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Norway’s Mass Production Electric Car

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Authored by Jon Mercer in Automotive, Environment
Published on 02-01-2009

It has been a long journey for Norway’s first electric car from the drawing board to the production line. It’s had its share of detours along the way too. The Think Company of Norway had already built more than 1,000 small electric cars by 1998, sold mostly in Norway. Then the company was bought out by the Ford Motor Company, which was franticly trying to comply with California’s zero emission vehicle mandate. Ford renamed the company Think Nordic and, inexplicably, completely redesigned the car. After the automakers succeeded in modifying California’s emissions mandate, Ford then sold the company to a Swiss electronics firm.

Think Nordic then went bankrupt in 2006. However, there may be new hope for the little car from Norway. The company has opened an office in Menlo Park, California, with plans to sell their cars in the United States by the end of 2009. The Think “City” will be the company’s first US offering. It’s a compact, full-speed electric car that meets U.S. and European crash standards.

When Ford suddenly stopped development on the car in 2002 it was already 95% complete; Ford had poured $150 million into the project and the car and it was nearly ready for mass production. But in 2006 a group of investors bought the company for a paltry $15 million and raised enough money to begin producing the City again.

The new Think factory in California is just under 18,000 square feet, so space is at a premium. The factory can produce about 44 cars a day running two shifts. Although 44 cars a day is not a number that would scare the big three U.S. automakers, there is already a growing market for the cars in Southern California, and that is something that may be beginning to worry Detroit, and even Japanese Automakers.

The most crucial part of any electric car is the battery. The Think City has a molten sodium battery that yields about 28 kilowatt hours to a charge. The batteries remain quite expensive as well. The Think City could sell for about $35,000 and about half of that cost would be for the batteries alone.

For this reason, the Think Company will sell the City for $20,000 to $25,000 and lease the battery to the owners for a $150 to $200 monthly mobility fee. The market for electric cars has evolved faster than nearly anyone in the industry predicted, so it is going to be interesting to see what comes next for the Think City–the little Norwegian car that could.

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