Electric cars are being developed in the Central Ostrobothnia region of Finland with the combined effort of an international cluster. Electric car will be a noteworthy alternative to the combustion engine vehicle, as soon as the ongoing development work produces a battery that is lighter and cheaper than the existing battery.
The electric car cluster is supported by the Environmentally Friendly Expertise in Material Technology -project funded by the Regional Council of Central Ostrobothnia and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The original aim was to develop Central Ostrobothnia's competitiveness in lithium refinement by searching for new business opportunities.
– On ground of the project's preliminary report we arrived to the conclusion that the operational prerequisites in the region are promising. The goal was concretized as an electric vehicle, with a concept around it, which was tested by an extensive survey carried out in the EU region. Also these results were extremely encouraging, Project Manager Timo Sivula tells.
Finishing touches on the design
A requirements specification has been carried out for the electric car, surveying and investigating the type approval requirements applying to the vehicle.
– User requirements were completed in the summer and at the moment we are finalizing the design of the car, Sivula says.
– We are now looking for additional funding from private and public sources for producing a prototype of the car.
About ten companies from Finland, Germany and Switzerland are involved in the project. Car design and mechanical expertise have been subcontracted from German and Swiss companies that have designed vehicles for instance for Porsche, Ferrari, Mercedes, Audi and BMW. Composite, battery and software design will be sourced from Finland.
– Our biggest challenge is in developing a battery that enables as long a driving range as possible, and getting its price to a level where the vehicle's manufacturing costs are kept reasonable. In the development work we put special emphasis on the volume, weight and energy-storage capacity of the battery.
Reaching the top
For several decades Central Ostrobothnia's boat industry has helped the region to accumulate expertise in the field of composite materials and mass-production. The region has also Europe's only known over 500 square metre lithium discovery, which also supports the battery and electric vehicle industry in the region.
Expertise in the field is found in the local Kokkola University Consortium, which has for years already worked towards developing chemicals for lithium-ion-batteries, and from KETEK, a technology centre specialized in the field of chemistry. Business prerequisites are increased by the region's excellent logistical position and a deep-water harbour, which is kept open all year round.
From a global viewpoint Finland is reaching the top in development work. We have good chances of developing industry in our field, since the market window is still open, Sivula notes.