Fortum has launched projects with the cities of Espoo in Finland and Stockholm in Sweden to explore the potential and practicalities of modern electric car technology. The projects reflect the utility’s long-term commitment to a lower CO₂ footprint.
Fortum and Espoo, Finland’s second-largest city, launched a joint project towards the end of 2008 to prepare the foundations for the widescale introduction of electric cars and help reduce traffic emissions. A key part of the project will be to develop the infrastructure needed to recharge vehicles, essential if the adoption of new-generation electric cars is to go as smoothly as possible when manufacturers launch them commercially. Fortum has a similar project under way in Stockholm.
The Espoo project has acquired a small fleet of rechargeable hybrid and battery electric vehicles for test use during the first phase of the project, and will use five recharging points.
In addition to testing the performance of different vehicles and recharging techniques, the project will focus on the different ways that could be used for paying for recharging and the suitability of electric cars for use as taxis and in public transportation, as well as how they cope with the Nordic winter.
The project is in line with the sustainability targets of both Fortum and Espoo, and mitigating climate change by moving to a more low-carbon society.
A study published late last year indicated that some 75% of Finns believe that using electric cars could help reduce emissions and energy consumption and curb climate change – and that people are keen to know more about the opportunities offered by the technology.
|One of the cars in the Fortum-Espoo trial. Capable of enabling people to drive 100 kilometres for less than €2, as the sticker on the side says, the financial benefits are obvious. The environmental benefits are at least as compelling.
Ideal for urban environments
Recent progress has resulted in batteries that are lighter, more durable, faster to recharge, and cheaper to manufacture – and has gone some way to eliminating some of the major obstacles that have prevented the adoption of electrical vehicles up until now, despite the first models having been launched well over 100 years ago. Greenhouse gas issues and the uncertainties surrounding the price and sufficiency of oil supplies have been important catalysts here.
Today’s rechargeable electric car technology is split between battery electric vehicles and hybrids that include a combustion engine. The latter technology eliminates a number of the limitations on driving longer distances that have always been a problem for electric cars, making them ideal for urban use, where trips tend to be short and speeds relatively low.
All share the benefits of electric motors that can be as much as three times more efficient than conventional combustion engines. They can also offer substantial savings in terms of running costs, and lower CO2 emissions of course.
The level of the latter depends on the way the electricity used for recharging is generated. In the case of condensing power, the reduction is minimal, while if the electricity is generated using renewable sources, the reduction is 100%. Using the Nordic average, actual emission reductions could be between 60% and 90%.
In addition, primary energy usage can also be reduced. If renewable energy were used to generate the electricity used for 70% of the kilometres driven by the cars on Finland’s roads today, the country’s current primary energy usage of around 28 TWh would be halved. A reduction of around 5 million tonnes of CO2 emissions would be achieved as well.
Significant new generating capacity would not be required, as the majority of recharging could take place at night, when demand is lower.
|Fortum is also working with the City of Stockholm to explore the potential of plug-in electric cars.