Wednesday, July 5th – CleanTech at FCA & Union Gas
Automotive Research and Development Centre (ARDC)
Today we started our first activity day of CleanTech Academy by visiting two of Windsor-Essex’s most well-known employers – Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and Union Gas. We met at 9 am at the FCA’s Automotive Research and Development Centre, or ARDC. We learned loads about how much work goes into designing and improving vehicles, especially the highly efficient hybrid version of Chrysler’s Pacifica. Countless hours went into designing the world’s first hybrid minivan, producing substantially less emissions than its gas-powered counterpart, which uses only 8.4L/100km!
Chrysler engineers explained extensively to us the huge improvements FCA has recently made in reducing their vehicle’s emissions. The emissions from a pre-1980 vehicle are equal to the combined emissions of over 30 third-generation vehicles! The newest generation of vehicles comprises the fourth generation, which generates even fewer emissions than its predecessor. We saw the design work that is done prior to actually constructing the vehicle, even for items seemingly so simple as seats. The Pacifica’s seats employ an innovative mechanism to easily fold completely into the floor. Although this is very simple for the consumer, they required many hours of work to construct properly.
We also had the opportunity to see the ARDC’s labs themselves, like road testing laboratories. Vehicles are tested there using hydraulics to simulate the terrain of real-life roads. The recycling lab was super interesting, where the ability to disassemble and dispose of the vehicle is determined. Following the recycling lab, we glimpsed the corrosion lab, where vehicles are subjected to extreme conditions to test their durability. We concluded our tour of the ARDC by viewing the simply colossal headlight testing centre, used to test vehicles’ headlights in a variety of conditions, including heavy fog. Afterwards, we moved across the road to Union Gas’s Windsor distribution office.
Despite being focused on the distribution of a fossil fuel, Union Gas acts as a leader in sustainability and CleanTech. The distribution centre is LEED Gold certified, meaning that it adheres to the highest standards of efficiency and uses many energy saving innovations. We learned more about Union Gas’s steps to reducing its carbon footprint and that of its consumers. Even the trucks at Union Gas now run on natural gas, showing how every stage of Union Gas’s distribution network is being made more sustainable! Union Gas gives its consumers information on how to make their home more efficient. This information can help them reduce the amount of natural gas and other resources that they use. Another important step that we learned about is to notify authorities prior to digging. If someone unintentionally disrupts a gas or other resource line, they could cause massive and potentially dangerous problems.
The office itself is semi-independent of the grid and is one of Union Gas’s three most innovative offices. Each combines many sustainable technologies to create highly efficient buildings. The Windsor office uses co-generation, meaning that some of the resources the building uses are generated by itself. The building includes a reciprocating engine that uses natural gas to generate electricity, heat, and cooling for the building. This highly efficient system also uses heat exchangers to reduce the amount of resources used by 80%! It was incredible to see how much the technology had developed and how far the building had come. We had an amazing day at the ARDC and Union Gas learning more about CleanTech and the developments taking place in our region!
Find out what else made the Deans List in Marcus’ daily CleanTech Academy recaps:
Marcus Deans currently attends Académie Ste Cécile International School in Windsor and is looking forward to learning more about the technology and business world as part of WEtech Alliance. Outside of school, Marcus volunteers with the Canadian Cancer Society, the WindsorEssex Community Foundation, and the City of Windsor. He has also served in several leadership positions at youth-run companies as part of Junior Achievement. Marcus also enjoys science and has ranked internationally in youth science competitions as part of Team Canada.