In its aim to become a carbon-negative company and to accommodate the growing needs of its electric vehicle (EV) driving customers, Finavia was looking for a reliable charging solution to run its EV charging operations at Helsinki Airport and 19 other regional airports. Here’s how Finavia and Virta work together to provide customer satisfaction and support the local energy system.
Finavia, a Finnish airport company that leads and develops 20 airports in Finland, aims to make travelling smooth. Its biggest airport in Finland’s capital, Helsinki, is a leading European long-distance and transit hub and was awarded as the best airport in Northern Europe in 2023.
In 2023, the aviation sector accounted for over 2% of global energy-related CO2 emissions. These emissions have grown faster in aviation than in any other transportation sector. As airports everywhere try to lower their negative environmental impact, ensuring emission-free transportation is integral to these efforts.
Finavia is a leader in sustainability in the aviation industry. All its airports are carbon neutral, striving for carbon negativity in the long run. Electricity used at Finavia’s airports comes from 100% renewable sources like wind and solar. Helsinki Airport even powers EV charging stations in two of its parking halls with electricity from nearly 700 solar panels.
Finavia’s sustainability programme consists of various actions and goals, including reaching net zero by 2025 and developing more sustainable vehicle fleets. And EV charging plays an important part in supporting Finavia’s transition to zero-emission operations.
FINAVIA’S EV CHARGING
Already in 2014, Helsinki Airport installed its first EV charging stations. But the EV market wasn’t very developed back then, not creating a high charging demand. That changed quickly as the EV market started growing.
“We’re operating parking facilities landside ourselves, so we have to keep up with changing technologies and customer demand,” says Jukka Isomäki, Head of Parking and Landside Traffic at Helsinki Airport, Finavia
Photo 1: Jukka Isomäki, Head of Parking and Landside Traffic, Helsinki Airport, Finavia.
A relatively short while ago, in 2020, Helsinki Airport had less than 100 charging stations. Since the airport has been recovering well following the Covid-19 pandemic, with passenger numbers returning to pre-pandemic digits, EV charging demand has grown.
“We noticed all the EV chargers installed in our parking halls were occupied. That’s when we knew we had to increase the number of chargers to meet the demand,” explains Jukka.
Helsinki Airport currently offers nearly 350 EV charging stations spread around all its parking halls. The newest parking hall, built in 2021, even has a whole floor reserved for electric cars, offering EV drivers 150 parking spots with EV charging stations.But Helsinki Airport isn’t the only one of Finavia's airports that offers EV charging.
“We have charging possibilities at other Finavia airports as well. Biggest ones being Tampere, Turku, Oulu and Rovaniemi,” expands Reijo Särkkä, Finavia’s System Manager.
Photo 2: Reijo Särkkä, System Manager, Finavia
FINAVIA & VIRTA PARTNER UP
In 2019, Finavia started searching for a cooperation partner who could provide them with a charging solution for effortless EV charging management.
“Virta had a high quality of service, which was what we were looking for and technical solutions that were fitting our needs,” Reijo explains why Finavia chose Virta to partner up with.
From the passenger’s perspective, the Virta solution is a perfect choice, thanks to roaming. With roaming, EV drivers can charge outside of their charging service provider's network. EV roaming as part of Virta's standard charging solution opens up Finavia's EV chargers to a wide range of EV drivers.
ENERGY MANAGEMENT SOLUTIONS CRUCIAL FOR FINAVIA
Airports often have limited electrical capacity, so installing EV charging infrastructure or adding more EV chargers as the demand grows can result in expensive electrical upgrades. That’s where smart energy management solutions come into play and make these expensive upgrades unnecessary.
Smart energy management solutions are integral to Virta’s charging solution and are proving very useful to Finavia.
“Energy management solutions like Dynamic Load Management offer us the possibility to control the charging power, which is very useful for us. When we install more EV chargers, we don’t need extra power capacity, and we can balance the used electricity well with the Virta system,” Reijo points out.
Load Management solutions enable Finavia to define the maximum power delivered to all its chargers and ensure it never exceeds the power threshold. This not only saves Finavia costs but protects the existing electrical system from overloading.
More and more renewable sources are entering our energy systems, and their volatility can pose challenges to areas that rely on solar and wind power.
With an energy management solution called Congestion Management, Finavia can limit the charging power during peak hours and optimise charging based on electricity spot prices.
“We can adjust the charging power when the energy system has limited capacity. That way, we ensure the energy system stays stable,” explains Reijo.
Airports are prime examples of long-term parking sites, where the charging capacity doesn’t always correspond to the high charging demand. Virta Preconnect enables EV drivers to plug in their cars even when there’s not enough charging capacity and ensures they come to a fully charged EV.
“Our passengers are travelling for much longer than it takes to charge their EVs,” says Jukka.
And that’s when Virta Preconnect works the best. It rotates charging turns while ‘pausing’ some of the charging sessions when there’s insufficient charging power available. Ultimately, all plugged-in vehicles get to charge without putting extra pressure on the site’s electrical infrastructure.
“When the parking time is longer, the parking operator has multiple ways to both optimise their gains and expenses, as the EV owner is not in a hurry to move their car. This means load management, demand elasticity, and energy optimisation can be done smartly. Especially in airports, these smart energy management services make it possible to have a seamless experience for the EV driver and at the same time use EV charging as a way to spare money for both parties,” says Aleksi Patana, Virta’s Country Manager for Finland.
GOOD CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE, FIRST AND FOREMOST
The cooperation between Finavia and Virta has proven successful, providing Finavia’s customers with a good charging experience above all.
"We’ve been very pleased with the cooperation with Virta. The EV charging stations have been working very well without any technical issues, which is important for us," says Reijo.
Finavia’s EV charging has become an expected service among customers, so providing a good EV charging experience is crucial for the company. Good customer feedback is proof that Finavia’s on the right path.
“Travelling is an excellent time to charge your EV, and we can make it a good experience for our customers. Plus, the EV charging stations are also a good reason for customers to park at the airport and make full use of our parking halls,” explains Jukka.
NUMBER OF CHARGING EVENTS KEEPs ON GROWING
As Helsinki airport’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic has been going well and new EV chargers were installed in 2021, the number of charging events in 2022 grew exponentially. Compared to the previous year, the airport saw a 128% growth and reached 20 700 charging events. And the growth steadily continued at the start of 2023 with +42% y-o-y, while the number of charging points stayed the same.
“As EVs have undoubtedly risen as mainstream vehicles, charging them wherever you park has rapidly developed from an added-value service to actual business for parking real estate. And Finavia shows a great example of this development,” adds Aleksi Patana.
FLEET ELECTRIFICATION AIRSIDE TO EXPAND IN THE FUTURE
As Finavia opened its newest parking hall at Helsinki airport in 2022, equipped with over 150 charging stations, the charging capacity for passengers seems sufficient at this point. But monitoring of data to plan for the future of Finavia’s EV charging infrastructure is ongoing.
“As the number of electric cars grows, we follow the figures: the electricity consumption and the number of charging sessions. So, we’re prepared to accommodate the demand as the market develops and invest in new charging stations,” explains Reijo.
Finavia plans to develop sustainable fleets airside as part of its sustainability programme.
“We already have many EV charging stations to support our own electric vehicle fleets. But we will electrify further,” says Jukka.
As Finavia’s partners airside also plan to continue electrifying their fleets, a sufficient EV charging infrastructure will be needed to support the electrification.