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In 2011, Finland’s national innovation support agency Tekes formed the EVE – Electric Vehicle Systems program, an electric vehicle development initiative aimed at piloting, testing, and demonstrating the vehicles and related infrastructure with the goal of improving technology and increasing public awareness. Over the course the program’s five-year duration, the contributing consortia made a considerable impact on the development of the electric vehicle industry. The recently published program report finds that the EVE program resulted in the foundation of some ten start-up firms and contributed to the growth of existing companies on international markets.

The Eco Urban Living initiative was one of the five independent consortia that made up the program, orchestrated by Synocus Group, bringing together automotive manufacturer Valmet Automotive, VTT the Technical Research Center of Finland, the City of Espoo, and educational institutions Aalto University, Hanken School of Economics, and Lappeenranta University of Technology. The EUL initiative focused on the development of passenger vehicles and services in an urban context, exploring elements ranging from battery technology and charging infrastructure to consumer behavior.

As the leading corporate member of the EUL consortium, Valmet Automotive, a leading service provider for the global automotive industry with a wide range of services that cover engineering, manufacturing, roof systems, and consulting—used the opportunity provided by the EUL initiative to develop its expertise in electric vehicle engineering. During the initiative, Valmet Automotive tested a new Framecar platform which would speed up product development through a combination of laboratory testing and practical experience. This platform has since come to be an essential aspect of the company’s product development process, used in battery system development, the integration of control systems, and the development of mechanical solutions. Enabling Valmet Automotive to verify the viability of new technologies at an early stage, the platform has allowed the company to apply for a number of patents in electric drive train and battery technology.

Alongside the development of market-leading approaches and technologies for the private sector, the EUL initiative also contributed to noteworthy academic research. The EV-Acte research project (Acting Effectively in Emerging Ecosystems), carried out by Robin Gustafsson and Timo Vuori of the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management at Aalto University, strived to advance understanding of the birth of new business ecosystems and the role which firms play in spurring them. The researchers continued their work following their participation in the EUL initiative, ultimately forming significant insights into how firms use soft-strategic methods to influence the development of corporate partnerships and ecosystems.

The EUL initiative also served as a platform for the early development of the World Alliance for Low Carbon Cities, a non-profit alliance of cities, academic institutions, and corporations united in the pursuit of a low-carbon future. The WALCC continued to evolve in the years following its inception in the EUL initiative, 2016 will see the Alliance host its 10th and 11th low-carbon development world forums in Chongqing, China and Turku, Finland this May and October, respectively.

Synocus continued to build on the experience gained in the EUL initiative through the Systemic Architectures for Sustainable Urban Innovation project which explored the role of social innovations in promoting a low-carbon urban environment together with Aalto University and the University of Tampere. Synocus has also continued to advance urban mobility solutions through its participation in Finnish efforts to form Mobility-as-a-Service solutions, actively seeking opportunities in a number of nationally funded research and development projects together with a range of industry leading partners.

For more on Valmet Automotive’s electric vehicle expertise see their website.

To read up on Synocus’s further efforts in urban sustainability and low-carbon vehicles, see the WALCC’s website.

Download the project report at Tekes’s website.

While European sales of electric vehicles in 2013 declined overall, Finnish consumers have displayed growing interest in the industry. Recently released sales figures for the month of February show promising signs of life for the struggling industry, selling 475 new electric vehicles in the month. While EV sales represent a mere 5% of all car sales over the month, this figure does represent a full 81% growth from February 2012 at the beginning of public electric vehicle sales in Finland.

Source: Electrictraffic.fi news story 

More information on car sales 

The global producer of power and electrical networks related technology ABB is joining together with Daimler’s Chinese partner BYD to support establishing a national fast charging network for electric vehicles. Beginning in mid-2014 with wall-mounted charging units sold through dealerships, alongside BYD’s EV models, the network is set to become the world’s largest fast charging network by the end of its six year roll out.

The DC fast charging network will utilize the GBT standard, setting it apart from recent movement towards a consensus technology in the West, and thus poses a significant threat to EV charging standardization given the potentially massive size and influence of the Chinese EV market.

Source: ABB press release 

Read more: Detailed information on the GBT charging standard.

A total of just over 50 000 electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles were sold throughout Europe over the course of the first eleven months of 2013. While marking a slight uptick from 2012 sales figures this total failed to live up to the market predictions of a few years ago, much less the vast change necessitated to keep a pace of environmental developments.

The year’s best selling vehicle in this class was, quite predictably, Nissan’s market dominating Leaf which nearly reached the 10 000 unit mark in Europe, falling just shy at 9 833 units sold through November but maintaining a solid lead over the competition with Renault’s ZOE coming in second with 8 138 vehicles sold. Rounding out the top five were the Renault Kangoo Z.E., the Volvo V60 plug-in, and the Toyota Prius plug-in.

U.S. sales figures for the year provided slightly more hope than Europe’s less than impressive growth, nearly doubling 2012’s total of 53 000 cars to reach a roughly 96 000 over the year. In contrast to the Nissan Leaf’s European dominance, the American market continued to be ruled by the Chevrolet Volt, as has been the case since its release in 2010, edging out the Leaf’s 22 610 units at 23 094.

In addition to these two strong mass market leaders, the Tesla Model S is expected to make a significant showing, given its premium price, estimated to reach as high as 18 000 units sold over the year.

Source: European sales figures in Tekniikan Maailma (in Finnish)

US sales figures from Green Car Reports 

The Finnish technology research and development institute VTT is undertaking a significant new international research and development initiative which aims to develop improve the efficiency and safety of traffic as well as reduce transit sector greenhouse emissions. The initiative, called Drive C2X, will explore, among several technologies and solutions aimed at making smart traffic solutions more adept at handling the harsh conditions posed by Finland’s cold weather conditions. This €19 million research initiative sees VTT enter into ever close collaboration with the world’s leading automobile manufacturers; including Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, and Opel.

For more information on the Drive C2X project, see the EU Commission’s official website 

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