Virta Ltd. (Liikennevirta Oy) was founded in December 2013 by 18 Finnish energy utilities to build a national charging network and to prepare for the future of transport. Even before launching their services packages in Finland, Virta acquired their first international customers by providing the necessary tools to support electric vehicles and renewable energy. Virta enables B2B vendors to make a business from electric vehicle charging services with comprehensive end-to-end cloud-based and open interfaced IT solutions. Currently, Virta is the market leader offering their service packages in 9 countries and 70 cities around Europe. In this project, Virta focused on two solutions for making work-related travel more sustainable: IT-platform services for electric bus charging operations and electric vehicle charging service solution for apartments and workplaces.
Services for electric bus charging operations are more and more important as a fast-growing number of European cities are changing bus fleet to electric-operated due to national energy policies and environmental requirements, such as restricting diesel combustion engines in inner-city areas.
However, the charging station reliability is a challenge as the technology is still new. To prevent problems for travel chains in commuting, Virta set out to maximise reliability and create an efficient, flexible backend system for the multiple stakeholder use in e-bus operations and charging. During late 2016, Virta implemented service packages to electric bus charging providing infrastructure management tools, reporting and payment services, i.e., invoicing of used electricity from bus operators. In 2017, Virta installed system services for infrastructure management and invoicing of several 400kW opportunity chargers for 12 e-busses in Helsinki region with the actual charging infrastructure coming from two different suppliers. At the same time in Turku region, Virta installed systems services for infrastructure management to two 300kW opportunity chargers and six 50kW depot chargers serving in total six electric busses.
Although larger public charging networks exist in big cities, the lack of charging opportunities in condominiums, apartments and workplaces is slowing the electric vehicle adoption. Electric vehicle owners are often denied for charging opportunities because of non-existing payment solutions for the consumed electricity and thus easy to implement solutions are needed to provide charging point possibilities in these properties. Virta developed a service concept aimed to improve the sustainability of work-related travel with an easy-to-use electric vehicle charging service solution for housing cooperatives and workplaces (the figure below).
Currently, Virta’s smart management system, available to all Virta Bundle customers, is optimised for the ease of use. The most important features are:
- The charging point owner can set a price for charging in the management system, and base it either on the amount of electricity charged, the time of charging, or both. The income from the charging points is automatically transferred to their bank account once a month through Virta’s billing system. This eliminates all unnecessary paperwork, making the experience hassle-free and straightforward. For example, in a residential building, the price can be set as the price of electricity plus a suitable hourly rate. By setting a suitable price, the EV drivers can repay the investment made by the housing cooperative.
- The management system is also used for sharing station user rights, user statistics and controlling charging remotely. For example, private charging stations can only be used by EV drivers who have been allowed to use the device in the Virta management system. The EV driver can use the same mobile app and RFID for charging at home, at work and at public stations. As the owner, you can always be aware of who has the right to charge at your charging point(s). This is especially important for residential buildings and companies, who want to share charging points only with residents or employees.
- The charging point owner can also use the Virta management system for viewing statistics, controlling charging remotely and reporting any issues. Statistics on used kWh, number of charging events, and number of EV’s charging can all be viewed in the system. If a station is not working properly, the owner can use the admin panel to check its status, restart the station remotely if needed, and start and stop charging events in the panel. If an issue cannot be resolved, the owner can also report the problem and allow Virta professionals to take care of the problem.