Hamilton is the “Electric City” once again, thanks to the cutting-edge work of a research team at McMaster University that is powering the path to next-generation mobility.
Dr. Ali Emadi’s research group – the Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) Laureate Program at McMaster Automotive Resource Centre (MARC) – is one of the world’s leading academic research programs in transportation electrification and smart mobility. It is also one of the largest programs of its kind in North America, with more than 250 graduate and undergraduate students, post-doctoral research fellows, and engineers.
MARC is a 90,000-square-foot purpose-built facility at McMaster Innovation Park in Hamilton where researchers work directly with industry to develop and test new technologies. Home to one of the world’s most advanced testing environments, MARC is the go-to place for leaders in the automotive sector – from start-ups to large manufacturers.
“Our model at MARC is to go big and go deep with industry partnerships. Our strategic alliances with the sector mean we are embedded with them right from the beginning of design,” said Emadi, who is a professor of electrical and computer engineering and mechanical engineering.
“We also have one of the best testing environments in the world. We can test electric motors, power electronics, battery cells and packs, entire power trains and entire vehicles.”
Emadi’s group works with companies of all sizes, from Ontario’s large automotive manufacturers such as Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler Automobiles), GM, and Ford, Eaton, and Cubic Transportation Systems to small, medium and start-up enterprises.
PhD and master’s graduates from Emadi’s team are in high demand all around the world.
“If we graduated 400 more of them today, they would all have jobs yesterday. There is an unbelievable need out there for talent and companies are investing where they know that expertise is centred,” said Emadi.
“Ontario is training engineers at a higher rate than many other jurisdictions in North America and companies are realizing that. With government support, there is a tremendous opportunity to land more automotive investment in Ontario.”
Emadi, whose long list of academic, industry, and investment achievements has established him as one of the leaders in his field, believes Ontario can be at the forefront of production of smart, AI-powered mobility solutions like next- generation electric power trains for automotive, aerospace, industrial, consumer and micro-mobility sectors.
“The province has a massive advantage in intellectual property, expertise, testing, manufacturing capacity, and talent generation in this field. There is a monumental opportunity at hand. MARC is an anchor of all of that.”
Emadi has created four spin-off companies, including two at McMaster University: Menlolab, which is developing seamless, scalable, cloud-based virtual engineering solutions for multiple sectors including advanced manufacturing, smart mobility, and big data; and Enedym, which is developing
The next generation of rare-earth metals free electric motors for a range of industries.
More than 15 million electric motors are manufactured worldwide every day, powering everything from household appliances to industrial and agricultural equipment to e-bikes, e-scooters, and electric vehicles of all shapes and sizes.
So while the market is huge and the need to transition away from internal combustion engines is immediate, a long-standing challenge is the cost of producing electric motors that require rare earth metals in permanent magnets. That can account for 30 to 40 per cent of the cost of the motor.
Enedym’s patented disruptive technologies remove the need for the magnets, substantially reducing the cost, while providing powerful, efficient, and high- performance operation.
The company, which is partially owned by McMaster, holds more than 60 patents or patents pending.
Enedym, which currently employs 50 people, is on a trajectory of rapid growth after attracting international strategic investors and licensing deals in 2021 and 2022.
Other research groups at MARC include the Centre for Automotive Materials and Corrosion (CAMC), the Centre for Mechatronics and Hybrid Technology (CMHT), the McMaster Centre for Software Certification (McSCert), and the McMaster Manufacturing Research Institute (MMRI), which has moved next to MARC to further amplify collaboration.
Additionally, a $10-million investment from FedDev Ontario is supporting an integrated automotive, aerospace, and advanced manufacturing electrification network known as iHub that leverages another $16.8 million from industry partners.
When Emadi was offered a $10-million Canada Excellence Research Chair in Hybrid Powertrain at McMaster in 2011, he says what really sold him was Hamilton’s history as the Electric City. It was one of the first cities on the continent to be electrified by hydro power more than 100 years ago thanks to the electric power generation and transmission technology of Nikola Tesla. That shaped the city’s industrial legacy, including all the powerful innovation of Westinghouse on the very site where MARC stands today.
Says Emadi: “Hamilton is the home of manufacturing and electricity, and we believe electrification can transform Hamilton a second time.”
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