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Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences unveiled its electric sports car at the Cable Factory in Helsinki on 31 March, after which the vehicle will immediately be sent to the United States to participate in an international product development competition.
The unique cooperation network created around the Metropolia project has raised the profile of Finnish expertise in electric cars and laid the groundwork for an electric car industry in Finland. The Electric Race About (ERA) electric car, which was born as a result of new values and passions, is a showcase of Finnish industrial competence and has made the discussion concerning electric cars more concrete.
“We are paving the way for creating an electric car industry in Finland. Now the industry will gain more expertise and develop rapidly in our country. Apart from the batteries and their charging system, all other essential technology used in the car, such as electrical technology related to power generation, is the product of Finnish expertise”, says Project Director Sami Ruotsalainen.
The majority of the more than 60 partners in Metropolia’s three-year project are Finnish companies and research institutes. In addition to Metropolia’s Automotive Engineering unit, the Institute of Design at Lahti University of Applied Sciences participated in the car’s design. Moreover, the Lappeenranta University of Technology contributed to the electric car by designing new electric motors optimised for use in vehicles.
One particular aspect in the project is the great responsibility students had in combining theory and practice to produce excellent know-how. In addition to working on designs, the students manufactured and installed the components assigned to them and are responsible for their functioning. Each student and member of staff has had their own area of responsibility in the planning and execution of the project.
“The most rewarding thing has been the chance to be a part of this project right from the initial stage of building the car all the way up to the competition. We have set our sights high, and our team wanted to build a good car. It’s taken a lot of work and taught us to cooperate and how to manage an entire project. Now our two and a half years’ work will be rewarded, as we’ve achieved our great goal. We’re going off to the States with a smile, the car leading the way and our dozen-member team right behind”, says Eero Korhonen, an Automotive Engineering student at Metropolia, describing his mood.
The almost noiseless ERA electric car is energy efficient and locally completely emissions-free. A significant amount of state-of-the-art lightweight technology has been utilised in the construction of its chassis, which is why it only weighs about half as much as the chassis of a normal car.
“Right from the start, we decided we wanted to build the best electric car in the world. The four-wheel drive ERA electric car has, for example, a direct-drive electric motor for each wheel, doing away with the need to install an expensive and heavy gearbox. Mechanical transmission is replaced with a vehicle control system developed during the project. The car’s range is about 200 kilometres and its batteries can be given an express charge in ten minutes”, says Ruotsalainen.
The Electric Race About car survived the preliminary phase of the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE international product development competition among one of the few European entrants – and as the only one from the Nordic countries. Next the car will participate in the competition’s test drive phase in Michigan, USA, in April.
The X PRIZE Foundation’s goal is to encourage the development of energy-efficient and environmentally friendly cars and to promote their introduction into serial production, so that they can be made available to consumers. From the 97 teams that entered the competition, the ERA electric car was selected among the 43 teams that will participate in the ‘shakedown stage’ in April. The final stages of the competition will be held in July and August, with the winners being announced in September 2010. The competition features three different categories, the total prize money for which is 10 million dollars.