario. We have the expertise, we have the best workers, the critical minerals, and now we have the competitive environment needed to attract game-changing international investment.’’
According to Statistics Canada, while it’s true that over 300,000 manufacturing jobs had been lost prior, Ford’s claim of Ontario adding over 500,000 manufacturing jobs is inaccurate. According to statistical data gathered from 1995 to 2021, manufacturing jobs had peaked at 1.1 million from 2002 to 2004 but declined to 770,000 by 2010. For the next ten years, manufacturing jobs fluctuated between 730,000 and 770,000 and as of 2021, they total 776,000.
Total employment- across all industries- has in fact increased by about 310,000 between 2017 and 2021. Most of these gains came from the Service sector, (transportation, finance and professional/technical services), not manufacturing.
Outside of the Stellantis Research center, a protest had gathered. They were there for the Prime Minister; their message could be summarized by flags and signs with the message F*** Trudeau, and a rap song with a similar theme playing on a loop.
Photo Credit: Samy Bishay