Helsinki converts its heavy-duty vehicles to electric

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

Helsinki has taken on the challenge of converting its entire fleet of heavy duty diesel trucks to electric operation.

The Stara eRetrofit project has been collecting data on everything from costs to all aspects technical. Conversion of the first truck has started, with pilot runs scheduled for upcoming months. THis included power consumption of an old Scania P320 truck belonging to the city of Helsinki. The performance of the truck has been analysed for a typical operational time-slot to discover required battery capacity in the first place. The aim is that the electrified truck can perform seamlessly without excessive interruptions due to charging and therefore, drivers’ downtimes stay at the minimum viable level.

After dismantling the diesel engine and components, the truck was towed to a depot in Tampere, where the installation of the electric motors, inverters, battery pack and power electronics is now in progress. 

After functional approvals, the plan is to have the truck operate normally with urban maintenance of the Finnish capital during the first months of 2021.

The eRetrofit project is a collaboration between the city of Helsinki’s innovation company Forum Virium Helsinki, the city of Helsinki’s construction services Stara, University of Applied Sciences in Tampere and VTT Technical Research Center of Finland. The project has been funded by the City of Helsinki Innovation Fund.

“The aim is to escalate the adoption and spread of electric vehicles. We tackle the challenge by developing solutions which increase the know-how and speed up the change towards reaching low emission traffic,” said Shabnam Farahmand, who works for the forum and coordinates the project.

The main goal of the project is to get cohesive data on operating costs, relative service requirements and the feasibility of electrifying old trucks. This data, collected through telemetry as well as the technical reports, will create a broad ecosystem, which can associate to the electrification of heavy-duty vehicles, shared charging solutions, route optimisation, and maintenance services thereof as well as to the IoT, internet of things.

The electrification of Heavy-Duty Vehicles (HDV) comes about slowly, mainly due to the long operation cycles. The existing electric counterparts on the market are limited and come with a hefty price, especially when renewing a whole vehicle fleet. There are also big environmental consequences when relinquishing current vehicle fleets.  

Although it only addresses a small-scale experience, the Stara eRetrofit project has huge advantages and developing opportunities. It helps to evaluate the feasibility, profitability, and sustainability of electrifying existing heavy-duty vehicles. The pilot also provides the means and the possibility of monitoring the functionality of an electrified truck in real life practices. This in turn will tell whether electrification costs are justifiable or not. 

“If the electrification of this single truck justifies retrofitting costs and meets the functionality expectations, then we can benefit from the results in a larger scale for the entire fleet,” said Paavo Lehmonen, the Development Manager at Helsinki City Construction Services.

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