VTI e-research: strength in breadth

Laddstolpar för elbilar.

Societal resilience, electric aviation, e-mobility and battery swapping – these are just some of VTI’s ongoing electrification projects. But just a few – VTI has around 20 research projects ongoing in almost all e-areas. This breadth is the research institute’s major strength.

What’s been happening in electrification research at VTI since the major government mandate was reported at the end of last year? Quite a lot, and in various areas, according to Francisco Márquez Fernández, research leader at VTI, coordinator of the Swedish Electromobility Centre and himself an active researcher working on a number of projects.

He was also one of the external reviewers of the reports as part of the government mandate until he joined VTI in March 2023.

“VTI can boast a breadth that few other organisations have. Electrification doesn’t just involve technology. It also involves regulations, the national economy and business models – and it’s rare for a single organisation to look at all these things. But that’s exactly what we do, and that makes us an important player in the transition to a fossil-free transport system,” he says, adding that all this also bring with it responsibility.

He estimates that around 30 researchers in total are working on electrification in one way or another, even if it’s not their primary field. Five or six of them can be described as dedicated electrification researchers. A selection of projects in progress indicates some of the breadth of the research.

  • Societal resilience. The BULT and “Towards a resilient, fossil-free transport system” projects examine how an electrified transport system should be built in order to withstand war and disasters.
  • Electric aviation. A number of projects are ongoing in this field, looking at aspects such as flexible charging and how airports can be used as energy hubs.
  • E-mobility. Together with ACE, the Arctic Centre of Energy, a pilot study of a demonstrator for bidirectional charging, known as vehicle-to-anything, is currently taking place in Skellefteå. This project is part of VTI’s Northern Sweden initiative and is included in the wider e-mobility research programme.
  • Battery swapping. A project completed recently has examined the criteria for a battery swapping system in Sweden.

Just a few examples, as noted. But there are a few gaps in the breadth offered by VTI. Well, going forward, Francisco Márquez Fernández reckons that VTI will be able to contribute even more to policy development, formulation of regulations and examination of which measures are most effective as we head towards a fossil-free transport system.

VTI will also be developing research in a field that touches on his own specialism – the link between the transport system, the power grid and Sweden’s energy system in general.

“If we’re going to minimise the investments needed to expand the power grid, we also need to work out how to go about smarter charging. The major challenge is presented not by technology, but by policies, standards and business models. But at the same time, we need to maintain a broad perspective: the transition doesn’t involve just the transport system, but society as a whole,” says Francisco Márquez Fernández.

Text: Mikael Sönne

Translation: CBG

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