The Think City In Norway they’re building your first electric car latimes com

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Th!nk City

And it’s solid and safe, charisma to boot.

June 25,


Ingvil is battery challenged.

Her laptop is out of juice. Her cellphone is down to its electrons. But the director of communications for Think — beginning in September of perhaps the best car in the world — feels about our chances of getting

We’re going to make it! she as we cross back into proper. Fantastic.

It’s a long day for our adorable yellow car. This morning we for Think’s factory in Aurskog, 40 miles into the bluegrass countryside, with about an 85% in the car’s advanced sodium-cell But Ladehaug — who is directionally too — got us turned around. after several course that added perhaps 20 to the trip, we’re both the battery gauge, while lights flash ominously.

the Think City — a runabout with plastic panels and an official range of 112 on full charge — along.

About the size of a Mercedes-built car, the two-seat Think optional) scoots away stop lights, thanks to its electric motor, and doesn’t at all strained at highway speeds of 100 per hour (62 mph). First dead solid, quiet, fully realized. A real It’s got a great look, big moony eyes as headlamps make you want to take it The brakes are kind of touchy, the are kind of small, the steering a bit

But for the most part, it feels any other sub-compact economy except there’s not an exhaust Nor exhaust pipe. When we to make a quick change in — Here, this

Ladehaug shouts — the car darts in the direction it’s

Think’s journey to the world has been similarly full of The company (previously called began in 1991 and by 1998 had more than 1,000 and charismatic electric runabouts, mostly in Norway (where you see a few on the road). Then, in 1999, the was bought by the Yankee giant Motor Co.. which was at the time to comply with Zero Emission Vehicle essentially requiring automakers to fleets of electric vehicles. renamed the company Think and began a complete redesign of the

When, in 2003, the American succeeded in modifying California’s Detroit’s flirtation with vehicles ended. General Corp. famously killed the EV1 and Ford sold Think to a electronics firm.

The lawyers us, says Ole Fretheim, the factory’s Think went bankrupt in

The irony is that Ford had poured $150 million the Think City project, among other things the rigid steel space the crash structure. If and when it to the U.S. market — the opened an office in Menlo Calif. earlier this with plans to sell stateside in 2009 — the City will be a rarity: A electric car meeting U.S. and crash standards.

The car was 95% complete when Ford development in 2002, says In the long run, he says, the time might have a good thing. When we work again we had better for batteries.

In 2006, a group of led by Jan-Olaf Willums, a Norwegian capitalist specializing in energy purchased Think for $15 million. Now chief executive, Willums has much of the last two years more money — $93 million, much of it from Valley — to help get off the ground.

These guys are They’re fearless, says James, a general partner of Capital Partners, which in Think North America with Ray Lane of Kleiner Caufield Byers. And they’re leaders in clean technology.

At the factory, we’re met by the plant Arne Degermosse, a 41-year veteran from Saab, in to ramp up production. Also year, Porsche Consulting in to advise on plant efficiency. just under 18,000 feet under the roof, is at a premium; with two shifts, Degermosse, the facility can produce 44 cars a day, or about cars a year.

Th!nk City

Not a number will have GM shaking in its

And yet, because of the unique assembly process — the car is put from a mere 580 parts it would be possible to set up other plants closer to the markets it namely Southern California. called distributed manufacture, James. If we were going to them anywhere in the U.S.

California would have because that’s where sell them. It’s a of what the OEMs [the big should be doing.

In any electric car the crucial component is the battery. has settled on three suppliers: which produces a molten battery, and A123Systems and EnerDel, produce varieties of lithium-ion The MES-DEA battery yields 28 while the EnerDel and the A123Systems produce 26 and 19 kWh, respectively. Any of the are expensive.

At current market prices, City could cost up to more than half of tied up in the battery.

For that Willums proposes to sell the for $20,000-$25,000 and lease the batteries to for a $150 to $200 monthly fee. All battery maintenance and costs would be covered, and could be ways to compensate for the costs of the electricity to charge the

The real interesting part is is going to happen next, James. The market has evolved than we ever thought.

currently doesn’t know how it sell the car: Will be online showrooms or real Or will customers go to their Think assembly plants and as their cars are built? tax breaks will be available, and whom?

Will consumers balk at a fee on top of a purchase price?

All these remain unanswered. But as for the question so asked: Is a safe, practical car possible? The answer seems to be

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