Vancouver’s Rapid Electric Vehicles makes gas-guzzlers eco-friendly

The future is here

Where might the future of automative electrification be?

Quite possibly, East Vancouver. 

Jay Giraud is the founder and CEO of Rapid Electric Vehicles Inc., an East Vancouver research facility taking on an ambitious undertaking: to transform gas-guzzling SUVs and the like into battery-powered, 100-percent electric rides—the type of wheels Mother Nature herself would drive.

Jay, 34, was once a professional snowboarder. But since discovering the clean tech industry a few years ago, he’s never looked back. Now, all his focuses are on changing vehicles on the road today.  “The engine, transmission, and gas tank are no longer necessary,” states Jay in an article in the Tyee.

His company is currently working on a fleet of utility trucks for Burlington, Ontario. It’s REV’s first wave of electric conversions, and it will mean that all the trucks’ dirty oil parts will be replaced by a modular electric drive system and transmission. From that point on, there will be no more gasoline emissions, and virtually no replacement parts or serious maintenance required. REV is a young business at just two years of age, but Jay believes in what he’s doing: “We think that this is the future of automotive electrification.”

Let’s get specific now. What does REV do exactly? Well, they prefabricate, build, assemble, and ship a modular “plug and play” drive system to their customers. From there, an automotive technician at the fleet garage removes the gas-dependent parts, and drops in the new, built-to-fit components—doesn’t even need to understand the complexities of the system.

Jay suggests that Government and private-sector passenger fleets are ideal early adopters of his eco product, as fleet vehicles are parked for 16 or more hours a day at a central hub, which makes charging a snap, and they drive consistent patterns, typically not more than 40km in a day day. Not to mention they repeat these same patterns over a very long life and are responsible for greenhouse gas emissions of huge proportions.

Jay breaks down the numbers. “If you consider that the average kilometres driven per year in North America are over 19,000 and the average kilometres per litre for a fleet vehicle is about 5.3, and there are at least 63 million passenger fleet vehicles in North America, you get a pretty big number of tonnes of emissions saved per year.”

Where’s the money at?

CBC’s popular show Dragon’s Den, in which entrepreneurs pitch business ideas to a panel of powerful venture capitalists, featured Jay Giruad in 2009. Typically, the panel is less than pleased with pitches. With Jay, however, the Dragons were so impressed by REV’s business plan that they offered Jay $250,000 for a 50 percent ownership stake in the company.

He said no.

Jay instead partnered with B.C.-based GreenAngel Energy Corp., an angel fund that specializes in raising start-up capital for early-stage green-tech companies. In February, GreenAngel and REV announced an agreement to raise $5 million for the fledgling company this year.

Vancouver is lean and green

What has made it possible for REV to exist in B.C. is the tremendous amount of technical expertise, particularly in the Greater Vancouver area. 30 years as a centre for the design, development, and manufacture of hydrogen fuel cells has ensured that there is plenty of talent to pull from.

“Vancouver is making this neat transition from fuel cell to electric, and there’s a lot of battery specialists and chemical energy storage specialists,” Giraud told the Tyee, noting that fuel cell cars are electric vehicles, meaning there is a knowledge cross-over from hydrogen to pure electric.

B.C.’s talent pool has developed clusters of electric vehicle and associated technology companies. There are battery experts like Richmond’s Advanced Lithium Power, Delaware Power Systems Corp., and Burnaby’s Delta Q Technologies Corp., both of which rely on B.C.’s core of electrical engineering expertise. Azure Dynamics, possibly B.C.’s biggest success story of the industry, moved its headquarters to Detroit in 2007 to be closer to suppliers and U.S. customers—but much of its research and development still occurs in Vancouver. Other examples include Canadian Electric Vehicles, an industry pioneer that continues to operate near Parksville on Vancouver Island, and Future Vehicle Technologies, which designs and produces its own innovative vehicles in small-town Maple Ridge.

John Stonier, spokesman for the Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association, says that it will be these small, visionary companies that drive electric vehicles into being. “There is an opportunity for the small start-ups like REV, because they can specialize in very specific technology applications, and fill in the holes the large companies just can’t do themselves. They have limited resources, but they can use those resources much more effectively to get things done.”