When the lithium race becomes a project for an entire society

By Geneviève Cournoyer-Scalise October 23 2020

Almost 60 years have passed since the nationalization of Hydro-Quebec, and yet the current still flows between La Belle Province and the electrification projects. As the demand for electric vehicles is soaring and considering the wealth of our subsoil in ores necessary to produce lithium batteries, the timing seems perfect to seize the opportunity and invest to take our place in the lithium market, which promises significant economic benefits for many industries across the country.

The electrification of vehicles is no longer a pipe dream. Experts estimate that the global electric vehicle market will rise to over 200 billion within the next 5 years.1 The demand for oil is decreasing as demand for lithium, the new “white gold” increases. Quebec has four major lithium ore deposits within the province, two in the Abitibi region (Authier and La Corne), and two more in the James Bay region (Whabouchi and Rose). Enough to transform the utopia into a societal project, according to Pierre Fitzgibbon, Quebec Minister of Economy and Innovation.

Both the Quebec and federal government agree: we must invest now to develop our expertise and ensure that we carve out our place in the global lithium market. In September’s Throne Speech, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau once again mentioned the ambitious plan to produce zero-emission vehicles and batteries made in Canada. The Quebec government, which is deeply involved in the project, would be ready to contribute up to two (2) of the seven (7) billion dollars needed to get the project up and running. 2

Is it possible to produce 100% Canadian electric vehicles? It would seem so, if we rely on Canadian know-how and use all our resources efficiently in the mining, energy, science, technology, and human resources sectors. This project goes well beyond regular mining operations which normally are dedicated to exports. Since we want to be competitive in a fierce market, controlled mainly by Asia, we need to plan to set up a complete supply chain.

The contribution of scientists from the Hydro-Quebec Center of Excellence in Transportation Electrification and Energy Storage is crucial for advancing research on lithium-ion batteries and solid batteries designed in the province. Their studies are based on crafting the anode and the cathode, two integral and fundamental parts of the lithium battery. The pioneer of the project at Hydro-Quebec, Zarim Zaghib, a Quebec scientist of international renown in the lithium field, considers “that it is realistic to think that Quebec can aspire to become one of the major players behind China, Korea, Japan and the United States (…) and that it is now foreseeable that a first factory will be established within three years in the province.” 3

Thus, with the establishment of an assembly plant factory in the province, Quebec could ensure complete management of production: from mining the ore, to transforming it into lithium, to manufacturing and producing lithium batteries, up to producing and marketing fully electric vehicles. Ontario already has expertise in automotive manufacturing and assembly. Meanwhile, Quebec would like to target the market for heavier vehicles; trucks, buses and even electric trains.

In addition to creating 25,000 jobs, including 12,000 jobs in the mining sector alone 4, a project of this magnitude will boost the entire economy of the province and will bring considerable economic spinoffs throughout the country. Indeed, the rail and intermodal transportation system will allow batteries manufactured in Quebec to be shipped quickly and efficiently to the supply chain of the automotive industry, located mainly in Ontario and on the U.S. Great Lakes region, thanks to the expertise of specialized freight forwarders such as Cargolution.

To ensure the success of such an ambitious project, the involvement of many specialized industries is vital. It is realistic to believe that transportation and logistics services will be in high demand to ensure the movement of goods at each step of the supply chain and therefore successfully achieving the manufacturing of 100% Canadian electric vehicles.

Cargolution is already excited to join this great adventure which promises to have a huge impact for future generations! What about you? Do you believe that such a project can become a reality?

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