Fredericton’s Potential Motors is preparing to build and sell its own electric off-road vehicle in a bid to demonstrate the value of its control system software, with a prototype already built and set to be publicly revealed next quarter.

Chief Executive Sam Poirier said in an interview that the offering will be a ground-up design meant to showcase the potential benefits of electrification in off-road vehicles, which are almost exclusively still hydrocarbon-powered. And in a press release, Potential said the vehicle will be a “side by side” — essentially a car or extremely small truck built for off-roading, often with an open-air cabin.

“We believe that there's an opportunity for a new segment of off-road vehicles to emerge, that’s not hindered by how off-road vehicles have always been built in the past,” said Poirier.

“Electric architecture can open up new ideas in terms of design … that I believe people in the off-road community will be really delighted by.”

Founded in 2018 by a team of engineering students from the University of New Brunswick — Michael Barnhill, Nick Dowling, Isaac Barkhouse and Poirier — Potential’s main business is developing software to help control off-road EVs. Electric vehicles rely on software to manage functions like modulating how much power is sent to the wheels, how the vehicle responds to steering input and the behaviour of adjustable suspension systems.

The Potential side by side will be sold in low volumes. Poirier said that although the vehicle will generate revenue, it is also meant to act as a proof of concept for possible licensees of Potential’s technology.

“The goal is to be a craft vehicle maker, where we are producing low quantities as a showpiece for the technology that we're developing,” he said.

Asked about how the company would manufacture its off-roader and whether it would be a joint project with an established brand, Poirier said he could not comment yet, but would make an announcement later this year.

Last month, Potential raised US$3.2 million or C$4.07 million from investors that include Montreal- and Toronto-based Brightspark Ventures and Marc Benioff’s TIME Ventures.

TIME Ventures was a new investor in the latest raise, with existing investor Brightspark leading the round. Existing shareholders Build Ventures and the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation also re-upped their stakes. Build is based in Halifax and run by General Partners Patrick Keefe and Rob Barbara. 

Iin what Poirier considers a significant coup for the company, it has hired 25-year industry veteran Michael Uhlarik as its new head of design. Uhlarik has worked as the editor in chief of a motorcycle trade publication, as well as for Bombardier as a Project Leader for Advanced Concepts and as Head of Design for Vancouver-based electric motorcycle company Damon Motors.

So far, Poirier’s team includes 21 people and he is hiring for another five roles, listed on Potential’s careers page. The job openings are:

  • Automotive Mechanical Engineer
  • Electrical Engineer

  • Embedded Software Developer

  • Computer Vision & AI Software Engineer

  • Contract Electrician