Volkswagen Group Canada’s top executive said the automotive company is continuing to focus on electric vehicles by building out infrastructure and getting involved in supply chains.

Pierre Boutin, the chief executive officer of Volkswagen Group Canada, said at the Collision tech conference in Toronto on Thursday that consumer buy-in will be critical for the company to achieve its sustainability goals.

Human mobility is currently at a “crossroads,” he said, adding that the company recently surpassed one million EVs sold around the world.

“The acceptance of technology by consumers is critical in any transformation we want to do. And the first one that I see is obviously being more cost efficient so that we can provide a lower cost EVs to the masses,” he said.

Part of gaining acceptance among consumers, according to Boutin, is increasing the range of EVs. He said that “not so long ago” the company began selling the e-Golf, which featured a 200-kilometre range, followed by the ID.4 with a 400-kilometre range. Next year, the company will launch the ID.7 with a 700-kilometre range.

Another critical measure to drive consumer interest, Boutin said, is to build out EV charging networks. He said an example of this can be seen in Electrify Canada, a partnership founded in 2018 between Volkswagen Group Canada and Electrify America working to increase the availability of EV chargers across the country.

“The second (aspect) that is really also critical is to provide fast-speed chargers to the population in general, and this is where we come into play also in transforming our country because we're also investing extensively in fast chargers. Our goal is to get 45,000 fast chargers globally in China, Europe and North America,” Boutin said.

Part of the automotive company’s efforts to build out EV infrastructure involves increasing its presence in the supply chain, according to Boutin, as the company gets involved in the mining of critical minerals.

“We need more critical minerals. We want to understand the overall supply chain. So we're sitting down with a lot of people in the mining industries, we're starting to invest in mines also,” he said.

“It’s not our core business as such, but (we’re getting involved) because we need it so rapidly.”

Within Canada, Boutin said the company is aiming to source one million electric vehicle batteries at its upcoming plant in St. Thomas, Ont.

In March, Volkswagen announced plans to create a new electric vehicle battery plant in St. Thomas. The plant will be the first overseas cell manufacturing facility for PowerCo, the Volkswagen Group’s battery company.