Autoliitto – How a nationwide automobile club builds a fast EV charging network in Finland

5 min read
December 12, 2023 at 1:36 PM

Autoliitto, translated to English as the Automobile and Touring Club of Finland, is a nationwide association for private motoring in Finland. The association recognised that EV charging services would only be more in demand in the future and wanted to offer its existing and new members easy and fast EV charging opportunities across Finland and Europe via roaming. Read how Autoliitto partnered up with Virta to make this vision a reality.

Autoliitto has 130,000 members and aims to look after their interests, offering various services in the fields of taxation, traffic legislation, touring, road building, maintenance and car insurance.

EV charging can’t be ignored

In 2021, Autoliitto started to build up a new strategy, during which they recognised the importance of electric mobility in current society and realised the EV boom would only grow in the upcoming years.

Autoliitto knew they held a strong position regarding matters related to regular ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles. Still, they needed to start taking the EV revolution seriously if they wanted to stay relevant, appeal to their existing members and gain new ones.

“We finally recognised that EVs will provide a revolution in the mobility space, and we realised that if we wanted to stay relevant, we couldn’t just sit around and see what happens. We needed to build up relevant services and provide benefits to EV drivers,” says Niila Rajala, Autoliitto’s Chief Commercial Officer and a CEO of AL-lataus, Autoliitto’s subsidiary, focusing on building up its own charging network.

Man standing beside EV with fast charging connector outside storePhoto 1: Niila Rajala charging at Autoliitto's ultra fast EV charger.

That’s how the topic of EV charging made it into their newest strategy and the idea of building their own charging network nationwide was born.

Looking for the right approach

Autoliitto started looking into how to approach this EV charging question. First, they contacted similar European automobile associations, who have already dealt with EV charging and could offer more insights and valuable advice.

They have identified and considered three different options:

  • Developing own back-end system and starting operations from scratch
  • Finding an EV charging partner
  • Negotiating special member prices from an existing charging network provider

Autoliitto decided that finding a strong EV charging partner would be the best option, as building their own back-end system would require more time and effort. At the same time, Autoliitto wanted to bring its own brand on display, so solely letting its members use EV chargers of other networks wasn’t ideal either.

Finding an EV charging partner was the right way forward. The requirement was for the partner to enable Autoliitto to access the market fast and take most of the responsibilities surrounding running charging operations on their shoulders. All in all, Autoliitto needed to find an established partner.

Autoliitto was also looking for the possibility of branding the different elements of the charging journey. They were keen on displaying their own logos and colours so EV drivers could recognise them during the EV charging experience.

Ultra fast EV chargers AutoliittoPhoto 2: Autoliitto's two ultra fast EV chargers at an outlet with visible AL-Lataus branding.

The cooperation between Autoliitto and Virta

As Niila mentions, Virta has been on his personal radar for some time due to its strong presence in the Finnish market. So, when he got a good recommendation from another European automobile club, deciding to partner up with Virta was easy.

“The quality of Virta’s operations, meaning the availability of charging stations, was high. And Virta could offer us and our members access to a broad charging network thanks to roaming, which was important for us, too,” adds Niila.

Autoliitto needed to showcase its own branding during the charging experience and wanted to make sure Virta’s offering took branding into consideration.

“The white label model was more enhanced than with other providers we were considering and easy to adapt,” says Niila.

When asked about the benefits of the Virta charging solution to Autoliitto’s customers, Niila highlights the ease of use.

“With the Virta mobile app, our members can easily locate the chargers and use one charging tag at the stations for Virta and other partners within the roaming network. So, it’s easy to use.”

Woman holding smartphone Virta mobile app logo

Photo 3: Virta's mobile app

In addition, Virta’s wide network and roaming possibilities are also crucial for Autoliitto.

“We think that our members will drive around Europe in their EVs more and more. And we hope our cooperation with Virta will make that experience easier for them.”

Autoliitto plans to prepare specific guides and helpful content for its EV drivers on charging abroad within the roaming network to make their charging experiences even easier.

Another helpful part of finding an established partner to help run the EV charging operations is the expertise that comes with it. And that’s exactly what Autoliitto got with Virta.

“The Virta personnel has been actively educating us as we don’t have EV charging specialists in-house. We value Virta’s advice and help when deciding what and how to do things.”

The focus is on DC charging

Autoliitto offers both AC and DC charging, but as the demand for faster charging has been on the rise, Autoliitto puts more focus on installing DC charging stations.

“DC charging is our core business; AC charging is just an additional service for specific locations,” explains Niila.

The perfect locations are along busy highways, at destinations like indoor and outdoor sports centres, shopping centres and resorts, but also in the centres of smaller cities.

Ultra fast EV chargers Autoliitto sign

Photo 4: Autoliitto's charging location at an outlet.

So far, Autoliitto has installed 17 EV chargers offering 49 DC and 10 AC sockets. All during the year 2023.

EV charging as a membership benefit

Since Autoliitto launched its EV charging operations, the association introduced two new membership categories for EV drivers, which include a specific price scheme for EV charging.

Autoliitto’s AC charging stations:

  • Standard price: 25 cents/kWh
  • Member price: 20 cents/kWh

Autoliitto’s DC charging stations:

  • Standard price: 30 cents/kWh
  • Member price: 25 cents/kWh

This pricing policy is unified for the whole country in order to not confuse EV drivers with multiple prices.

Autoliitto’s charging network is open to everyone. About 80% of charging sessions is done by non-members, but by offering discounted member prices, Autoliitto hopes to attract more EV drivers to join the association as members. About 4,000 of Autoliitto’s members are EV owners, and the hope is to double that number by the end of 2024.

Even though Autoliitto is still in the early stages of its EV charging operations, its members already see it as a beneficial and relevant service.

Building a nationwide charging network

Autoliitto has a goal of installing 20 chargers per year. They are almost at the 20 chargers mark for 2023 and plan to continue with this pace for at least the next five years to ensure the charging network in Finland is sufficient for the growing EV charging needs.

“We have mapped out the nationwide charging network needs and it requires a minimum of 100 charging stations. So that is our goal,” adds Niila.

Analysing the existing charging locations and the utilisation rates of the EV chargers is crucial for Autoliitto to determine if any changes need to be made. The demand for faster charging is expected to increase and Autoliitto is ready to update the existing infrastructure when demand grows.

Virta is ready to continue supporting Autoliitto on its journey to offer easy and fast EV charging across Finland.

 

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Autoliitto logotype

17
Charging stations installed
 
49 vs 10
Number of DC vs AC sockets
 
20
Planned number of installed EV charging stations per year
 
 

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The quality of Virta’s charging operations, mainly the availability of the charging stations is high. And the Virta mobile app is easy to use for our members charging in Finland and within the vast roaming network.

Niila Rajala
CCO, Autoliitto
CEO, AL-Lataus