Finland Has A Genius Charging Solution For EVs – Use Existing Block Heater Poles – Video

3 months ago by Mark Kane 53

Finland has an ace up its sleeve in terms of installed electric vehicle charging.  In a country with 3 million cars, more than 1 million parking spaces are already equipped with electric poles for engine heaters.

1 million charging spots in Finland

Via a simple process all those poles can be turned into charging stations, including features of remote control, and monthly invoicing for electricity consumed.

Jiri Räsänen, CEO of Parking Energy (Parkkisähkö) encourages more EVs in Finland in connection with the Tesla Model 3 debut today – “Elon, We Are Ready !”

About Parking Energy (Parkkisähkö) via Daniela N:

“In the Parking Energy system, old block heater poles are updated with smart poles. Parking Energy operates like mobile phone operators; the subscriber pays a monthly fee and is invoiced for the electricity used. Parking Energy combines the traditional heating of the internal combustion engine cars and the charging of electric cars into one seamless service.

The same subscription functions everywhere you can see the Parking Energy sign. There is no need for entering credit card information, no PIN codes, no coins, no separate payment cards; even sending text messages is not needed anymore. There are no mechanical keys in the Parking Energy system as the users are recognized based on NFC tags. Using the service is effortless and precise.
The user may set the time for heating the car using an Android or iOS smart phone or via the Internet. Everyone has unexpected comings and goings every now and then that cannot be planned ahead. In those cases, the traditional car heating method with a preset timing will not help. Instead, the Parking Energy user can start the heating using their smart phone right away when needed and will enjoy a warm car.
The smart pole also saves electricity as the heating can be adjusted according to the prevailing outdoor temperature.”

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53 responses to "Finland Has A Genius Charging Solution For EVs – Use Existing Block Heater Poles – Video"

  1. Thom Moore says:

    Well duh! Isn’t it nice to have those poles serve a purpose beyond keeping engine oil from curdling…

  2. alohart says:

    Unless the engine block heater pole electrical circuits have been upgraded (unlikely due to the expense), I would think these EV charging circuits would be very low power (10 A @ 230 V?). But that’s probably fine for charging while at work or overnight for most EV drivers, especially if DC fast chargers are available for quicker charging when needed. But would it be sufficient for battery pack heating in addition to charging in Finland’s cold winters?

    1. DJ says:

      Ya, which is like 2x what the standard outlet in North America can support.

      Sadly even if they had these all over the place in the colder climates it isn’t really gonna help out all that much I would guess.

      1. ricegf says:

        10A at 230V is 2.3 kW. The most common outlet is the USA is 15A at 120V, or 1.8 kW, which is quite similar. 20A at 120V (2.4 kW) and 30A at 240V (7.2 kW) is also quite common, the latter for clothes dryers and ovens.

    2. Alex says:

      I have such plug in my yard which I can use for my Model S 90D. 13A 230V do the daily charging just fine. The only problem that you need to mess with charging cables. In this sense wall charger is more practical because the cable is better organized. Normally, I use Tesla wall connector but could have use engine heater plug if I needed.

      1. Jo says:

        YES ! 2.3 kw for 6h in office and 6 h during night is 28kwh, is 150km.
        EV needs just many cheap wall-sockets!
        better than some very expensive chargingstations

    3. john Doe says:

      In Norway they are almost always 16A, or 25A.
      I used these all the time.

      The car I had, had one connection, that included a block heater, a heater fan and a charger for the battery. With the kids dragging in snow og wet shoes all the time – I installed a dehumidifier too.
      Most people I know have the same setup, apart from the dehumidifier.
      Since I used to drive a VW Caravelle, I had two heater fans. They had two options, 600W and 1200W. The charger is probably just 100-150W? and I have no ide what the block heater pulls.
      I think 10A is kind of small – but I know some used to install that years ago.
      Most companies I used to work for in Norway had block heater poles/aux. electic poles.

      We used them at winter with ICE cars, and now people use them so slow charge the car while at work. 8 hours of free charging..
      That is usually enough for people, and they don’t have to charge at home, or charge less at home.

