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The importance of perspective with Juhani Lehtimäki

Perspective is everything. Travelling by plane is a blast for those who have only ever travelled by car. It’s mundane for astronauts. Electric driving is clearly the superior experience in our opinion. But we make electric cars. How do former petrol-heads feel about it? Android developers with an interest in driving? People who take road trips from Bavaria to Schleswig-Holstein and back, with a brief detour in Finland? What are their thoughts on Polestar 2?

Total distance travelled: 1700 km Cost per kWh: 0.35€ Cost per 100 km: 6.84€ Total charging cost: 72.21€ Charging stops: 11 (7 at Ionity stations, 2 at hotels, 1 at an Aral station, and 1 at another public charger) Age of youngest passenger: 1.5 years old Problems encountered: 0

Luckily, one person could offer all those perspectives: Juhani Lehtimäki.

Lehtimäki is a Munich-based Android developer, CTO of Snapp Mobile, CEO of Snapp Automotive, and driving enthusiast. A developer since Android 2, Lehtimäki first clapped eyes on Polestar 2 while attending Google I/O 2019. “I was sitting in the car (at I/O) and got a demo of the infotainment system, and I thought ‘this is what I want in my life’,” he explains. “It was a done deal. An EV, with this infotainment system, from a good brand, and I love the design. Didn’t even look at the price.”

The road trip came about due to a desire to return to Lehtimäki’s native Finland for a visit. “We’d been waiting to go back for a long time due to the pandemic,” he states. “We have a dog and a 1.5-year-old son, which means no flying for us. And there’s a ship that goes from Travemünde to Helsinki that you can drive onto, so we just booked that.”

With generous margins for time, the family planned their trip to follow the network of Ionity chargers that dot the German landscape, taking advantage of the Polestar Plugsurfing deal. “This was our first long EV trip,” explains Lehtimäki. “We’ve had the car for half a year, but we’ve basically just been driving around Munich. We wanted to be cautious because we were unfamiliar with the technology. And everything went perfectly.” Two days of driving, with roughly 400 km per day, saw them arrive in Travemünde. “Because I hadn’t had this experience before, I wanted to be conservative,” he states. “Also, I didn’t want to be driving stressed. I hate driving stressed.”

Turns out stress was never a factor. Ionity’s network is steadily growing throughout Europe. Polestar 2’s range was more than enough. And Finland, while at a different stage when it comes to their charging infrastructure, provided no significant challenges. Ionity chargers encircle the capital, with different providers cropping up across the Northern European nation.

We wanted to be cautious because we were unfamiliar with the technology. And everything went perfectly.

That being said, Lehtimäki has some concerns about charging infrastructure and the role it plays in greater EV adoption. “We want the EV revolution to happen,” he says, “but we don’t want it to start with everyone buying EVs and having nowhere to charge them.” He feels that capitalising on the inherent business opportunities that come with charging stations is the way to ensure growth. “I guarantee I will buy an expensive cup of coffee if it’s a nice charging station,” he claims. “And if the coffee’s good, I will prioritise that station over others.”

Above all, he stresses the need for greater availability, especially as we approach the point where EVs and ICE vehicles cost roughly the same. “The cost argument will disappear, and we’ll have people trying EVs for the first time,” he argues. “If they end up waiting 30 minutes to charge for 20 minutes, they’ll tell all their friends, they’ll abandon EVs, and the transition will stop.”

This transition depends largely on ICE enthusiasts deciding to join the electric side. The driving experience is what will help them decide. Lehtimäki is one of these, a former dinosaur juice junkie that’s been convinced by Polestar 2’s performance. “I’m a recovered petrolhead,” he explains. “I had a sports bike and a few sports cars. For me, they were a top-of-the-line experience. Polestar 2 feels just like those.” The lack of lag, chassis stiffness, and responsive handling are particular highlights for Lehtimäki. “Some people say that EVs are boring, but that’s bullshit. They’re much more thrilling.”

They’re also easier to use. Just sit down, buckle up, and go. Another aspect of a vehicle’s usability is the system within the car itself. Polestar 2, the world’s first car to feature an Android Automotive OS, has greater usability than most. Something an Android developer like Lehtimäki can’t help but appreciate.

“The biggest benefit of the system is the continuum,” he says. “I listen to audiobooks on my phone, on Google Home, and in my car. Once my handover was finished, I sat down, closed the door, and said ‘hey Google, let’s go home’. That’s huge.” In Lehtimäki’s opinion, this heralds a much-overdue change in the way OEMs perceive the customer. “Car manufacturers think they can own the customer, but that’s no longer true. The customer is in a much larger ecosystem.”

Being as native to the Google ecosystem as one can be, Lehtimäki feels that the car should be an extension of the user’s life, like a phone. The experience should be customisable. “You don’t need to have a lot of apps; you just need the right ones. And Polestar 2 has the right ones,” he stresses. “It’s fun that there’s a game. I’m using ABRP. I’d love to see more charging apps. The power of the system is revealed when you really make it yours.”

The operating system is one thing. The HMI is another completely. And in what’s becoming a truly polarising subject within automotive, Lehtimäki is firmly in the pro-touchscreen camp. He’s also firmly of the opinion that a good touchscreen is one you barely use. “The way I use the touchscreen (of Polestar 2) is: I don’t,” he says. “The Polestar system doesn’t have a lot of features, which is completely positive. When your attention goes to the screen whilst driving, it can be dangerous. If you have good voice control, which Polestar 2 has with the Google Assistant, you can use that.”

So, those are the collected thoughts of an Android developer/Polestar 2 owner/EV enthusiast. As for how he felt once he’d finished the 1700 km round trip, he offers the following:

“When I arrived in Munich, if my eyes hadn’t been tired, I could’ve done it again. Immediately.”

Read about Juhani’s trip in his own words here.

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