The barriers to entry for automotive startups are incredibly high in the current market. Well-funded firms like Tesla Motors and Fisker encounter tremendous costs for R&D, production and marketing. Competition from traditional automakers like Chevy and Nissan can discourage aspiring automakers before they have developed their prototypes. Former Nokia executive Julien Fourgeaud created Scarlet Motors earlier this year to bring an electric sports car to the market from the company’s Helsinki headquarters. This automotive upstart wants customers to contribute to ongoing redesigns of future models by participating through the company’s website. Scarlet Motors has a spare website and some buzz at the moment but didn’t have a signature automobile until developing a partnership with Metropolia University of Applied Science.
A team of 25 engineering students and a pair of professors designed the Metropolia Electric RaceAbout (E-RA) by 2011. This prototype uses a 25.6 kWh lithium-titanate battery as well as four motors capable of producing 330 kW. The E-RA features a lightweight frame made of carbon fiber that allows better handling and lower resistance. Tests during Finland’s harsh winters show that the drive system works in cold weather without sacrificing fuel economy.
Performance estimates for the current version of the E-RA show the vehicle’s potential on the passenger vehicle market. The design team claims that the E-RA uses the equivalent of one gallon of gasoline for every 120 miles traveled. The E-RA travels about 124 miles per charge with a full recharge only requiring about 10 minutes. Metropolia notes that the E-RA weights about 3,700 pounds largely due to the motors and battery pack, which could be paired down when brought to market.
Scarlet Motors was no doubt impressed by Metropolia’s performance at EV competitions over the past year. The E-RA won the 2011 Battery Electric Rally in Berlin while placing ninth in the 2011 e-miglia Rally due to a timing penalty. This all-electric racer managed to hit 161 miles per hour and achieved an average speed of 156 MPH during two trials on the Nürburgring. Metropolia also achieved the Fastest Electric Vehicle on Ice record with a top speed of 156 MPH on Finland’s Lake Ukonjärv. This high-speed model not only takes care of business on the track but would be legal for daily driving in European countries.
The accolades and accomplishments of the E-RA might raise the question of whether Scarlet is necessary for mass production. Scarlet and Metropolia are taking initial steps toward converting the drive system for the marketplace while keeping the price reasonable. Scarlet seems better able to handle sales and marketing for the E-RA than a university though Fourgeaud’s firm is relatively new. Metropolia has spent considerable resources developing the E-RA but might not be comfortable spinning off the vehicle into a separate venture. Scarlet Motors might have hit the jackpot by aligning with Metropolia given the advanced stages of R&D on the E-RA.