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Estonia Wants to Lead the World in Electric Vehicle Infrastructure

The roll out of EV charging infrastructure solutions is gaining momentum, driving a global market opportunity for charging stations, sophisticated monitoring systems and software to support the electric grid.

Map of Estonia
Map of Estonia

The growing number of electric vehicles is driving a global market opportunity for charging solutions, sophisticated monitoring systems and software to support the electric grid—as well as an opportunity for local, state and federal governments to make a name for themselves as this new technology evolves. The Republic of Estonia, a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe, is on its way to creating the world’s first electric vehicle (EV) fast-charging infrastructure with full nationwide coverage.

With a population of 1.34 million, Estonia is one of the least-populous members of the European Union, Eurozone and NATO. It also has the highest GDP per person among former Soviet republics, and is an established supporter of EV technology. Estonia offers subsidies of up to 50 percent for private EV purchases. In 2011, the Estonian government started providing 507 Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric cars to social workers around the country, and made plans to install AC chargers at municipality offices.

“The Estonian government would like to ensure that driving an EV in Estonia is as comfortable and safe as driving any other car,” said Jarmo Tuisk, director of the Innovation and Technology Division at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications.

The Estonian government plans to build a network of 200 electric vehicle (EV) fast-charging stations to serve all urbanized areas with more than 5,000 inhabitants, said Tuisk. On main roads, they aim to install a fast charger every 50 kilometres, creating the highest concentration of DC chargers in Europe. The charging stations will be based on Terra direct current (DC) chargers provided by global automation and power systems vendor ABB. ABB will start deliveries in the second quarter, and plans to have all chargers running by the end of the year.

As part of a five-year contract, ABB will also deliver network operating support services for the chargers in the field, and the backbone IT architecture. ABB won the order together with its partners G4S and NOW! Innovations, which provide first-line customer support and payment solutions, respectively.

Ulrich Spiesshofer, head of ABB’s Discrete Automation and Motion division, said "this order shows that the rollout of EV charging infrastructure solutions is gaining momentum, and complements the recent run of small orders we’ve taken in other European countries from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in the automotive industry and infrastructure customers. To be successful, this infrastructure needs to be open to any kind of electric car. Our connectivity solutions are designed to support all existing and future connection standards within the same network.”

ABB’s Terra DC chargers have been used commercially since May 2010, and reportedly reduce charging times from eight hours, using regular alternating current (AC), to as little as 15 to 30 minutes. All Terra systems come with a range of connectivity features that help service operators run their network more efficiently through remote maintenance, software updates and high availability levels, said Spiesshofer. ABB’s connectivity suite is compatible with the Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP) and other commonly used standards for back-office integration, enabling real-time user authentication and authorization.

Renee Robbins Bassett,, is Managing Editor of Automation World.

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