Helsinki starts installations to electrify its entire heavy-duty vehicle fleet

Source: press release, 28 December 2020

HDV goes electric – Stara eRetrofit project in action (photo: Ari Reinikainen/Dimedia)
HDV goes electric – Stara eRetrofit project in action (photo: Ari Reinikainen/Dimedia)

Is it possible to transform an entire, old diesel vehicle fleet to run on electricity? Helsinki has taken on the challenge. The Stara eRetrofit project is an essential step in reaching the capital’s ambitious climate goals, as it collects valuable data on everything from costs to all aspects technical. Conversion of the first truck has started, with pilot runs scheduled for upcoming months.

An old Scania P320 truck belonging to the city of Helsinki is now being converted to an electric truck. After dismantling the diesel engine and components, the truck was towed to a depot in Tampere, where the installation of a new electric powertrain now is in progress.

Shabnam Farahmand, who works for City of Helsinki’s innovation company Forum Virium Helsinki, coordinates the project in which the plan is to initiate the first pilot runs soon. After functional approvals, the truck operates normally with urban maintenance of the Finnish capital during the first months of 2021.

“The aim is to escalate the adoption and spread of electric vehicles. We tackle the challenge by developing solutions which increase the know-how and speed up the change towards reaching low emission traffic,” Farahmand explains.

The main goal of the project is to get cohesive data on operating costs, relative service requirements and the feasibility of electrifying old trucks. This data, collected through telemetry as well as the technical reports, will create a broad ecosystem, which can associate to the electrification of heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs), shared charging solutions, route optimisation, and maintenance services thereof as well as to the IoT, internet of things.

The electrification of HDVs comes about slowly, mainly due to the long operation cycles. The existing electric counterparts on the market are limited and come with a hefty price, especially when renewing a whole vehicle fleet. There are also big environmental consequences when relinquishing current vehicle fleets.

Although it only addresses a small-scale experience, the Stara eRetrofit project has huge advantages and developing opportunities. It helps to evaluate the feasibility, profitability, and sustainability of electrifying existing HDVs. The pilot also provides the means and the possibility of monitoring the functionality of an electrified truck in real life practices. This in turn will tell whether electrification costs are justifiable or not.

Paavo Lehmonen, the Development Manager at Helsinki City Construction Services Stara is eager to see the figures.

“If the electrification of this single truck justifies retrofitting costs and meets the functionality expectations, then we can benefit from the results in a larger scale for the entire fleet.”

The Stara eRetrofit project is a collaboration between the city of Helsinki’s innovation company Forum Virium Helsinki, the city of Helsinki’s construction services Stara, University of Applied Sciences in Tampere and VTT Technical Research Center of Finland. The project has been funded by the City of Helsinki Innovation Fund.