      I don’t see block heater poles nearly so often in Germany. Not even in the Alps.
      Maybe because of more expensive electricity or a warmer climate.

      1. john Doe says:

        Just wanted to update this with some more info..
        Checked with some of the minibusses we have at the company.
        The heaters for the minibusses (like a 17 seat Ford) use 5kw for the water heater and a 3,9kw coupe heater.
        In the summer they can cool the coupe with the 11,5kw airconditioning.

    4. Heikki says:

      I have been driving a Leaf for 3+ years and mostly charge from block heater socket. During winters at home I turn current to 6 apms, other times at 10 amps. For my 50km daily driving need, it has been plenty, even though I use the preheating during winter times. At work we have Parking energy smart system which allows 16 amps. I do not usually plug in at both places, being lazy, but it would allow 200-300km daily driving if I did. 10 amps at 230V, in average 10 hour night gives more than 100km of range, 16 amps almost doubles that.

  3. scott franco says:

    Lets see, we have a network for heating car engine blocks that is required to keep cars from dying in cold weather, probably with regular plugs.

    So lets spend a lot of money and put electronic wizz bang charge controls that are computer connected, dramatically raising the cost of each without increasing the charge current at all, then we will charge people for what was free, and call that a green movement.

    Go Finland.

    1. Janne says:

      The aim is to solve three issues: First, the parking lot is typically wired so that the sockets are not charged individually. Instead, the electricity is just considered a part of the rent of the parking slot. However, if you have an EV that uses way more electricity than everyone else but still pay the same amount, it’s unfair and will result in trouble. This solution meters the electricity and gives a hassle-free way to make sure people pay properly for their electricity.

      Problem 2 is that in most cases, these sockets have a two-hour timer. If you’re only able to charge your car for 2 hours at say 10 A, it’s almost useless. This solution removes that limitation.

      Problem 3 is related to problem 2 – most parking lots designed between 1960-1990 do not simply have enough capacity (wiring, fuses, etc) for multiple EVs charging. It costs hundreds of thousands of euros to upgrade every socket and the all electrical wiring to be EV-ready (I know, our house asked for a quote to upgrade 144 parking spaces and our board basically had a fit). This solution is smart enough to make sure the fuses don’t blow and meters out the electricity to different sockets to maximize the capacity.

      So yeah, this basically works around all the problems big parking lots have by smartly figuring out who to bill and when to charge without setting anything on fire – without the need for expensive infra upgrades.

      1. Tom says:

        All three of your points are factually incorrect.
        1. Scott Franco is correct. No amount of cost upgrade to recover a little will make any sense. You will never recover the extra costs as compared to just giving it away or charging everyone with an EV a flat rate which might be higher than a regular car. Charge them $20 per month or something.
        2. Timer? Never seen one like that. Every single one I’ve ever seen in the US (including the one at the apartment I used to live at) had no such timers. Nor does the one my sister in law has used for 6 years for her Volt at her place of work.
        3. They are wired to what they are currently installed for. Upgrading them yes takes a bunch but they are not under powered for the given outlets. That’s just a ridiculous claim that flies in the face of electrical codes.

        Conversation at my sister in law’s work:
        1. Her: Hey can I just plug my Volt into that block heater thing?
        2. Them: whoahhh…what? That’ll make us go broke.
        3. Ummm….it pulls the same amount of power as a block heater. About 1500 watts.
        4. Them: oh well if that’s all sure. We already have dozens of people sucking block heater power.

        So her work was right on the edge of making it round trip with a Volt and no gas. That simple 110 plugin recharged her car during her work day.

        And I bet if they said hmm…if you want to do that all year that’s going to add up. We should put a flat fee on that and take it out of your paycheck like a health club fee…she’d say yep. No meters necessary. They already have the equipment and are giving away power. They obviously don’t want to make money doing it but just want to limit downside.

