These two Ontario Tech engineering students helped build Canada’s first electric vehicle

These two Ontario Tech engineering students helped build Canada’s first electric vehicle

The students worked on nearly every component of Project Arrow, which features 25 made-in-Canada technologies

When it comes to the transition to electric vehicles, Canada has a need for speed. With Project Arrow — the creation of Canada’s first zero-emissions electric vehicle — Ontario Tech University engineering students Izzy Cossarin, 21, and Andrew Genovese, 22, were able to see just how quickly innovators can mobilize when there’s an all-hands-on-deck approach. The students worked on almost every component in the high-tech vehicle, which features 25 new made-in-Canada technologies, including facial recognition software and a solar-powered sunroof.

The Arrow made its international debut last January at the Consumer Electronics Show. That moment didn’t mark an end but a spectacular beginning, proving Canada has the talent to design the emissions-free vehicles of the future.

As a new generation of engineers, Genovese and Cossarin are pivotal players in that future. Cossarin, who graduated last spring, is now working in the development of autonomous systems. Genovese, who graduates next year, is determined to push the boundaries of automotive engineering. Project Arrow has high hopes, too. The Auto Parts Manufacturers’ Association is sending the Arrow on a two-year world tour with the aim of seeing it go into production.

Here, Cossarin and Genovese talk about their experience, what it means to be able to do this work in Canada and how the experience has shaped their plans.


How did you become interested in engineering?

Cossarin: I’ve always been interested. My parents used to tell me stories about how when I was a kid, I would take apart anything I could get my hands on — it drove them crazy. I was about 11 or 12 when I figured out engineering was what I wanted to do. I’d applied to five different streams of engineering, and I eventually decided that mechatronics was kind of the best of all the worlds I was interested in.

Genovese: As a kid, I was very hands-on, putting things together and tearing things apart, just like Izzy. But for me, it was more automotive focused. I was always passionate about cars — I was always building little Lego sets and remote control cars.


Izzy, were you interested in cars as a kid, too?

Cossarin: If a car gets me from point A to point B is kind of the way I approached the automotive industry.

Genovese: I’m shaking my head right now.


How did you get involved in Project Arrow?

Genovese: In my third year at Ontario Tech, I took a course called Powertrain Design and the main project was a lot of the calculations for the Project Arrow car. At the time, the vehicle was still technically a concept vehicle. When I found out it was an actual project, I applied to ACE [Ontario Tech’s automotive research and development centre] as soon as I could. Luckily, I got the job.

Cossarin: I met John Komar, the director of this facility, through robotics when I was in high school. I reached out to him to say I was interested in working here. I’ve been on the project pretty much since it was an idea.


What did you get to work on?

Genovese: I worked on pretty much every physical component of the vehicle. Being able to put a car together and then take it apart to make some changes and understanding why we made those certain changes was big.

Cossarin: I was working with a lot of different suppliers and then worked with our machine shop at Ontario Tech ACE to manufacture some of the components. We developed some novel manufacturing techniques because we had to get creative.


What were some of the tech features of the car that stuck with you?

Cossarin: One of the coolest novel technologies we integrated into this vehicle was the facial recognition software device that was developed by an Ontario Tech grad.

Genovese: For me, it was implementing a solar-powered sunroof, which is going to take some load off the battery and power your lighting and electronics inside the vehicle. We integrated it into the vehicle to help extend the range and the battery life. It’s a super-cool feature that people have been talking about doing for years.



Has this experience affected what you want to do with your career?

Genovese: With electrification really pushing the future, I want to get more involved with batteries and technology, because that’s the next big thing: trying to create more efficient batteries that have better range and are better for the environment.

Cossarin: It opened my horizons. The people we’ve met through this project, and everything we’ve learned have rocket-launched my career.


What impact do you hope that a project like this has in Canada? Has it changed what you feel is possible here?

Cossarin: Over 534 companies applied to participate in this project. As someone who investigated the potential of every single one of the 534 applications, I learned that Ontario has a lot of cutting-edge technology to offer. And although we don’t have a Canadian or an Ontario car manufacturer, that’s not to say that there couldn’t be one in the future. We have all the tools required to make them here.

Genovese: This car is the physical proof that something can be done here. We have the capability to do so. So why can’t we make it happen one day?


Has this given you more respect for cars, generally, Izzy?

Cossarin: It is much more than just something that rolls from point A to point B, especially with all the countless hours we’ve all put into it. It’s been really something.

MaRS commissioned photographer Jenna Marie Wakani to photograph the thinkers, entrepreneurs and investors behind some of Canada’s most exciting companies. See the full portrait series here.

Photography: Jenna Marie Wakani