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UW becomes first university in Ontario to launch battery centre for EV development


A team from the University of Waterloo is launching a new battery research centre that aims to help with developing electric vehicles.

The Ontario Battery and Electrochemistry Research Centre (OBEC) is led by science professor Linda Nazar, and engineering professor Michael Pope.

It will be Canada’s newest facility tasked with advancing electric vehicle battery development, and the first university in Ontario to do so.

“While there is an urgent need to train people to work on the next-generation EV battery gigafactories being built here in Canada by the likes of Volkswagen, Stellantis, Umicore and BASF, it is equally important to develop these next generation technologies and help local industry meet growing market demand,” said Pope, in a release. “These batteries, however, will be more sustainable, less expensive, safer and longer-lasting that the Li-ion batteries we see today.”

OBEC’s initial funding comes from a $5 million investment made by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and the university.

“At UW, we have a really high density of battery researchers compared to other institutions. So it’s really going to be a very useful tool to bring in industry partners and to help them scale up,” Pope said in an interview with CTV News.

The OBEC will help train UW’s undergraduate and graduate students, as well as post-doctoral fellows, to advance their expertise in electrochemistry. The team hopes it will help support start-ups and larger businesses that focus on developing new products that could power the next generation of vehicles.

While the professor duo is leading the charge when it comes to bringing the centre to life, they aren’t taking credit for the ground-breaking work.

“We don’t do any of the work,” Pope said, chuckling. “It’s all done by the students. So you’re going to get a lot of really good experience.”

The facility will look to advance research across all-solid-state, metal-air batteries, metal-sulfur and batteries based on alternatives to lithium like sodium, an abundant and inexpensive material.

Researchers will have access to dedicated tools they can use to help discover novel electrode and electrolyte materials.

“As we push the limits in terms of material performance, electrochemical energy systems become increasingly complex,” said Nazar, in the release. “This makes it challenging, if not impossible, to fully understand the underlying science that is necessary to push the science and technology forward when conventional characterization methods are used.”

As the federal government works toward phasing out the sale of gas-powered vehicles by 2035, this team wants contributions from young minds through every stage of the process – not just the research.

“If you remember when it was announced Stellantis and LG were setting up shop in the Windsor area, they had to bring in [hundreds] of Koreans to build the facility,” said Nazar in an interview with CTV News. “The reason is that we don’t have that trained workforce in Canada, whereas in Korea, they have a well-established framework for this. And that’s one of the things we would like to change.”

As they begin to build the research centre, one challenge they’re faced with is how rapidly the industry is changing. They don’t want to invest in equipment and ideas that will be outdated in no time.

Regardless of what the EV world may look like in the future, the team of researchers have made it clear they want this centre to be at the forefront. Top Stories

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