        I’ve mentioned this ‘business model’ in the past. It would make way more sense for say grocery stores to put in a hundred 110 block heater poles and not bother charging for it than it would to spend a cubic fark load of money on fast chargers. The PHEV would be the biggest gainers there and the ‘ICEing’ problem likely gets mitigated. You go into the store for an hour and pick up 5 miles of range then go to Walmart and shop and pick another 5 miles up. It’s not necessary just nice. And it doesn’t waste your day sitting at a fast charger or level 2 or whatever. Public parking garages could be littered with these. Doesn’t solve the full BEV issue on open roads but that’s the only spot fast chargers are needed. This nonsense of public fast chargers in cities is ludicrous.

        1. alohart says:

          1. Just because you and Scott say that installing hardware that allows parking lot owners to charge for the electricity used for EV charging does not make it true. You do not have enough information to make this claim.

          2. All block heater circuits I have seen here in Sweden have timers as in Finland and Norway (according to John Doe). Just because something is true in some U.S. locations doesn’t mean it is true in the rest of the world.

          3. EVSE’s typically consumer more power than block heaters, so several EVSE’s could overload the block heater circuit which was designed for less power consumption. This added EV charging hardware could distribute and limit the available power to charging outlets to prevent circuit breakers from tripping. So there is nothing ridiculous about Janne’s claim.

        2. John says:

          He was talking about Finland! All his points are true.

    2. alohart says:

      Block heaters are limited to being used for 2 hours per session and are used only during cold weather.

      EV charging can last for many hours per session and occurs year-round.

      So the amount of electricity used for EV charging will be considerably more than for block heating. It apparently makes economic sense to install hardware that will enable charging for this electricity usage.

    3. Wayne Wittmus says:

      Each car carries it’s own EVSE (charge cable with a small transformer) unique to each manufacturer. All the poles provide is a standard 120 or 240vac outlet. A 110 outlet will charge about 5 miles/hour.

  4. scottf200 says:

    These are all over the place in the northern states as well. Certainly the block heaters pull something like 650 watts and they have to have many circuits (20a?) for a parking lot already. Good while-at-work 8-10hr/day solution.

    1. scottf200 says:

      Seems like you could support two 8 amp draws on 120v line (960 watts * 2).

    2. Tom says:

      It’s around 1500 watts or at least the ones I’ve seen. Great plenty.

  5. Leptoquark says:

    My car club, EVADC, has been saying this for years. In fact, block heaters are in the parking lot building codes of northern states. Very little reinvention needed!

    evadc.org

    1. Darell says:

      Indeed. Many of us have been talking about this for 20 years! I’m not sure I’d go all the way with “genius” at this point, as if it were a brilliant new idea that no one had ever considered. Still I would like to see it done.

  6. Brave Lil' Toaster says:

    This has been proposed all over Canada, where we have the same kind of deal going basically everywhere.

    The problem starts with the fact that each one of these circuits is a whopping 120v and *maybe* 15A. For the whole parking lot. Block heaters really don’t use that much power after all.

    Then, as if a single default comes-with-the-car charger doesn’t already blow the breaker for the whole parking lot, the owners of these plugs can be heard saying something along the lines of “NO! NO! Nooooooo f****** way!” Because none of these circuits have ever had any kind of billing associated with them, in no small part because block heaters really don’t use that much power, after all. And the owners of said circuits all assume they’re giving away a whole tank-of-gas with every EV charger.

    So while this sounds great for Finland and the rest of the world that uses 240V everywhere, those of us here in North America are hooped.

    But whatever, because the new 220+ mile batteries already don’t need to worry about having to charge the car at work or shopping malls anyway.

    1. Jaakko says:

      Hi, this company will have it all figured out in Canada too. Hey if anyone has large parking lots with these and starting to get queries about EV charging, contact them!

  7. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

    It’s an obvious solution, but I dunno how “genius” it is to charge a PEV (Plug-in EV) at a L1 charger in such cold conditions as winter in Finland. L1 charging is going to, at best, struggle to both charge the battery and run the battery pack heater.

