Veera Mustonen and Natalia Reen of Forum Virium Helsinki discusses electric vehicle charging infrastructure in the city’s Kalasatama district.
To meet the needs of the growing population, the City of Helsinki aims to build quality neighbourhoods where people can enjoy both work and leisure. The recent construction of a new cargo harbour in the east of the City, some distance from the city centre, has provided the opportunity to develop several new districts close to the old town. To boost new sustainable urban solutions, the Helsinki City Council decided in 2013 to make one of the new area construction sites, Kalasatama, a model district of smart city development. Kalasatama is a former harbour and industrial area of approximately 175 hectares of waterfront on the eastern side of the city centre and owned by the City of Helsinki. The new Kalasatama area of Helsinki will be the test bed district for this project, and will offer a home for approximately 25,000 residents as well as jobs for 10,000 people by 2035. Currently, there are 3,000 people living in the area.
A key ambition of Smart Kalasatama is to turn smart and clean development into something truly human-centric. Thus the vision of Smart Kalasatama takes the resident in the centre and promises that each resident in the district will gain an extra hour of their own time every day. So, the district will need to be so resource-efficient that new city services save people the most valuable of their resources: their own time. Besides being sustainable, the smart and clean innovations need also to create a firm foundation to allow people to manage their lives better. The one-hour challenge means we need excellent mobility and logistic service, and the possibility to work, live and play in the proximity of one’s home. Further, the one-hour challenge should result in a wealth of business opportunities. How can we create 21st Century urban services that enable people to manage their lives better and in a sustainable way? Service creation will be supported by digitalisation and data. A future vision is to provide an internet of things (IoT) platform that works as a system for systems service across different industries, enabling data-driven services to integrate.
Smart Kalasatama is already a vivid smart city experimental innovation platform to co-create smart and clean urban infrastructure and services. The district has been developed flexibly and through piloting in close co-operation with more than 150 organisations, including large and small companies, city officials and universities. Active companies in the district include developer and construction companies, a local energy company, ICT and smart city start-ups, and consulting companies. The Smart Kalasatama Innovator’s Club network meets regularly to offer a platform for matchmaking and sharing for all active developers in the district. Moreover, the Smart Kalasatama programme hosts weekly co-creation workshops and events to accelerate smart and sustainable urban development in the district.
The Smart Kalasatama programme is running an ambitious innovation platform, where more than 30 innovative infrastructures and smart service projects are on-going. In addition to that, Smart Kalasatama is hosting innovative agile experimentation projects, where mainly start-ups co-develop their new smart solution prototypes with the residents in the district. For instance, several projects are experimenting with smart waste management, smart minigrids and mobility as a service (MaaS). All in all, the Kalasatama smart district aims at being a world-class test bed for new, smart, integrated solutions which could be replicated and scaled up elsewhere. Thus, the new solutions are oriented toward commercialisation, looking for first experiences and a reference in Kalasatama.
The City of Helsinki executive office is leading the area construction project in Kalasatama and governing the Smart Kalasatama programme, with the deputy mayor, Anni Sinnemäki, being the chair of the board. It is co-ordinated by the 100% city-owned Smart City Innovation and development agency, Forum Virium Helsinki, and, as Smart Kalasatama is receiving its main funding through Finnish 6Aika Smart City programme, it is also governed by the Uusimaa Regional Fund, which is responsible for 6Aika European Regional Development Funds (ERDF).
Ecological solutions are important in the plans for the Kalasatama area. Public transportation in Helsinki, for example, will be carbon neutral by 2020 and effective public transport, which helps to reduce air pollution, is one of the greatest benefits in Kalasatama. To facilitate this, the transport system is based on the development of the metro and other connecting services, including tram lines and bus services. A new mini terminal in the metro station will serve as an intersection of public transport in the future, connecting Kalasatama to the city centre and other parts of the Helsinki metropolitan area.
Finland is intent on raising the number of electric vehicles (EV) on its roads to 250,000 by 2030, which will constitute 25% of all vehicles. This is a tremendous increase when compared to the current figure of 0.5%. It will be challenging to achieve this goal without significant improvements, innovations and investments in car charging infrastructure.
