Finland takes development of electric utility vehicles to next level

September 05, 2012 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Finland's technical research centre VTT has expanded its research environment to allow development of future electric vehicles and machinery, battery systems, and components of various types. The laboratory is also suited to testing and developing heavy vehicles. A bus with electric powertrain, assembled on Kabus Oy’s bus chassis by VTT Metropolia and Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, will accelerate the development of Finnish components.

The new investments provide VTT with an opportunity to develop technologies ranging from components to entire vehicles and machineries.

“The electrification of vehicles and machinery will come to play an increasingly visible role in VTT's research projects,” says Research Professor Nils-Olof Nylund, “combining, for example, expertise related to materials technology, electrotechnology, electric machines and vehicles. Our approach is based on the needs of the Finnish industry. In other words, we will focus on projects with actual business potential.”

VTT’s vehicle laboratory and the new battery laboratory will now provide an opportunity to study electric vehicles and their powertrain as an entity, including electric motors, electronics and batteries. Integration of testing into VTT’s powertrain modelling competence will speed up the design of new vehicles.

VTT will increase the operations in its vehicle laboratory in Otaniemi to meet the development needs of electric vehicles and electric traffic. The power supply unit mounted in the vehicle laboratory is capable of both simulating the battery system of a heavy electric vehicle under vehicle testing conditions and performing full-scale battery charge-discharge cycles. In addition to the expansion of the vehicle laboratory, a totally new battery laboratory will be introduced in September 2012 to support R&D of electric commercial vehicles.

The battery laboratory operations will be divided into R&D of battery cells, battery modules and large ready-to-use battery systems. The performance of energy storage systems suited for electric vehicles can be measured in a repeatable manner under variable controlled circumstances, such as extreme cold of -70 degrees Celsius. Testing of battery cells and battery systems under variable conditions corresponding to actual use and in various modes of operation will help the development of safer and more efficient products for various purposes.

The development of electric and hybrid vehicles for passenger traffic is highly active around the world, but competition in the development of heavy vehicles remains limited. The Finnish industry has potential for reaching good competitive