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Finnish companies stay mobile at sea, in air and on land

Valmet Automotive signed a letter of intent on vehicle manufacturing in July with Lightyear, the Netherlands-based technology company.

Valmet Automotive

Five Finnish companies have announced developments in the mobility space, ranging from a solar power-fuelled vehicle to a helicopter flight fuelled by sustainable jet fuel.

Valmet Automotive has announced the completion of its first pre-production unit of Lightyear 0, a solar-powered electric vehicle developed by the Netherlands’ Lightyear. The vehicle rolled off the production line at the assembly plant in the Finnish city of Uusikaupunki in late September, roughly three months after the design specifications were finalised.

Pasi Rannus, head of manufacturing at Valmet Automotive, said the company is “immensely proud” of what is an important milestone toward starting production of the customer series later this year.

“This is an important step toward the start of customer car production and making an automotive dream come true,” he commented.

The series will be put together on a dedicated assembly line that is being built in the newest section of the manufacturing plant. The line will be equipped with state-of-the-art technological solutions, such as a co-operative robot for glueing, and place greater emphasis on safety and ergonomic features.

Valmet Automotive and Lightyear announced their manufacturing contract in mid-2021, the former viewing that the co-operation will usher it into the cutting edge of electric vehicle knowhow and manufacturing.

The Finnish company has also announced another milestone this autumn: the delivery of its millionth battery pack.

Valmet Automotive has had much to celebrate about in recent times. Image: Valmet Automotive

“Producing one million batteries for prestigious automotive [original equipment manufacturers] is an achievement we must be proud of,” SVP Jyrki Nurmisaid. “According to our strategy we will continue to expand the battery business to serve our current customers but also to develop new products, industries and customers.”

Another Finnish company involved in re-imagining road traffic is Basemark, the Helsinki-based developer of the world’s first end-to-end operating system for software-defined vehicles, Rocksolid Core.

The software company revealed last month it is part of the second batch of startups added to Software République, an incubator programme established by Aatos, Dassault Systèmes, Orange, Renault Group, STMicroelectronics and Thales. The tailor-made programme has the dual purpose of accelerating joint projects with select startups and enhancing the open innovation of the six founding companies.

Basemark has developed the world’s first end-to-end operating system for software-defined vehicles, Rocksolid Core. Image: Basemark

Basemark is joining the programme through a project designed to utilise tablets and smartphones to improve the driver and passenger experience.

Sustainably fuelled helicopter flight

Neste announced that Southeast Asia’s first helicopter flight powered by its sustainable aviation fuel has been completed in Singapore. Operated with Bell 505, a five-seater next-generation helicopter by the US-based company Bell, the flight took off from Seletar Airport in late September.

The Finnish company said the flight was made possible by close co-operation between it, Bell and Safran Helicopter Engines. Jet Aviation and Shell Aviation also lent a hand by enabling the blended aviation fuel to be uplifted through the facilities of the airport serving north-eastern parts of Singapore.

Neste’s sustainable aviation fuel has been used for the first time for a helicopter flight in Southeast Asia. Image: Neste

The milestone showcases the commitment of the business aviation community to the industry’s climate goals, according to Neste. Sami Jauhiainen, the company’s head of renewable fuels in Asia-Pacific, viewed that the goals can be achieved only through the wide-scale adoption and use of sustainable aviation fuel and co-operation across the aviation ecosystem.

“With today’s demo flight, we showcase that [sustainable aviation fuel] can safely and easily be used also for helicopter operations,” he said.

Neste has stated that the sustainable aviation fuel reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80 per cent over its lifecycle compared to traditional jet fuel without compromising on performance. Made from renewable waste and residual raw materials, such as cooking oil and animal fat waste, the fuel can be blended at a ratio of 1:1 with traditional fuel.

Neste expects to be able to produce 1.5 million tonnes of the fuel by 2023, following the completion of its refinery expansion in Singapore and modification in Rotterdam. Image: Neste

Electrifying wheeled and floating vehicles

Salcomp, the world’s largest contract manufacturer of chargers and adaptors for smartphones, stated last month that it will start producing chargers for electric two- and three-wheel vehicles through a partnership with India’s Flowtrik, a startup specialising in advanced battery designs.

Sasikumar Gendham, managing director of Salcomp India, said the Salo, Southwest Finland-based company intends to leverage its wide range of capabilities to provide high-quality products at competitive prices to accelerate the electrification of road transport. The partnership, he envisioned, will elevate the company into a significant player in the electric vehicle space.

The partners will work together on all phases of the design and production process, from product identification for research and development to global production.

“There are synergies with our existing manufacturing facilities – like the moulding machines and other infrastructure,” said Gendham. “There is a big opportunity for vertical integration. Lot of electronics are common. We source a huge amount of raw materials for making mobile phone chargers and that economies of scale can be leveraged for making the EV chargers.”

Oceanvolt’s electric propulsion system has been installed on, among others, Arcona 435Z, a 43-foot performance cruiser built by Sweden’s Arcona Yachts. Image: Anna Hietanen / Oceanvolt

Denmark’s X-Yachts in June revealed it has completed its first electric model, X49E, with help from Oceanvolt, a Vantaa-based provider of electric propulsion systems for yachts.

A specially adapted version of the existing X49, the yacht was equipped with two 10-kilowatt engine pods on each side of the traditional engine compartment, below the aft cabin bunks. The former engine compartment has been converted into a technical space that houses, for example, a 28.8-kilowatt battery bank, a charger-inverter and controllers.

Delivered by Oceanvolt, the propulsion system should guarantee a range of 22.7 nautical miles at a speed of five knots in calm conditions.

“The solution with two engines serves two purposes: more power and higher safety through redundancy, summed upKræn Nielsen, CEO of X-Yachts.

“The boat has been upgraded on several areas such as rig [and] electronics. We have chosen a hybrid system for this boat, which means installing a diesel generator with capacity to take care of power in situations where battery capacity is not sufficient,” he added. “Oceanvolt has been a close partner all along.”

Giving aviation a LIFT

Airborne mobility is also the focus of the Finnish centre LIFT. Hosted by Redstone Aero, the centre brings together private and public-sector stakeholders to innovate in the aerospace domain.

Involving the likes of the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, the centre has set out to tackle future challenges in aviation ranging from autonomous and low-emission aviation solutions to commercial drone-based logistics services and the infrastructure needs created by novel types of air transport services.

“VTT sees the role of unmanned aviation growing rapidly worldwide. Finland must seize there revolutionary opportunities and aim for a pioneering role,” stressed Hannu Karvonen of VTT.


By: Aleksi Teivainen