17/01/2020

Greater role for Finland in the transport value chain

Transport accounts for up to 25% of Europe’s carbon dioxide emissions, writes our guest blogger Antti Vasara, CEO of VTT. Emission-free transport is a common goal for political actors and industry in Finland and the EU.

Antti Vasara
President & CEO, VTT

Finland is able to produce the battery metals required for electric transport. We have clean electricity for transport needs, expertise in battery development, and industry for implementing solutions. Finland can increase its role in the transport value chain, thus both making transport emission-free and doing good business. Strengthening value chains is also at the heart of the EU’s new industrial policy.

The development of batteries has enabled the electrification of transport. Vehicle price, purpose of use, mileage and charging solutions affect the attractiveness of using electric cars. It is most profitable when the car is constantly on the move. In the future, much of the public transport in the Helsinki region will be driven by electric buses with vehicle sharing working in cities.

Carbon footprint and environmental impact will be important for future consumers – sustainability assessment is needed for batteries, vehicles and transport. Society can accelerate the growth of electric car use through taxation and smart governance. VTT promotes clean transport by developing processes and technology in the field in cooperation with industry.

Electric cars require a sustainable mining industry

The growth of electric transport rests on the mining industry, as recycled battery metals will not be available until a large number of batteries are removed from service. Finnish soil contains nickel, cobalt and lithium needed in batteries, and our mining industry can produce and process these raw materials sustainably.

VTT creates conditions for sustainable mining. We are developing closed water circulations and technologies to comprehensively utilise raw materials from ores, side streams and tailings. In addition to the recovery of metals, minerals are obtained as by-products to be used, for example, in the construction industry or as fillers in plastics. VTT’s pilot equipment is used to test processes and methods for utilising increasingly challenging materials more efficiently.

Advances in battery technology enable electric car use

The energy density and lifetime of batteries have increased and their prices have fallen. Batteries can be charged with more and more electric energy. The development will lead to new material combinations and manufacturing methods in, for example, solid state batteries. VTT’s battery laboratory researches and tests the performance and durability of different batteries. The appropriate solution depends, among other things, on the cycles and conditions under which the battery is used and charged. The purpose of use may also limit the size and technology of the battery.

One of the research areas is battery safety. This is linked to, among other things, battery cell material combinations, cell and system thermal management, and battery behaviour in accidents. Safety must also be ensured at the end of the battery life cycle and in recycling solutions.

Finland on Europe’s front lines

A recent Strategic Forum report of the European Commission sets the course for European industrial policy. The report highlights measures to strengthen value chains, improve self-sufficiency and reshape business structures. The battery is an important part of the changing value chain of the automotive industry – by developing this value chain, we are building a sustainable future.

European networks and working groups identify issues critical to Europe’s competitiveness that need to be addressed. The IPCEI (Important Project of Common European Interest) enables EU countries to support private investment. Finns are involved in the preparation of two IPCEI initiatives for batteries.

As a research actor, VTT is involved in influencing the themes of electrification and battery manufacturing in the EU. In this role, we highlight Finnish expertise and strive to secure Finland’s position at the forefront of development.

Vasara Antti

President & CEO, VTT