    They really need to upgrade those to L2 outlets.

    1. Kdawg says:

      I’ve charged my Volt for 5 years on L1 120V, in the very cold Michigan winters. We hit negative double digits a couple times. My car never had an issue charging.

    2. Alex says:

      It is not that cold. 13 km/h charging rate. Presuming, you have 10 hours of charging every night and you average daily needs are met.

    3. alohart says:

      “AC Level 1” is a U.S. charging standard that doesn’t apply in Finland or any European country because they don’t have 120 V power. These block heater circuits would be like a low-power U.S. AC Level 2 circuit.

    4. John says:

      Nowadays in Finland it’s not as cold as people think.

  8. GrokGrok says:

    It’s pretty common to have parking lot outlets at hotels in northern states for guests to plug their cars in at night. During a summer trip through the Wyoming/Dakotas/Canada, these were juiced and provided 15 amps of current for my Fusion Energi. It’s not going to recharge your P100 overnight, but it’s a workable way to provide some electric miles for your PHEV.

  9. vvk says:

    A block heater is only about 100 watts. I suspect a lot of this existing infrastructure assumes this kind of draw per outlet. It probably sounds easy but in actuality you start drawing 15-40 amps times fifty from these parking lots and the nice theory will go down in flames.

    1. Kdawg says:

      I think you mean 1000 watts. 100 watts is what an incandescent light bulb uses.

      1. vvk says:

        Nope, I mean 100 watts. 1000 watts would boil the oil in a few minutes. I think the last one I bought was 100 watts.

        1. Tom says:

          They are about 1500 watts. You got ‘taken’. You paid for something completely useless. I live in a very cold area. One night last winter we hit -30F and no issues and no block heater. Cars sit outside. Modern cars just don’t require them. And if you have a garage even if it is unheated it will stay warmer than outside so -20F might end up -5F inside the garage (depending on insulation and or not). I’ve seen unheated garages never fall below 0F. Anyway your car if it is less than 20 years old isn’t going to care about a block heater. But if you do get one, then get one that’s going to actually do something. 100W in -20 weather is just kind of a gimmick.

          http://www.partdeal.com/zerostart-circulation-heater-1500w-3305007.html?zmam=74973193&zmas=1&zmac=4&zmap=77185490&gclid=Cj0KCQjwwevLBRCGARIsAKnAJve-YQOoMTiKpBVg-Mdc4Anjx8BNoNit9E3uxdXR8m89Phu65PxUgnUaAuo-EALw_wcB

          1. Tom says:

            Noting there is wide variation. I suppose the problem I have is that I only relate block heating to older larger displacement vehicles. Certainly a V8 truck is an entirely different beast than my 4 banger turbo. And whether it is just a heater vs something that circulates water is a big difference.

            1. Heikki says:

              Block heaters in Finland are typically 300-600W, but for last 20 years+ the outlets have been installed with enough power to allow interior heaters as well, so typical power available is 1.5-2.5kW. Adding smart control allows higher power, as not everything is on at the same time. Block heaters are only needed 1-2 hour before starting, so there is plenty of capacity to charge EV:s during the night. The cabling is typically built so that multiple sockets share the same fuse, so only sockets need to be upgraded.

      2. Asak says:

        Just an example of how inefficient incandescent light bulbs are.

    2. scottf200 says:

      I read that they were commonly 650 watts. Certainly they have MANY circuits per parking lot already. Two 8 amp draws on 120v line (960 watts * 2) would probably works.

      1. john Doe says:

        I checked mine, and it is 650W.

    3. msantos says:

      I don’t think so. All the block heaters I’ve had were rated at 400 watts. That is it.

      Also, for colder provinces in Canada property management groups that oversee parking lots often limit the power delivery to half wave, load limit to no more than 1000 watts to prevent people from using resistive heaters while plugged in, and cycled/timed power (on every other 30 minutes). This kind of power management has even killed on-board chargers.

      I would not be surprised if this type of parking lot power management was a common practice in Norway too.

