Toronto Electric

The little engine that could

Modesty comes to mind when describing the operations of Toronto Electric, a Toronto-based material handling and electric motor company that specializes in the overall management, innovation and project safety in serving Canada’s hoist/crane and electric motor industries. In speaking with Steve Dallas, President of Toronto Electric, the overall theme of modesty and humility truly rings home. The company focuses on health and safety in engineering, design, project planning and implementation, from concept to finish—and a project isn’t finished until customers are aware of the benefits and advantages of Toronto Electric’s product within their operating environment.

Toronto Electric maintains a zero accident record over decades of designs. Toronto Electric was involved in the design of a winch system for the Art Gallery of Ontario to latch onto artwork and to move the pieces up through the floors to their appropriate showcase locations.

“This is a very delicate piece of material handling equipment due to its complex and sophisticated design,” added Dallas, quipping that, “You’re not allowed to drop a painting.” At British Columbia’s Simon Fraser University, Toronto Electric was involved in the design of a double girder gantry style moving platform to assist the moving of equipment in the Woodward’s SFU Experimental Theatre. This system includes a laser guided stop mechanism as employees can ride the gantries while moving. Dallas’ knowledge and expertise of these motors and equipment has allowed for his development of Project Eve—designing an electric car from the ground up.

Project Eve—A Canadian perspective

“The electric car is a good opportunity to design cars much safer than they are presently—believe it or not, you can only get a 3 point harness. Current cars spill many poisonous liquids onto roadways and today’s cars have an antiquated fueling system that doesn’t have to be securely hooked up to the car before it will start releasing fuel,” said Dallas, adding that Toronto Electric understands what is required to build and maintain electric cars.

Toronto Electric understands solar generation and how ultimately it promises to take the shock out of electricity price fluctuations for the electric vehicle market. The company has, for example, installed and is now monitoring its 64kw roof solar system by Solera Sustainable Energies, “supporting Toronto Electric’s commitment to renewable energy strategies”.  Electric designs are inherently efficient and transportation and other related industries promise to be forever changed by these new electric technologies.

According to the company’s website, Toronto Electric has spent many years testing various types of solar energy storage and strategies. Having decades of familiarity and comfort with design issues and approaches including safety concerns, Dallas and his company decided to take on a ground-up, ‘clean sheet’ approach to designing transportation for living in a big metropolitan city. What would the product look like? How many people would be on board? What type of fuel would the vehicle use? These were just a few questions asked in the creation of the design. Toronto Electric believes that sustainable electric energy from multiple sources is becoming very close to a real solution not just for urban transportation but for other areas as well.

The code name for the project and the car itself remains unnamed at this time, though Toronto Electric continues to toss back and forth viable car names, perhaps “A2B” or “The Little Yellow Car”…something “cute and Canadian”, added Dallas.

All the components for the car are “as Canadian as possible”, except for the battery pack, which is currently a product of the United States. The battery pack, at 321 kilograms, is half the weight of the car. We have designed the car to make the energy on board used solely for motive power. This design, on a full charge, is about a 200 km range, while its top speed reaches 99 km/h. The design can accommodate future considerations for energy storage and even today speed/torque and entry access are currently programmable.

The body was designed by Montreal-based renowned Canadian designer Paul Deutschman, who is best known for his famous design of the Callaway C series automobiles. Most electric based transportation designs are industrial. To apply these designs to a consumer product based on traditional automotive principles was challenging to say the least.

Adding to the vehicle’s impressive resume, the car will soon be in a premier television series, which will feature a character best described as “an electric car advocate and also on the History Channel in a program called Name This.”

Dallas notes, “The electric car industry is actually over 100 years old and the key components in the drive systems have now begun to advance in leaps and bounds which is why, in addition to the costs coming down, they are technically ready to hit the streets”.

Unique business model

Classified as a small and medium-sized enterprise (SME), Toronto Electric always keeps on the move, acknowledging that it “doesn’t matter what year it is” as there will always be challenges. With that, Toronto Electric keeps ahead of the curve by constantly creating ideas for new engineering-based products so customers can move materials (and now people) safely and quickly. And the hallmark of the company is just that—extreme engineering coupled with safety, which means keeping current with engineering and design practices to create leading edge products.

In commenting on Toronto Electric’s intellectual property transfer to its Project Eve electric mobility project, Dallas added, “We are aiming for an open source pool to give businesses and government more access to data and outcomes from their choices so they can make smarter decisions for their actual mobility needs.”

Brass era car restoration

In 1916 Raush and Lang was a premiere electric car manufacturer. Dallas describes the car as a “totally mechanical” vehicle. The restoration of this brass era car required a hefty amount of elbow grease but, most impressive, at nearly 100 years old, it is still running.

“It is a fairly interesting design, which has taught us that when designing a new electric vehicle today, you can find something from a 100 year-old that was more advanced in some areas.

It’s a machine that needs new parts and there are no drawings,” said Dallas. “It is a dual-drive car, so you can drive it from the front or back seat. We drive around in it when we get the time and then we put it back in the shop and study the design some more.”

An interesting project, indeed, as Toronto Electric is always striving with its research and development skills to get the vehicle to drive even further than originally designed. The overall restoration includes rewinding of the car’s motor, variac adjustment and electrical wiring replacement (resistor pack).

Eye toward the future

Simply put, the goal for Toronto Electric is “in terms of business growth, is to be ahead of and understand the technology curve. Growth is seen as advancing the technology in existing and new electrical designs,” Dallas concluded. “The goal of the company is, quite simply, to use our electrical knowledge and experience to strive to do better for the environment. We typically don’t advertise; it is still largely word of mouth but that is all changing too. We perform a good job in our area of experience and we expand our market that way”.

Electric mobility won’t be rushed. 100 years ago electric drive lost the market to a cheap, poorly designed transportation method. It seems the consumer realizes the consequences of this now.

“The turtle always wins the race.”