From the start, the Ontario government has been behind us.

On May 30, 2017, Havelaar Canada unveiled the Bison, the world's first all-electric pickup truck at the Electric Mobility Canada Conference in Markham, Ontario.

Built with a carbon fibre reinforced steel space frame, the Bison is not only emission free, it's designed for the world's toughest weather and terrain. It can also travel 300 km (186 mi) on one charge.

The Bison is an impressive piece of engineering – and the story behind how it came to be built and tested in Ontario is every bit as remarkable.

It began in 2011 when electrical engineering student, Tony Han, was in Japan on a paid internship program. The country was hit with a terrible earthquake and tsunami, resulting in rolling blackouts; this had a profound effect on Han. He decided then and there that his career was going to involve improving the environment. What better way to start than by developing an EV pickup truck that would appeal to everyone from fleet operators to active urbanites?

Young man wearing a suit kneeling beside an electric blue pickup truck.
Tony Han's Havelaar designed and built the Bison in 12 months.

Ontario gives Havelaar what it needs to stay at the head of the curve

People clustered around an electric blue pickup truck.
The Bison attracted crowds when it made its debut at the Electric Mobility Canada Conference.

Han put together a list of things he knew he would need to succeed. At the top was talent. For that, he didn't need to look any further than his alma mater.

“The research capabilities at the University of Toronto are leading-edge,” says Han. “I knew I could get the best expertise there.” In fact, Han helped to create the new Havelaar Electrical Vehicle Research Centre at U of T, and it has been very successful at attracting and retaining top EV talent.

Next on the list? A window to global trade. There again, Ontario topped the list because of its participation in the North American Free Trade Agreement, the European Free Trade Agreement and the much anticipated Chinese Free Trade Agreement.

Rounding out Han's list were R&D tax credits – Ontario's, which are some of the most generous in the world, can cut the cost of doing R&D by 40% to 60% which is significant for a research intensive company like Havelaar.

“Ontario has a well-established auto industry that plays a big role in the economy,” says Han. “From the start, the Ontario government has been behind us, including hands-on assistance from the team at the Ministry of Economic Development and Growth.”

In May 2016, Han and his team of engineers at the newly formed Havelaar Canada got down to work; design to prototype took them just 12 months. Since its unveiling, the Bison has received a lot of attention. And not just at home, which is good news for Han, as the Bison is destined for world markets.

What's next for Havelaar?

In 2018, the company will begin a pilot program to beta test 100 fleet vehicles that will be used by municipalities and utility companies. The vehicles are being built now at Havelaar's prototype facility in Toronto.

At the same time, Ontario government site selectors are helping Han find a location for a full-scale manufacturing facility, with the view to producing and selling the Bison commercially beginning in 2019.

It's an aggressive timetable, but one Han is confident the company can carry out.

A worker helping to assemble an electric blue pickup truck.
Bison was chosen as the truck's name because it captures Canada's global image as innovative, socially responsible and friendly.

“The future for EV is very bright,” says Han. “It's evident when you travel to Europe and Asia and see the level of development in the last few years alone. We need to keep our heads down, our eyes open and work with the most innovative companies globally to keep ahead of the curve.”

Sector/subsector: 

August 29, 2017

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