A London entrepreneur has a big dream, and a tough road ahead.
Norman De Bono | Publishing date: Nov 02, 2021: Faruk Rama envisions building a new electric vehicle in Ontario, a stylish sleek ride rolling out of a plant east of Toronto some time in 2023, he announced Tuesday from his London home.
Trouve Victory Inc. has $3 billion in backing, support from investors in Oman, as well as other private-sector money and funding from Ontario and federal governments, he said, declining to reveal details.
“We have been polluting our environment for a long time. We must wake up before it is too late to start the clean-energy solution,” said Rama, chairperson of Trouve.
“This will help the environment . . . it will make a better world for our children.”
He is just now closing a deal on about 50 hectares of land east of Toronto and wants to start production in 2023, an aggressive timeline.
However, Trouve is not well known in the Ontario auto industry.
“I don’t know them,” said Flavio Volpe, chief executive of the Auto Parts Manufacturers Association (AMPA) that represents suppliers to vehicle assemblers.
“I would be wary of anything that compresses timelines. The industry makes 100 million vehicles a year and many in the auto industry are looking to do the same thing,” he said of electric vehicle production.
“You need a prototype that has met all the safety requirements, that has been crashed and safety tested, that has been federally certified. They will have to tool a plant and it usually takes quite a while to build and install. It is hard to see how someone can do that,” in two years.
“I will say I respect the hustle, for sure.”
Trouve will be competing against established automakers and their supply chain for labour, market share, batteries and the technology needed.
“It takes a lot of money to get into this business. They will be fighting Tesla for lithium, GM for cobalt, Toyota for electric engineers. I wish him luck,” Volpe said.
Rama said the company has lined up suppliers, investors and financial support. The Ontario plant will employ about 1,000 when production begins in 2023, he said.
“We have done a lot. So far, patents have been secured, technology and licensing, all that,” Rama said. “We have built an amazing team around the globe.”
The economic development offices of the Ontario and federal governments, which work with new industry, could not be reached Tuesday for comment.
Trouve vehicles will boast an 18-minute quick charge capability and an overnight full charge in four hours, which will allow 800 to 1,000 kilometres of driving range on a single charge.
Trouve Victory ultimately envisions having plants in Ontario, the U.S., U.K. and Oman. Rama said he has been working on the plan since 2016.
APMA has created its own electric vehicle, The Arrow, not for sale but as a showpiece to manufacturers that Ontario suppliers can provide all that is needed to make an electric car here, Volpe said.
It has taken two years to develop a prototype that will be unveiled in December 2022 and it would take about another two years to begin making it, he said.
Rebekah Young, an economist and auto analyst with Scotiabank, said she has not heard of Trouve, but she believes the sector needs a lot of small startups, to create a viable industry.
“It is capital intensive to develop a new EV (electric vehicle). They will need a lot of backing,” Young said. “But we have learned from Tesla not to underestimate the potential of a startup. It takes time. It is a growth market.”
When a new market emerges, many businesses will start up to serve it, but often few will survive, economists point out.
“You may want a lot of competition at first to bring down the costs. Nine may fail, one will survive, but we need all of them,” Young said.
By way of comparison, Lucid, a new electric vehicle manufacturer in Arizona, is just now delivering its first vehicles. It was founded in 2007 and has a market value of about $60 billion.
Trouve vehicles are expected to sell for between $65,000 and $85,000, with models priced at more than $100,000.
Raed Kadri, head of the Autonomous Vehicle Integration Network, an industry agency supporting EV production, also said he was not aware of Trouve Victory, but is not surprised there are EV startups here.
“We have not worked with them, but there is opportunity in Ontario to manufacture these vehicles and develop commercial technology. There is a lot of opportunity.”
The Detroit Three automakers have pledged nearly $6 billion in investment in Ontario plants in electric technology mandates, including the Cami Assembly plant in Ingersoll producing an electric commercial van.
“There are industries investing in EV platforms, and they are looking for suppliers,” Kadri said.
Rama is owner of Gold Rock Homes, a London real estate developer since 2019.
Trouve Victory will be headquartered in Toronto.