Project Arrow
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Up Close with Project Arrow: Canada’s First Zero Emissions Concept Vehicle

Project Arrow — Canada’s first homegrown all-electric vehicle — is part of the Canadian International AutoShow in Toronto, showcasing what the country’s manufacturers and suppliers are capable of.

In effect, the vehicle is a showpiece, though it is a concept that drives, overseen by the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association (APMA) with over $8 million in combined funding from the federal government and provincial governments in Ontario and Quebec. 

Being “all-Canadian” is literal in the sense all the materials and parts come from a collection of 50 different Canadian companies, though some include Canadian divisions of foreign brands, too.

The process to get to this finished concept was borne out of a design competition won by four Carleton University students at its School of Industrial Design in October 2020, which was a response to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s call for Canada to go emissions-free by 2050. That led to the next phase, which used virtual reality to visualize the design in 3D before the engineering and building phase began at Ontario tech University in 2021-22.

APMA unveiled Project Arrow at CES 2023 in Las Vegas before bringing it to Toronto, and will be making appearances at other shows in Montreal, Detroit, Atlanta, San Antonio and Palo Alto throughout the year. 

Design and first look

APMA Project Arrow | Photo: Ted Kritsonis 

The fully functional prototype has a 3D-printed chassis as the base, made of composite materials meant to reduce the vehicle’s weight and maximize range and aerodynamics. Electric vehicles are heavy, as is, so the designers and builders utilized carbon fibre body panels, magnesium pillars and other bio-composite materials throughout to lighten the load. The seat backs are made from hemp, though it’s hard to tell given the paint job. 

The wooden flooring has a red stripe running through it as an ode to how the game of basketball was invented in Canada by James Naismith. Wood also makes up the centre console, adding an element of the country’s lumber industry into the mix. Red stands out as an accent colour that pops up in various parts, like the door handles, seat belts and steering wheel. 

A 550 horsepower Canadian-built EV

Being the only prototype built so far (there are no plans to build another right now), it hasn’t gone through any crash testing, so its durability and safety in a collision is unclear.

APMA Project Arrow | Photo: Ted Kritsonis 

There are two electric motors, each with all-wheel drive capability, to combine for 550 horsepower. It can accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in only 3.5 seconds. As for range, the vehicle can drive for up to 500 km per charge — with an assist from the solar-powered roof that adds a little extra juice. 

Technology features

Project Arrow is a Level 3 autonomous vehicle, meaning it can not only control acceleration, deceleration and some steering, but also handle certain situational circumstances, like merging into traffic or managing through gridlock with no human intervention. 

Level 3 still lacks legislative oversight, so it’s technically not legal to drive with such active features, but the vehicle is still capable of deploying them.

Project Arrow interior

APMA Project Arrow | Photo: Ted Kritsonis 

In the cabin, five distinct screens run along the entire dash. Rather than rear view mirrors, there are cameras that pop out from either side to show drivers a view from either side through respective displays on the flanks in the dash. 

There’s a digital cluster in front of the driver, plus an infotainment screen in the middle. Front passengers also get their own display, where they can adjust certain vehicle controls, like temperature or look up information. It would also be possible to watch video content on that screen, whereas drivers wouldn’t be able to for obvious reasons.

The designers also considered tracking biometrics through sensors in the interior fabrics, along with other elements inside. The steering wheel has sensors underneath at nine and three o’clock to monitor heart rate and body temperature. 

The sound system also eschews larger speakers to save weight, using the existing internal design to spread sound out with smaller speakers over a wider space inside as part of a collaboration with sound engineers at Bongiovi. 

The artificial intelligence (AI) features are harder to read without driving the Arrow, but they do figure into the overall operation inside, both for driver autonomy and for accessing features inside. 

Meeting the Project Arrow builders

Left to right: Joseph Komar, Andrew Genovese, Marissa Kubien and Izzy Cossarin | Photo: Ted Kritsonis 

Four students at Ontario Tech University were on hand at the Auto Show to talk about the experience of building the Arrow and bringing it to life. Marissa Kubien is a mechanical engineering student who joined the team in June 2022 to help build the Arrow through the university’s Automotive Centre of Excellence (ACE). 

“We put all the tech into it to make it functional, and it looks amazing as a concept, so this is what Canadian automotive suppliers can do,” says Kubien. “This kind of thing can be built in Canada. We have the technology, we have the industry, we have the resources, and we want to bring that to the auto industry.”

While a finished prototype, Kubien says the concept is “still under development”, so the vehicle could potentially improve, though she wouldn’t say how that might happen. 

Kubien was joined by her colleagues, Izzy Cossarin, Andrew Genovese and Joseph Komar, who helped build and put the Arrow together. There are currently no plans to mass produce the vehicle or sell it in retail. The next step is for this quartet to join APMA president, Flavio Volpe, in showcasing at future events. 

“It is going on a bit of a tour, where we're going to be able to present what Canada can offer to the world, and it's going to be presenting the different Canadian companies and talent that we got involved in this.”

APMA Project Arrow | Photo: Ted Kritsonis 

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