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Professor Olivier Trescases (far right) stands in the University of Toronto Electric Vehicle Research Centre with (left to right) PhD Candidate, Zhe Gong; Wendy Baker, Associate Director Business Development, School of Continuing Studies; and Nick Cusimano, Research Associate. Trescases will teach two courses on electric vehicles for Porsche Centre employees. (Photo: Porsche Cars Canada)

Professor Olivier Trescases (ECE) has been handpicked by Porsche Cars Canada to develop micro courses in electric vehicles (EVs) for the approximately 300 dealer staff across Canada, including senior management.

As the Director of the University of Toronto Electric Vehicle Research Centre, Trescases and his team are developing the innovations that will power future generations of EVs.

The sector is experiencing strong growth: in 2021, zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) accounted for more than 5% of new vehicle registrations in Canada for the first time. The recent Canadian federal budget calls for EVs to account for 60% of cars sold in 2030 and 100% by 2035.

Companies such as Porsche have front-row seats to the increase in driver interest.

“Customers are now coming into their showroom with sophisticated questions,” says Trescases. “When a customer asks you, ‘Why don’t I get the full power fast-charging when the ambient is five degrees?’ — well, you need a certain level of expertise to answer that.”

The new courses consist of two levels: primary and expert, both developed and delivered through U of T School of Continuing Studies (SCS). They aim to establish competency in foundational electrical concepts and then focus on the core EV technologies: the charging and battery systems, powertrain, motor, the electrical grid, second-life application of batteries, as well as more forward-looking innovations such as vehicle-to-grid and wireless charging.

“These courses are no piece of cake,” says Trescases. “They really have to work their calculators. And they must get 80% to pass.”

“ECE places a high priority on industry relevance, whether that be through applied research or, as with this collaboration, knowledge sharing,” says Deepa Kundur, Chair of ECE. “Professor Trescases’s course is a fine example of the department’s outreach in broader education, as well as our commitment to clean technology.”

During the curriculum’s development, Porsche shared product knowledge with Trescases, made their experts available and allowed him to test drive their EV models — all in service of the course focus, which is to help them communicate facts to their customers.

Catherine Chandler-Crichlow, Dean of the School of Continuing Studies, says they’re proud to partner with Porsche in providing this highly tailored, leading-edge training.

“Learning and innovation are at the heart of SCS, and we are excited to help prepare Porsche Centre staff to meet the challenges and opportunities in electromobility.”

Vehicle specifications and price are becoming more consumer-friendly and driving demand, and Trescases says the technology is ready for the mainstream in terms of its raw performance and operation.

“EVs are one of the few clean-tech transitions that’s an easy sell,” he says. “A good analogy would be our transition to LED lights. Once the brightness and colour quality reached the level of incandescent bulbs, they became the superior choice in every way. Nobody is missing incandescents.”

In the medium term, as the adoption of EVs gathers momentum, Trescases says he can see micro courses like these being rolled out to other companies, municipalities, transit agencies and the many other stakeholders in this area.

“This has been a sustained collaboration with Porsche and I’m very proud of the outcome. There is a huge need for this knowledge. The floodgates are opening.”

“We are looking forward to our collaboration with Porsche Cars Canada at this pivotal moment for the automotive industry,” says Christopher Yip, Dean of U of T Engineering.

“The adoption of electric vehicles is one important step in lowering our carbon footprint, and Porsche’s industry leadership together with U of T research expertise will model a path forward for EVs in the transportation sector — not only to support government emission targets and increasing consumer demand, but ultimately to secure a sustainable future.”

In December 2022, Porsche Cars Canada Ltd. (PCL) presented U of T with a miniature model of Porsche’s Taycan EV to celebrate the collaboration with University of Toronto’s Electric Vehicle (UTEV) Research Centre and School of Continuing Studies (SCS). From left to right: Seif Sarofim (UTEV, ECE MASc candidate), Zhe Gong (UTEV, ECE PhD candidate), Professor Olivier Trescases (ECE), U of T Engineering Dean Christopher Yip, U of T SCS Dean Catherine Chandler-Crichlow, Derek Tadros (Director, Retail Development, PCL), Julianna Morris (Sr. Manager, Porsche People Excellence & Training, PCL) and Wendy Baker (SCS Associate Director, Business Development). (Photo: Jason Kraus)

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