Finland - Charging Infrastructure

By Country

Energy supply

The energy mix in Finland varies with the consumption, but on average roughly 35–40% is produced from fossil fuels and peat, 30% from nuclear, and 30–35% from renewable sources (water, biofuels and wind).

The average CO2 emission per kWh for the electricity produced is approximately 175 g CO2/kWh. Emissions vary widely during the year, mainly depending on the overall consumption and availability of hydro power. Peak power is produced with fossil fuels with most of the continuously used fossil power plants used for heat production.

Assuming that an electric vehicle consumes ~0.3 kWh/km, the emissions would be 60 g CO2/km when the average of new cars is ~150g CO2/km (2010). Current energy production is sufficient to handle the power needed for electric vehicles. For example, one million EVs (40% of the total vehicle fleet) would require 4 TWh per year, which is less than 5% of the annual electricity consumption in 2010 (87.5 TWh).

Energy consumption by industry is high. Finland is the world’s northernmost industrialized nation, and the Nordic climate increases the energy needs for household heating, saunas, and boilers. As a result, the existing transmission system can easily adapt for the electricity needed for electric car charging. It is estimated that implementing up to 500,000 EVs would be very easy, with only minimal changes in the low-voltage electrical distribution network and house installations.

Infrastructure and Block Heaters

Finland has two levels of existing charging infrastructure on its streets. There are very few charging stations targeted for electric cars. As of the end of 2010, the rough amounts are 20–30 slow charging stations (220V/16A), with a few fast charging stations (400V/250A). The number of specific charging stations will increase in coming years due to new demonstration projects bringing up to 500 electric cars into the Helsinki area.

There are 1.5 million block heaters commonly used to preheat cars due to cold Nordic temperatures that with certain modifications would be able to charge EVs.  A block heater is an element which is installed inside the motor block in order to warm up the cooling water and thereby the whole motor before starting.

Timing the EV charge requires balancing with the electrical load. Without any monitoring and control of EV charging, the cars could increase the peak power of distribution networks up to three times as much compared with the present load level on a medium-voltage feeder. However, using an intelligent charging system would adjust charging times to a low-electricity-load period.

The photos above depict a “block heater pole” and a view from a car park of a row house condominium. There are typically standard “2-hour” timers at block heater poles. The starting time is selected by the user, but the heating time is fixed for two hours from the start.

If block heaters are used as charging stations, they can also gather interesting data on plug-in cars. It is recommended that a block heater be used when the temperature is less than +5°C. Block heater supplies have lockable boxes with two standard electrical sockets. Typically, each socket is equipped with its own fuse or breaker and a 24-hour timer that allows two hours of continuous heating time per session. These boxes are mounted either on a wall or a pole as seen above in the photos.

This Nordic-wide “human laboratory test” using block heater systems to charge EVs has a public perception advantage. People are educated to plug in their cars on a daily basis. This habit increases a car owner’s ability to easily adapt to the introduction of PHEVs and EVs and daily charging. The block heaters are accepted as a part of landscape in parking areas or at residences. Additionally, they are considered safe to use and are rarely vandalized.