Kalasatama is probably the best-equipped district to push EV usage as the city requires one-third of the parking slots in the district to have EV charging facilities. Moreover, the first solely EV sharing company is already located and active in the district. Some rental houses provide shared EVs for their residents in their own parking halls as part of the living services they offer. This spring, Kalasatama agile piloting has hosted a pilot by a start-up company Parkkisähkö to boost EV usage by turning traditional heat poles into EV charging poles. The pilot also integrates EV charging to smart minigrids, so that solar energy can be stored and used for charging.
Although much is already happening in Kalasatama with regards to electric vehicle promotion and sharing, there is an obvious reason why driving out of Kalasatama is difficult. The EV charging infrastructure in Helsinki is very weak and not particularly interoperable. Addressing this challenge in EV charging is the focus of a new project in Kalasatama.
The bIoTope EU-project aims at supporting municipalities and the state to improve charging infrastructure by increasing the number of charging stations, providing interoperability between different services suppliers, and improving quality of services. It will be achieved by creating systems of systems (SoS) where information from cross-domain platforms, devices and other information sources can be accessed as and when needed using Standardised Open APIs. The project also offers a framework for security, privacy and trust that facilitates the responsible access, use and ownership of data, even when data is stored in vertical applications/silos. Suitable billing mechanisms for IoT will be developed to support micro-transactions for facilitating IoT market creation.
The current charging infrastructure comprises different types of charging stations and is built and owned by several big players, as well as a few smaller companies. The EV charging stations are located mainly within large cities, in some big shopping malls, in new residential areas and private parking places. In order to ensure charging possibility, for example, Ekorent (the company that leases electric vehicles) installs their own charging stations for each car they rent. The development of the infrastructure for charging is driven by the interests and strategies of these companies.
Additional challenges arise due to the fact that in Nordic countries there is already existing electrical infrastructure to pre-heat cars during winter. In fact, there are a lot of poles with embedded electrical outlets on the streets and parking areas, including residential areas, companies’ parking places, and some public and private parking places. With (or even without) some modifications, they could be used for slow charging services.
There are two major players (Liikkenne Virta and Fortum) and several small companies that have their own charging poles, authentication and payment systems, as well as mobile and web applications where one can find, book and pay for their services. However, there is neither a single entry point nor a standardised interface to access information about all existing charging possibilities in the area, their availability and calendars. As a result, electric car manufacturers do not have full information about charging possibilities that they could use in the car dashboard. Currently, car dashboards provide limited information about charging possibilities; in some cases this information is based only on crowd-sources services.
In fact, in order to ensure their journeys are possible, the drivers of electric vehicles must check the existing charging service providers and their facilities in the area in advance. Moreover, in many cases, service providers require registration that implies certain fees and hard tokens to open the pole.
There are several initiatives and discussions about increasing the credibility of the charging service by providing a roaming between the providers and using residential and other electrical poles – such as German company Hubject and Swedish project ElBnB. Maps service Here (which is currently owned by car manufacturers) is integrated with some models’ dashboards and can parse information from the different suppliers. However, it cannot contain information from independent suppliers and residential charging as it is encrypted to protect the relevant manufacturers.
Thus there is a need to create a system in Finland that would integrate all charging possibilities into the same place/map/service catalogue and provide complete information through user interfaces for the end users, and through standardised open APIs to the service developers regarding charging possibilities. The bIoTope project offers technology, methodology and a framework for such an ecosystem (see picture below).
The development of such a ‘charging ecosystem’ would benefit all stakeholders. Drivers can find all possible charging stations in the region and thus have better opportunities to plan and secure travelling. They would not need to know different providers in the region or have several subscriptions for different providers. Drivers can easily compare service levels and prices, and can use the same access credentials for all charging stations. An additional benefit would be a parking solution for electrical cars, which would be important in crowded areas.
Car manufacturers/providers do not need to make separate contracts with all possible service providers in the area as they acquire access to crowd-sourced charging services. Nor do they need to adapt implementation for each service providers’ proprietary interface, thus enabling them to deliver more cars to the region.
Charging service providers will be visible in all car dashboards. They can focus on certain service developments and buy complementary services from others (for example, authentication and payment services). The number of electric vehicles will increase and thus their businesses will grow.
Cities and regions will achieve better quality of life and services for people, as well as introduce more electric vehicles to the region. The ecosystem will create new business opportunities (e.g. ecosystems operations, new business applications), improve current competitive landscape, and optimise public and private assets.
Forum Virium Helsinki
This article will appear in Pan European Networks: Government 22, which will be published in July.