      Sadly, in my neck of the woods this is pretty common practice in managed (downtown) parking lots and a useless proposition for people with plug-ins.

      Wish it were not so.

  10. Francois says:

    Well if they did run a neutral wire for each plug, a 240v conversion is pretty easy to do. It should cover your home to work driving easily.

  11. stimpacker says:

    Look at all those free Tesla EVSE units waiting for someone to come by……

    No petty theft in Finland?

  12. JayTee says:

    By “genius”, I think they meant “obvious”.

  13. Kdawg says:

    Wait a minute. His phone wasn’t a Nokia! 🙂

  14. Joe says:

    The “genious” solution is found all over the North. I’m not sure in what way they can support large-scale EV charging, but they’re there and probably easier to upgrade than to create the infrastructure from scratch.

    More importantly, people are used to plugging-in their cars, at least in winter. That is probably more important than anything…

  15. Bon Bon says:

    At 00:50 mark the video shows 2.7KW or 12.0A service on one of those boxes.

  16. Terawatt says:

    Well, duh, everybody’s been doing this for ages. The only thing special about this is that Finland has a high ratio of parking spaces that already have electricity available. To use the electricity to charge electric cars… well, it’s useful, but it’s definitely obvious rather than “genius”.

    Only a few hours to go before the next little chapter, but an especially important one, in the EV story! Soon I’ll have to start to think seriously about whether I should cover my reservation to a purchase or cancel and get my money back..! Given everything that’s happening it’s probably smart to wait, but if autonomy and the fleet model arrives as fast as many say it will, this may be the last car I’ll ever own anyway. Exciting but difficult!!

  17. Bill Howland says:

    So the key here is how much load is expected (is it 100, 650 , or 1500 watt loading per vechile?)

    If it is merely double the existing block heater load, is it going to piss off the owner at the added expense assuming the wiring is extra beefy in the first place?

  18. Johnny says:

    Every parking meter in the US also has electricity, right?

    1. Francis L says:

      usually small solar panels from what i’ve seen.

  19. Francis L says:

    I’m very surprise to read this. In Canada, we also use to have those plugs… in the 90s… nearly no car since 2000 has block heater anymore. So basically, those plugs often have not been maintain and they dont work anymore, if they are still there at all.

    1. Bill Howland says:

      So, the implication is that, what with the partial synthetic oil that most automakers currently use (GM specifies a DEXOS blend), that a plane jane car can now start in extremely cold weather unassisted?

    2. alohart says:

      Even if modern cars have strong enough batteries, thin enough oil, fuel injection, and other technologies that allow engines to start in cold weather, studies have shown that a judicious use of a block heater can save more energy than it uses because a cold engine must run with a rich fuel-air ratio. In addition, exhaust emissions burning a rich mixture are higher because catalytic converters don’t function well until they are hot, so starting with a warm coolant due to a block heater reduces the pollutants emitted. Warm coolant allows the cabin heater to begin producing heat more rapidly.

      So there are reasons to use a block heater in cold weather other than making an engine easier to start.

  20. akkuJukka says:

    The ‘genius’ part is in the system design which allows solving the technical overload issues but also legistlative issues in housing corporations. Currently the block heating consumes very little amount of energy which is invoiced from each user with flat rate. This cost also includes the maintenance. Parking Energy provides this as service and removes the mentioned costs from the housing corporation.

    The issue is many housing corporationd deny charging due overload or investment requirement. Also the starting point is with 230VAC/16A but if any user wishes to have three phases 16A ot even more power this can be provided as service.

    The module you see in the video is the entry level product which allows immediate use of existing infra.

    In Finland these block heater poles are wired in series. So the output to the parking area might be 3x 230VAC/25 to 63A.

    Now. If the parking area has only one EV this full power of the main fuse is the only limiting factor. And yes. Then Parking Energy would supply the suitable socket on the cable directly from the box on the pole.

    This company started from a long internal debate in head which origins from the early 90’s. Obvious. Yes. But also genius as it seems no one has done it before with commercially viable model. 🙂

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