Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Practical Electric Car


As gasoline prices have soared and global warming concerns have reached a crescendo, many automobile buyers have cast at least a passing eye at electric cars. Prototypes keep turning up a car shows, some rudimentary models are available through sources such as ZAP!, but most choices have looked like impractical compromises (too expensive, not enough range, not enough speed, not enough room).

A Norwegian firm, Th!nk, is trying to change the equation and plans to introduce their battery-powered Think City in the United States by the end of 2009. With a projected price of $17,000, a range of 110 miles, and a top speed of 65 mph, this may be the vehicle that breaks down the barriers that have kept electric cars from gaining a foothold (or is that a tirehold) in the market.

Writing for WIRED, Marty Jerome commented on the plans and the history of the company:

Spokespeople for Think plan to produce 30,000 to 50,000 within two years. Currently the company produces 10,000 vehicles per year in Europe.

Think North America, as its U.S. arm is called, will build cars in Southern California. The vehicle was originally developed by Ford, though it sold it to Norwegian investors in 2003. And while there are a half-dozen U.S. startups working on electric cars, Think has received backing most recently from General Electric. It also has backing from venture capital firms that include RockPort Capital Partners and Silicon Valley heavyweight, Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers.

Of course, money rarely tells you whether an electric car company can actually deliver on its promises. Failures and fraud have been rife in the industry.

Having watched many promising prospects rise and fall in the electric car sector, Th!nk may be on to something real with this latest offering.