While few would dispute that electric mobility is the future of transportation in both the mass and private forms, there is far more uncertainty in attempts to define when this transition to electric vehicles will ultimately take place. Despite the rapid development of electric vehicle technology and the strong confidence and long-term commitment shown by many of the world’s top automakers, the industry has yet to truly spark consumer demand.

Among the factors contributing to the lack of consumer demand are both purely economic considerations, owing to the higher prices which come as a result of implementing recently developed technologies which have yet to reach market saturation, as well as practical. While the, comparatively, high prices of current electric vehicle models will gradually decline as these vehicles become more widespread, the practical reasons keeping consumers from buying electric vehicles are the first, and most significant, hurdle to clear.

The marketplace is the true testing ground for the success of any new technology; as such the ultimate fate of any new technology ultimately lies in the hands of the consumer. Thus, educating consumers on the benefits and value of electric vehicles becomes a key tool in ensuring the spread of electromobility beyond a small advocate group motivated by environmental concerns or scientific curiosity. Rather than merely approaching this task instructionally, an approach which serves an important purpose in making available the information which will ultimately guide consumers in making their final purchases, there is great value to allowing the experiences of individual users reach a wider audience.

To this end, we here at the Eco Urban Living launched in a contest in March to find someone to help us achieve this goal by offering the winner a one-week test-drive of a fully-electric Think City EV. The task was simple; tell us why you should be the one to test drive the Think? From the wide range of entries we received over the course of the next month our expert panel selected as the winner the organizer of the 2012 SELL Student Games. The SELL Student Games were selected for their strong ties to both a local and international student community which brought an opportunity to help spread word of the week’s experiences to this crucial audience of future drivers. Furthermore, the contest panel also saw in the SELL Games an excellent opportunity to increase the environmental benefit of the test-drive week by providing the Games with an all-electric alternative means of transportation during the games.

We first met with the lucky winner, SELL Student Games’ Event Coordinator Timo Häkkänen, a few weeks ago just before Timo and his colleagues at the Games were about to start a hectic week of preparation in advance of the arrival of the competing athletes in a matter of days. We next met with Timo once he’d had an opportunity to drive the car for a few days and get to know it in more detail. Finally, we spoke with Timo after he had spent a full week driving the Think City to see how his impression of electric vehicles had changed over the course of the week.

Timo told us that, first and foremost, his week driving an EV had been an overwhelmingly positive experience. As Timo noted when we last spoke with him his initial concerns regarding the car’s range were quickly laid to rest. In spite of Timo’s long days on the road shuttling back and forth between the Games’ various competition venues, Timo reported never once having to pull over to charge the car’s battery or even to plug it in during a scheduled stop. These concerns, often referred to as ‘range anxiety’ are shared by a great number of people who fear the length of their trips would be limited by an EV’s battery capacity. However, Timo noted that a full battery, following an overnight charge at an ordinary outlet in the Games’ parking garage, proved more than enough to last him through the day and up to 120km.

Once Timo’s range anxiety had been dispelled he began to appreciate the many benefits of driving an EV rather than a gas-fueled car. The most immediate benefit Timo listed was naturally the cost benefit, being able to charge the car overnight and benefit from the electricity already available to him meant that Timo did not have to spend a single cent on the car during the busy week. While the cost of the increased use of electricity will certainly have to be figured into any cost-benefit equation in the long-run, Timo noted that with gas prices as high as they are currently there is little doubt as to which option would come out to be less expensive.

Despite the strong appeal of lower running costs, Timo believes the environmental benefits of electric vehicles are ultimately their greatest and most lasting impact. Far from being alone in his interest in electric vehicles, Timo told us that throughout his week with the EV he was repeatedly asked about the car by people both frustrated by high gas prices and those concerned for the future of the environment.

You can find all of our coverage of Timo’s test-drive here on the blog, including our interviews with Timo, our first interview and our second interview, as well as Timo’s reports from the road which were originally posted on Facebook,facebook.com/sell2012 and facebook.com/ecourbanliving, and Twitter, @SELLstudentgame and @EUL_Finland hashtag #ecourban.