Finland sending a competitor to Michigan to compete in the X PRIZE competition for super efficient cars? Right! Last week Metropolia unveiled the Electric RaceAbout – ERA for short – car in the Cable Factory in Helsinki, after which it started the journey to the USA to compete in the competition’s test drive phase. Besides fame and the respect of other competitors, the winner will take home USD 10m, and the team around Sami Ruotsalainen looks like a strong contender.

The ERA car is the culmination of nearly three years of combined work of the Metropolia University, Lappenranta University of Technology and Lahti University of Applied Sciences students plus a host of other companies and organizations – the list is long and full of interesting companies, both old and new. It goes to show that Universities and companies can work together to create truly amazing things, combining fresh ideas with commercial knowledge and skills.

A look a the car reveals that it is full of innovations – a direct-drive motor for each wheel, eliminating the expensive and heavy gear box, a vehicle control system to do away with mechanical transmission, a set of batteries which bring you as far as 200 km with one load and can be given an express charge in ten minutes. The car itself is made of lightweight materials and weighs half as much as a normal car, and the aerodynamic design helps in being energy efficient and nearly noiseless.

The aim of the project? Besides winning, nothing less than creating the ground work for the electric car industry in Finland. Valmet Automotive, one of the partners of the ERA project, also has been working on this, and should the car get far in the competition the situation certainly would look pretty good for Finland. After all, the main players are still trying to catch up on the innovators in the EV industry, and also strategic alliances like the one Mercedes and Nissan-Renault announced at the beginning of the week will not get them immediately to the level on which Think, Tesla, Fisker and others are. Finland could really establish itself as the innovative place for the EV industry, attracting more talent, know-how and money.

I do think that even if the ERA shouldn’t succeed in winning the X PRIZE competition – and I hope they do! – that the project is already a winner for the students, companies, and EV industry in Finland. The aim of the X PRIZE, to stimulate automotive technology and manufacturing while reducing oil consumption & emission certainly has succeeded, and the ERA project has created an efficient and desirable car. I wish the ERA team much success in Michigan, and we will keep you up-to-date on how they fare.