Narayan Kar, Brian Masse, Kirsty Duncan, K.W. Michael SiuUWindsor professor Narayan Kar, Windsor West MP Brian Masse, federal science minister Kirsty Duncan, and K.W. Michael Siu, UWindsor vice-president for research and innovation, meet up during the Parliament Pop-Up Research Park, May 17 in Ottawa.

Taking his show on the road: researcher on Parliament Hill to discuss electric cars

Meeting with Members of Parliament and government officials May 17 in Ottawa was a wonderful opportunity to showcase the research driving Canadian innovation — and to highlight the University of Windsor, says engineering professor Narayan Kar.

Canada Research Chair in Electrified Transportation Systems, he was one of the presenters during the Parliament Pop-Up Research Park, a project of the Council of Ontario Universities and the Ontario Council on University Research to share their latest discoveries with federal decision-makers.

“From an education perspective, it was a huge success,” says Dr. Kar. “Our government needs to be informed as to what we are doing.”

His presentation, entitled “Will an Electric Car be Able to Travel Coast-to-Coast?” attracted interest from MPs, senators, and civil servants, but Kar’s answer to the question he posed is “yes, but…”

He says electric vehicle technology will need improvements in affordability, convenience, reliability and durability before it are a true alternative to combustion engines.

“We have made significant progress in the last 10 years, but there is still more to be done,” he says. “We have to make electric vehicles more efficient and high-performing for consumers to feel comfortable buying them.”

Kar notes that people understand the benefits of electric vehicle technologies, including lessening environmental impacts and significantly lower operating costs — he estimates a round trip to Toronto consumes about $15 in electricity but $70-80 in gasoline.

“People will buy them if we can make them affordable,” he says. “When we go into a dealership, the first thing we do is look at the vehicle price.”

He estimates the industry is about seven years away from producing electric vehicles that will meet drivers’ expectations. In the meantime, there is good reason to invest in research and development.

“Automotive is a trillion-dollar market and right now, it is up for grabs,” Kar says. “Canada and the University of Windsor can play a major role in making the potential into reality.”

K.W. Michael Siu, the UWindsor’s vice-president for research and innovation, was on hand for the Ottawa event, and says the benefits to a presence there flow both ways.

“It is valuable for parliamentarians to see the high-quality work being done in our universities,” says Dr. Siu. “We welcome any chance to bring attention to the world-class research underway at the University of Windsor.”