HE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION HAD A GOAL OF ONE MILLION
electric vehicles on the road by 2015 to break the United States’ dependence
on oil. To help in meeting that goal, stimulus funding was
spent to promote advanced vehicles and a domestic battery industry.
Canadian Urban Transit Research & Innovation Consortium Executive
Director & CEO Dr. Josipa Petrunic said that was happening
at a time when the auto sector was decimated by the recession and
struggling to fi gure out how it was going to survive into the future.
“In the U.S., there was all this investment by the government
to really shore up the industry and in Canada, there was nothing,”
she said. “Federally, there was extremely little investment. Th ere were
some loan programs created, but very little.”
At that time, Petrunic was at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario,
trying to create the policies and do the research to justify why this
kind of electric vehicle innovation had to happen in Canada or it would
lose its auto sector. She was working in the engineering department at the
university where the big global focus was electric hybrid and electric cars.
She was working as a senior policy analyst and researcher there
for about two years, pulling together companies in Canada who were
doing electric vehicle research and development.
“We were trying to convince the federal and provincial government,
as well as industry partners, to co-invest in an innovation
consortium that would kick start Canada’s innovation capacity, R&D
and commercialization in electric vehicles.”
The start of CUTRIC
In 2014, some private industry members and public transit agencies
in Canada conglomerated under the Canadian Urban Transit Association
with a vision to create an innovation consortium that would
push forward projects on behalf of transportation — specifi cally public
transportation and shared mobility. Petrunic said they had a great idea
and a $50,000 loan that CUTA members put up as fi nancing.
As Petrunic was reaching out for seed money for research of electric
technologies in the auto industry, she was approached and asked if she
would consider doing the exact same thing for public transportation.
“Th ey had opened up a call for a director and then I entered that call
and the rest is history,” she laughed.
In the early days, most transit agencies were not prepared to
think about electric vehicles. A lot of companies Petrunic had been
working with were in the auto sector, fl eet operators, truck manufacturers,
service delivery or maintenance operations organizations,
and utilities and energy producers.
As she started in CUTRIC, the auto
industry didn’t particularly come forward,
she said, as the job was essentially to reduce
single-passenger car consumption.
Fast forward four years and now, she said,
they have companies like Toyota, GM and
Ford reaching out to them.
“Th ere’s a lot of convergence that’s
starting to happen,” said Petrunic. “Not
as companies, but in terms of strategic
focus in the next 10 to 20 years to survive
and be profi table.”
JULY/AUGUST 2018 | MassTransitmag.com | Mass Transit | 13
CUTRIC LAUNCHED its
& Integration Trial in
Vancouver, B.C. During
the announcement, they
also remembered the
victims, families and fellow
Canadians impacted by
the Humboldt Broncos,
after the junior ice hockey
team’s bus was in a
collision that left 16 dead
and another dozen injured.
The Canadian Urban Transit
Research & Innovation Consortium
leads collaborative research
and project development to
advance Canada’s mobility and
By Leah Harnack