The creation of an institute for electrification and intelligent transportation (the Institut de l’électrification et des transports intelligents), Montréal hosting the Formula E Grand Prix, the creation of an industry cluster for electric and intelligent vehicles, progress in the Caisse de dépôt’s Réseau de transport métropolitain: there has been no shortage of this sort of news in the past few weeks, confirming Greater Montréal’s ambition to become a leader in the development of electric and intelligent vehicles.
This ambition is well founded given Montréal’s assets and the values many Quebecers hold dear. In a field that is seeing its first concrete developments, Greater Montréal’s innovation and creativity will allow us to create new businesses, which will emerge as leaders in the coming years. The rapid commercialization of innovations in the field is fuelled by the environmental awareness of Quebecers, who own close to half of the electric cars sold in Canada.
The space for testing that is opening up in this field will allow us to harness two things that aren’t usually considered assets: our winters and our roads. The harsh Québec winters, both with respect to temperature and snowfall, as well as the condition of our roads, allow us to test batteries and components of new vehicles in the most difficult conditions.
As government policy focuses on promoting entrepreneurship, developing an electric and intelligent transportation industry will demonstrate to what extent that policy is successful. The coming revolution in transportation will go well beyond the manufacture of vehicles: tomorrow’s planes, trains and cars will be more moving computers than vehicles in the traditional sense of the term.
By fostering innovative pilot projects that involve local businesses, universities and public institutions, the city can become a leading destination for businesses and investors from around the world that want to develop tomorrow’s technologies, at the same time contributing to the development of unique expertise and prosperity grounded in 21st century values.
This crossroads in the development of transportation also gives us a chance to consider the coming changes as a society. Beyond methods of propulsion and vehicle range, we are on the verge of a true paradigm shift. A number of questions arise. If a car can come pick us up at home on demand and take us place to place, do we still need to own vehicles? What will be the impact on traffic, pollution and productivity of fewer cars on the road?
The time is right for developing electric and intelligent transportation, and there is incredible opportunity. Let’s seize that opportunity by making Montréal a living laboratory.
President and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal
Published by Les Affaires in May 2017.