Electric vehicles, EVs, were invented nearly two centuries ago. Hungarian priest and engineer Ányos Jedlik, created the electric motor in 1828.
You’d think then that these cleaner and more energy efficient vehicles would have already taken the world by storm. Indeed, in some places they have. Norway, for example, peaked with over half of new cars sold being EV or hybrids in early 2017.
But in many other parts of the world, EV market share is still patchy at best. So, what’s the deal with Finland? As recently as this decade, one Finnish University of Applied Science, Metropolia has done well in electric car racing. And surely, one of the world greenest countries according to the Environmental Performance Index would be on the fast track to an electric car future, right?
Wrong. Finland’s lagging far behind. Here’s why.
1. There’s a perception problem
For a start, there’s a flawed perception problem. At the moment, electric cars cost more than internal combustion engine (ICE) cars. Add a more limited range, and there’s a belief, enthusiastically promoted by Finland’s bio-fuel lobby, that electric cars aren’t as good value for money.
However, total cost of ownership for electric vehicles is closing in on oil burning cars thanks to cheaper energy and motors with far fewer moving parts. What’s more, this trend is set to continue.
By 2025, it’s expected that the cost of electric vehicles will match that of combustion engine vehicles. It’s probably for this reason that Volvo recently announced they’re going all in on electric cars by 2019, for new models. Mass adoption is only a matter of time.
2. A real lack of subsidies. An imaginary lack of charging stations
Many governments offer subsidies for people buying electric cars. Not in Finland. Thankfully, next year, it looks like Finland might finally join this trend. But you can’t drive a car on tax breaks alone.
You also need places to charge your vehicles. Happily, tax incentives for charging stations are already in place, and thanks to charging companies such as Virta, businesses are investing, even in remote areas like eastern Finland.
A better charging network is a big deal. In Finland, even though the average daily drive is just 10km, the fear of not having enough power to reach your summer cottage is real. The more stations, the merrier everyone is.
3. The current Finnish government has bought into bio-fuels
The current Finnish government has made a number of decisions concerning biofuels, which can charitably be described as bizarre.
At worst, these subsidies, falling under a program intended to boost the “bio-economy”, are a handout to the Center Party’s agrarian base. Unsurprisingly, this program faces staunch opposition from experts and researchers in all the relevant fields.
The Center Party aren’t alone in flying the bio-fuel flag. Oil industry business people such as billionaire ST1 owner Mika Anttonen, who’s heavily invested in biofuels, regularly belittle electric vehicles in the press (1,2,3,4,5,6,7).
While the oil lobby is unlikely to change its tune anytime soon you wouldn’t bet on Prime Minster Sipilä winning a second term. If he were to lose the 2019 parliamentary election, the likelihood is harmful handouts to produce biofuels will end too.
4. The oil industry has fueled suspicion
There’s a number of common misconceptions and downright myths surrounding electric vehicles. Once you dig deeper you often find they’re fueled by dubious studies, regularly sponsored by the oil industry.
This is nothing new. Ever since GM conspired to destroy electric trams after WWII, the oil industry has used its wealth and power to thwart alternative energy. It’s this century-long deception that’s now causing us all to suffer from rampant climate change.
Of course, it’s true that the long-term environmental benefits of electric cars depend on skipping hybrids, climate-friendly ways to power the electric grid and improvements in or replacement of lithium-ion battery technology.
However, claims such as a notorious rumor that the net energy consumption of EVs exceed that of traditional cars, when lithium ion battery consumption is taken into account, simply don’t add up over extended use.
This hasn’t stopped one Finnish oil company from producing a flashy site where claims are made of electric car emissions exceeding those of bio-diesel powered one. In the comparison, the EV’s co2 emissions are based on net fuel production and usage, but bio-fuels only on production, not consumption.
The reason cited is dubious in the extreme. It’s unnecessary to take usage emissions into account because bio-fuels are a type of waste disposal. This disregard for obvious co2 emissions makes no sense whatsoever, but is typical of the oil industry strategy of playing fast and loose with the facts.
Despite all these obstacles, it looks inevitable that the future for cars in Finland is electric. And while Finland’s currently lagging behind its Nordic neighbors, we’re hopeful that’s set to change sooner rather than later. That’s something we, and the planet, can all be thankful about.