New business related to electric transport is being developed in the Lahti region
The City of Lahti is closely involved in the global electrification of transport along with the businesses, public operators and higher education institutions in the Lahti region. Together they have founded the Green Electrification of Mobility Cluster (Lahti GEM) in the Lahti region. It continues the story of Lahti’s year as the European Green Capital, which has already spawned Finland’s first professorship in electric transportation at LUT University.
“Reducing emissions from transport infrastructure is a large project. The electrification of transport is only just beginning,” remarks Olli Pyrhönen, Dean of the School of Energy Systems at LUT University.
The Green Electrification of Mobility Cluster founded in Lahti works at the forefront of the transformation. The shared goal of Lahti GEM’s operators is to develop new products and services for Finland and export purposes through research and business cooperation.
Pyrhönen says that the transformation of transport systems requires not only distribution infrastructure but also many other types of expertise.
“The integration of the distribution infrastructure into the smart grid and the process of building service concepts and information services are still in their infancy. The subject is also fascinating with regard to vehicle technology: the businesses in the industry have a great many interesting technological challenges ahead of them in the areas of power-dense electric motors, liquid-cooled power electronics and their control technology. LUT University has a long history in electrical engineering solutions, and the new professorship on the Lahti campus will also strongly rely on it,” Pyrhönen reckons.
Climate anxiety generates change
It took approximately EUR 1 million in funding to set up Finland’s first professorship in electric transportation in Lahti for a five-year period. The professorship and research team to be formed at LUT University are funded by a group of businesses and foundations from the Päijät-Häme region.
In addition to the City of Lahti, the financiers include Kempower, which manufactures charging equipment for electric cars; LSK Group, an expert company specialising in industrial and building services engineering; Lahti Energia; Lahti Industrial Association Foundation; Sustainable Lahti foundation; and PHP Säätiö foundation.
“It’s been great to see that the themes of Lahti’s year as the European Green Capital are not just being left in the air; instead, they are serving as a starting point for a new cooperation forum that will also help facilitate the development of education in this area,” rejoices Perttu Ryynänen, Group CEO at LSK Group Oy and Chair of Lahti GEM.
He characterises Lahti GEM as a cooperation platform and forum for businesses, educational institutions and authorities, which has given rise to fruitful dialogue between the different operators in the cluster within a short amount of time, facilitated by Lahti Region Development LADEC.
Lahti GEM also aims for close cooperation in national and international networks.
“We are in the middle of a technological transformation that is proceeding at an unprecedented rate. Increasingly tight regulation and consumers’ concerns about climate change are generating a rapid change in transport. Electric cars are becoming more popular, but not many people are aware of the fact that the electricity infrastructure, which distributes electricity, is not designed for this type of use.”
“You can turn on an electric sauna heater anywhere in Finland at any time, but the electricity distribution capacity is by no means sufficient for the continuously increasing charging needs of all-electric cars everywhere. LSK is currently developing a solution in which the charging stations for electric cars make use of locally generated renewable energy, such as solar energy, energy storage, and smart system control with the help of automation,” Ryynänen says.
Lahti is the logistical centre of Finland and a transport hub.
Tomi Ristimäki, Kempower
Serious shortage of skilled labour
Another company besides LSK to have developed new business related to electric transport is the Lahti-based Kempower, a sister company of the welding equipment manufacturer Kemppi Group. Kempower manufactures chargers and charging stations for electric cars, and its turnover increased from EUR 20,000 in 2018 to more than EUR 20 million in 2021. Kempower is currently one of the most promising growth companies in Finland.“We joined Lahti GEM and simultaneously set out to support the professorship at LUT University because, just like the other businesses in the area, we also have an enormous need for skilled labour. Without the presence of a university, technology clusters can’t grow. We need more high-level research and development as well as expertise in electrical and software engineering,” says CEO of Kempower Tomi Ristimäki.
Kempower currently employs 120 people, of whom approximately 90 were hired this past year. Next year, the company will double its current staff numbers.
“More than half of the product development related to our chargers consists of software engineering. LAB University of Applied Sciences is currently seeking permission to train electrical and software engineers, who are in high demand in the region,” Ristimäki continues.
Impetus from cooperation
Tomi Ristimäki considers Lahti GEM, which consists of more than 30 businesses, to not only have the potential to improve the availability of labour but to also offer many types of opportunities for cooperation and collaboration.
Kempower and LSK’s partnership already ensures the functionality of the charging stations used by Posti’s electric cars in Lahti, among other things, but Ristimäki says that there is also potential for broader cooperation.
“Lahti is the logistical centre of Finland and a transport hub. Through Lahti GEM, we already have all of the operators needed for cooperation projects such as the implementation of a logistics centre for heavy vehicle traffic that would offer all of the electric charging and maintenance services required by buses and logistics vehicles.”
“In densely populated countries at the forefront of electric transport, such as China, heavy vehicles have already followed buses in making the switch to electricity. It is only a matter of time until the need for a logistics centre for electric transport in the Lahti region becomes concrete,” Ristimäki reckons.
LAHTI GEM - GREEN ELECTRIFICATION OF MOBILITY CLUSTER
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