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“Getting an electric car was one of the requirements of the job,” Ville Naumanen grins.
Naumanen, research director of the new Electric Mobility Research Center (EMRC), also has extensive experience in the field. He worked for over seven years at Visedo in Lappeenranta, a company that develops and manufactures hybrid powertrains for heavy-duty vehicles and machinery.
“At Visedo, we designed electric hybrid powertrains for heavy machinery and developed the necessary motors, inverters, and other equipment from scratch. Now, hybrid technology is common in heavy machinery. I've often been called the Fearless Finn, and I have crazy faith in the future. I also believe that LUT and Kempower's Electric Mobility Research Center serves as an enabler for the sustainable electrification of transportation.”
Opened in November 2023, the EMRC is one of LUT's largest corporate collaborations and an entirely new concept. The Lahti-based research center focuses on issues related to the electrification of transportation.
Electrification will revolutionize energy usage and, consequently, society as well. Addressing related challenges requires interdisciplinary collaboration at LUT.
Naumanen’s employers in equal measure are LUT and Kempower – a manufacturer of fast-charging solutions for electric vehicles, headquartered in Lahti. Naumanen resides in Lappeenranta and will now frequently travel between Lahti and Lappeenranta in his new electric car.
“Before Kempower, there was no charging infrastructure in Finland. In just the past five years, a lot has happened in the industry, but much more needs to be accomplished. We're living in a transformative period. You have to be able to think far enough ahead for progress to happen.”
People tend to say that if we can put a man on the Moon, surely we can solve this problem.
“But we've already been there. We need to think in terms of putting a man on Mars – ideas no one has come up with.”
Creating a greener environment with innovative solutions
According to recent news, the electric car Tesla has surpassed the all-time favorite Toyota Corolla as the world's best-selling new car. Fazer has introduced Finland's first electric truck, and the closest public charging station is hardly ever more than 50 kilometers away.
Naumanen is particularly interested in solutions for the electrification of heavy-duty vehicles.
"An electric truck demands ten times more energy than a passenger car. In the grand scheme of things, emissions from heavy transportation are a more significant issue than whether someone drives their old gasoline car to the local store."
Naumanen states that transportation will be electrified in one way or another, but fully electric transportation is still a long way off. We're talking about an estimated several decades, but new innovations could emerge faster.
"We need to build an energy infrastructure to serve transportation, establish a circular economy, ensure the adequacy of batteries, and increase the use of renewable energy. There’s plenty of research and tasks to be done."
Naumanen acknowledges that the construction phase involves CO2 emissions, but the end result is less polluting. It’s like an investment with a negative interest rate.
"Unfortunately, energy storage requires mining minerals. New technology always comes with its own challenges. The EMRC is just a tool, but I’m hoping to turn it into a Swiss Army knife that will enable the electrification of transportation. I’ll celebrate every research breakthrough we make at the center."
"We’re now metaphorically building that rocket ship to Mars."
The purchasing process needs to be functional
Naumanen hopes people would be open-minded and focus on facts instead of prejudices when it comes to electric mobility. In Finland, electric cars are often criticized for poor cold-weather performance and limited range.
"Battery technology is constantly evolving. I could also ask how many people actually need a 1,000-kilometer range for a trip to Lapland very often? On most days, our cars leave our driveway only for short trips."
The purchasing process also needs to be functional for the electrification of transportation to progress. Naumanen explains that he chose his own electric car because buying it was made straightforward. He says a competing brand had around twenty different options with too many boxes to check.
"I understand that car ownership is an emotional thing for many people, and factors such as color and custom features matter when making the purchase. However, some – like me – view the car as just a tool. In that case, a fast and simple purchasing process is important."
Research on security of supply is needed
Naumanen has expectations regarding renewable fuels. Future fuels will utilize gases such as methane and hydrogen, bio-waste, or electricity. LUT has been conducting research on synthetic fuels (Power-to-X technology) for a long time.
The security of supply in electrifying transportation is also important to Naumanen: how to ensure electricity supply if Finland's energy infrastructure faces a serious cyberattack, for example. Naumanen acknowledges that issues related to supply security also evoke fear in people.
Naumanen gets excited when discussing potential solutions to crisis situations.
"We can develop a system for crisis situations where we can extract energy already charged in electric car batteries to sustain critical societal functions or even heat neighboring houses. Electrons always flow to the nearest destination, so the solar panels on my roof could provide energy to Pekka next door, if his fridge needs it."
According to Naumanen, the required technology already exists, and such a supply security system could be up and running in about five years if we rolled up our sleeves here and now.
"In a crisis, energy could be directed towards critical societal functions, such as running hospital equipment."
Naumanen is clearly already thinking about the next step. He emphasizes his preference for concrete solutions.
"Just ten years ago, people laughed at electric cars, saying no one will buy them, and look at where we are now. Tesla globally sells a million new cars per year. The electric car is the new people's car. When it comes to solutions for electric transportation, 10–14 years is not ultimately a very long time. A lot can happen during that period."
Read about the topic:
Electric transportation in media
- Finland’s first electric truck factory creates jobs and reduces emissions from traffic
- Posti goes electric also in heavy fleet - first electric truck into use
- Kempower introduces Megawatt Charging System for electric trucks and electric vehicles using power above one megawatt
- Electric transport is developing at a record rate – it is time to invest in heavy-duty vehicles’ charging infrastructure
- How problematic is mineral mining for electric cars?
- EMRC Research Director 2023–
- Lives in Lappeenranta
- Doctor of Science in Electrical Engineering (2010, LUT)
- Applied to the EMRC based on a tip from a professor at LUT
- Previously served as Visedo's director engineering and R & D manager
- Owner of Luomus Woodworks; supported the family as an entrepreneur for almost seven years
- Family includes a wife, a son, and a cat
- Started playing the cello at the age of 40