540 ecological and remotely controlled smart pole stations
Last summer, the heating poles in all on-campus parking areas at TUT were replaced with new, remotely controlled smart poles. This upgrade will accumulate electricity savings of up to 65 per cent. Furthermore, the poles can be used for charging electric cars.
On the TUT campus, cars are no longer heated in vain, thanks to the eTolppa poles. The poles check the outside temperature and turn on the heating as required. “Everyone at TUT is now also welcome to arrive on an electric car! This is where you’ll find the largest charging field for electric cars in this country,” Antti Salminen and Antti Hiekkanen note. A visitor charging pole for fast electric car charging shows in the foreground in the photo.
Optimal car heating is an eternal question for car owners in winter. In fact, the business idea for the eTolppa smart poles originated in a crispy weather of minus 20 Celsius degrees: Is it really necessary to adjust the car heating in full darkness and a freezing weather the previous evening? Isn’t there a nicer way to do this? Now there is, thanks to IGL-Technologies Oy, a company founded as a startup from TUT in 2009.
“The users set the heating for their cars with a few clicks on a computer or a mobile phone. There is no need for a separate application even, as eTolppa is controlled through a browser,” says the company’s Business Manager Antti Hiekkanen.
The feedback from customers has been merely positive.
What makes eTolppa ecological is the fact that this smart device optimizes the heating time based on outdoor temperature, thus enabling shorter heating times. Up until now, most of us have set a two-hour heating time with an egg timer and the heater has faithfully worked for that period, no matter what the outside temperature.
“The user of an eTolppa pole sets the time by which the car must be warm. Two and a half hours before the time set, the system will check the temperature from the closest weather spot and choose the appropriate time for the heating.”
Depending on the temperature, the heating time will range between 30 minutes and 2.5 hours. The heating will only be turned on if the temperature outside is five degrees Celsius or lower.
A chargeable hybrid car would be well-suited for average use in Finland
Antti Rautiainen has developed a flexible way to prepare statistical charging load models for electric cars.
In recent years, a variety of electric cars have been launched onto the market. In his dissertation, Antti Rautiainen studied how well the Finnish electric grid will survive the arrival of electric cars.
A key problem with electric cars has been their high purchase price, which is largely due to the costliness of the batteries. The travelling distance is another aspect that still involves challenges. With chargeable hybrid cars, the electricity only lasts for a few dozen kilometres of travelling, but the combustion engine expands the operating range and usability nearly to the level of ordinary vehicles running on a combustion engine. According to Rautiainen, a rather moderate battery capacity and limited charging infrastructure would already help a long way.
“A chargeable hybrid car would make a handy compromise compared to fully electric cars with a modest operating range and time-consuming charging. On average, Finnish cars are used for driving approximately 50 kilometres a day. With chargeable hybrid cars, most of these kilometres could be covered with electricity taken from the grid,” Rautiainen explains.
Setting up an electric network and keeping it renovated are long-term investments, which is why the distribution network companies must be able to forecast the formation of electricity consumption and peak loads in the grid. To facilitate this process, Antti Rautiainen has developed a flexible way to prepare statistical charging load models for electric cars.
“With the typical basic charging levels, even a significant number of electric cars does not cause extensive problems in the grids we employ today, whereas high charging levels and substantial local concentrations of electric cars, in particular, would necessitate augmenting the network or controlling the charging load.”
In future electric power systems, the significance of the so called elasticity of demand will increase. The term refers to guiding the consumers to use electricity in a more resource-effective manner from the perspective of the electric system by, for example, offering lower prices at specific times or adopting a pricing system that is partially output-based.
“We have accumulated research data on the benefits of the eTolppa poles for approximately three years. Compared to the former heating poles enabling two hours of heating, eTolppa saves up to 65 per cent in electricity. With unlimited heating time, the saving could be even greater,” Hiekkanen notes.
Charge your electric car while at work
The electric car fleet around Finland still remains modest, but the interested parties have also followed up on the debate in Norway; support by the state has rapidly increased the popularity of electric cars in our neighbouring country.
“Even though there are no signs of similar advancements in Finland, TUT has been willing to prepare for the prospective increase in the number of electric cars in Finland. All 540 eTolppa poles also enable charging electric and hybrid vehicles,” says Antti Salminen from TUT’s Facilities and Infrastructure.
According to Hiekkanen, the TUT campus now forms the largest field of electric car charging stations in Finland.
Invoicing based on use?
The eTolppa poles are installed similarly to regular socket poles, and they are mutually radio-connected. A support station is also needed near the parking area to allow a network connection for the system.
Electricity consumption can be monitored in real time and separately for each parking place. This also enables invoicing based on actual consumption, a feature welcomed by many housing companies.
“In addition to the period of operation, the users of the system can adjust the output of the pole. At TUT, for example, the decision was made to apply a monthly basic fee with which the employees can use both their block heater and a low-duty interior heater. Charging an electric vehicle is subject to a small extra fee,” Salminen says.
Up until now, TUT has not monitored the electricity consumption of parking places separately, so the actual impact of the new eTolppa poles will only be revealed after the heating season.
The best-known clients of IGL-Technologies are Finavia Corporation and Technopolis Plc. In addition, various housing companies, real estate companies and construction companies have installed eTolppa poles, mostly in Southern Finland.
The feedback from customers has been merely positive, and the new system is also gradually gaining familiarity around TUT. The extinction of paper parking permits is a relief to both users and the parking control.
“The City of Tampere traffic wardens know the registration numbers of all vehicles covered by paid parking, and they also use the Google smart glasses and a mobile phone application. With this equipment and information at hand, they are able to check the parking permits in a few hours time. Previously, the task took a lot longer,” Salminen concludes.