Many of us know that electric vehicles (EVs) have been around since the 19th century, but a lot of us didn’t know that Fortum has created a prototype of an electric car back in 1985, which was even shown at the Geneva Car Convention. While the history is fascinating, we gathered at Fortum HQ with 100 Future Female members and EV enthusiasts to hear what’s new and buzzing, more precisely about the situation and future of Electric Vehicles and eMobility from the viewpoints of private- and public transport.

Mariana Mota, one of Fortum’s talented Data Scientists, has worked on Fortum’s Charge & Drive project from the beginning when the team was two people and one dog until today when they hold market leader position in eMobility. Despite not having a driver’s license, she is a self-proclaimed EV enthusiast and an expert on handling the massive data set the have gathered over the years.

So where are we today and what does the future hold for EVs?

Mariana gave us a very interesting overview on the explosive growth of EVs in the Nordics. Even though the history of EVs has been slow so far, the global trends and demand are rapidly changing today, and focusing on building a smart infrastructure to cater for that demand seems more than timely.
In Norway alone EVs have gained a massive nearly 60% share of new vehicle purchases, while Sweden and Finland are following, but slowly.

But what are the things holding us back from switching to EVs?

Looking at this from Finland’s viewpoint some factors we learned are:

  • Finnish people don’t change cars very often – we have the second oldest fleet of cars in Europe (after Greece)
  • Prices and taxes are high. Norway has subsidies, Sweden tax exemption. In Finland you have to pay Car Tax and VAT.
  • There are not so many models available. If you want an EV, there are long waits from 6 months to a year.
  • There are also challenges that importers face – there is simply not enough stock to go around.

We also learned that range anxiety is a big factor for people who are considering purchasing an EV. This is something Fortum Charge & Drive is tackling. It means building a functional and well covered charger infrastructure, and doing it in a smart way. Not just covering the country in a massive amount of chargers which would be hard to maintain.

As for the prices of EVs, it was surprising to hear that according to research we are on the verge of price parity, and this can happen as soon as 2022.

So in terms of prices and infrastructure, the situation looks positive in terms of EVs gaining an even stronger foothold in the existing market in the Nordics.

But is this the ultimate goal – to increase the amount of EVs in comparison to normal vehicles?

Ulla Tikkanen, a multi talented Architect/Industrial Engineer/City Developer who has worked with urban development and eMobility (among other things) thinks that it should not be the ultimate objective to simply increase the amount of cars even if they are electric. She is working at Forum Virium, an internal “innovation startup” of the City of Helsinki, on projects around public transport. At the moment, more specifically – Robot Busses.

Project Fabulos in specific is an EU funded piloting of Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) in 6 European cities, Helsinki being one of them. The aim is to support these cities’ carbon neutrality and emission reduction goals, by placing AVs into traffic and reducing emissions through the use of public transport. As many know, Helsinki specifically has a goal to become carbon neutral in 2035 and Fabulos is one of the projects aiming at supporting this goal.

Ulla told us a couple of things that enable us to bring AVs into Finland:

  • As in many other countries we have laws that state that any vehicle needs to have a driver, but in Finland the driver doesn’t need to be physically in the vehicle.
  • We have flexible authorities.
  • We have great connection and 5G.

But as Ulla reminded us, the end goal here is not just to “bring cool robot busses into cities” (which likely would be completely fine with a lot of people), but to really think about what it is these cities need?

In terms of Helsinki, we learned that there are shortcomings in public transport leading to challenges with for example congestion. These AVs could potentially complement our existing public transport in a very cost effective way and in the best case relieve that congestion while reducing emissions. So fingers crossed that this piloting project succeeds!

The robot busses will be field tested in March 2020 in our own Pasila so get ready to change your perception of that part of the city.

Lastly Ulla dropped a small reminder for those who are in the game:

“When developing new technologies, both the private and public sector should be involved, so that you keep the big picture in mind and the services are scalable. People will use what is easiest for them, so there is a lot of societal responsibility involved in developing these services”

A massive thank you for Mariana and Ulla for the informative key notes and clearly inspiring the audience. The discussion was so lively and full of vibrant conversation that it seemed more of a massive family gathering than a meetup. It also helped that the audience seemed to be full of experts from EV owners and Fortum employees to Future Female’s own car enthusiast Anu.

Also a huge thanks for Fortum for hosting, and the Tesla Club Finland for bringing us some amazing cars to check out!

More information on the Charge & Drive, Fabulos and much more can be found from:
Facebook group for EV enthusasts (in Finnish): Sähköautot – Nyt!