By on June 28, 2008

40349832.jpgTo bring you up-to-speed (so to speak) on Norway's homegrown EV maker: "In 1999, Think [was] bought by the Yankee giant Ford Motor Co.," LA Times writer Dan Neil relates. "which was scrambling at the time to comply with California's Zero Emission Vehicle mandate, essentially requiring automakers to build fleets of electric vehicles. Ford renamed the company Think Nordic and began a complete redesign of the car. When, in 2003, the American automakers succeeded in modifying California's mandate, Detroit's flirtation with electronic vehicles ended. General Motors Corp. famously killed the EV1 program, and Ford sold Think to a Swiss electronics firm." So Dan flew over to Aurskog to have think about the recently resurrected Think (and avoid using the word "think" until the summation). Once again, range. "Now, after several course corrections that added perhaps 20Still the Think City — a 2,449-pound runabout with plastic body panels and an official range of 112 miles on full charge — hums along." AND [allegedly] meets federal crash and safety standards, thanks to FoMoCo development. While Think has yet to think-up a suitable anything plan for the U.S. market, Dan thinks Think proves that EVs are viable. I think. "Is a safe, practical electric car possible? The answer seems to be yes." 

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21 Comments on “Dan Neil: Just Think What Ford Could’ve Done with EVs...”


  • avatar
    folkdancer

    Damn, it is California’s fault for destroying the U.S. car companies:-)
    If Califoria hadn’t backed down the car companies would have had to do some engineering to meet the challange of better fuel mileage and they would have been prepared for our present world where a lot more people are buying cars and the gas to put into them.

  • avatar
    BlueEr03

    Put some 17 or 18 inch rims on the car. It looks like an old playskool car I had when I was little with those tiny wheels.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    The Think is exactly what the market needs most: a small, affordable EV city run-about that is crash compliant and can handle a short freeway run. Bring it on.

  • avatar
    rtz

    Well, it’s a start.

    Just think how wicked a Porsche built EV would be. Sick and sinister.

    A genuine electric Lambo? HP/TQ would be off the charts…

    Scroll down and read the last line about this kinda big DC motor for just a taste:

    http://www.evsource.com/tls_warp13.php

    If you want clarification of that number, contact the company who makes it:

    http://go-ev.com/

    They used to have some more info about it, but I can’t find it on their redone site.

  • avatar
    hwyhobo

    If this thing was reasonably inexpensive, and if it could keep up with traffic on 280 (75+), it would cover 90% of all my driving needs.

    Sign me up.

  • avatar
    tulsa_97sr5

    The article says it might cost around 35k with half of that being batteries. They are considering a 20-25k purchase option plus 150-200/mo battery lease charge. Even taking the low end 20k + 150/mo battery lease you’ll have trouble coming out ahead of a prius with $5/gal gas but it might be doable. I’d wager it’s close enough that quite a few early adopters would take a shot at it, I agree bring it on.

  • avatar
    hwyhobo

    tulsa_97sr5, I don’t think it would be a big market at $35K. To be honest, I think I would rather go for a Prius in that case (more practical). If they manage to do it at a price comparable or a couple of grand over Prius, then Think would make a splash.

  • avatar

    As I write this, a Think City is just passing underneath my terrace – just a little hum from the tires against the asphalt.
    Well, it’s gone from view now.

    What Ford was thinking is a mystery. They sank a fortune into Think, going from the very basic car that the company originally developed to creating a capable, crash tested, high-way approved – AIR CONDITIONED – EV. Of which they made a few – and then pulled away from as fast as they could the moment CA dropped the requirement (much abetted by the carmakers themselves.)

    Yes, what could have been? The dirty back story here is what Kamcorp, the company that bought Think, did with it. There are many theories – one being that they were told to let it simmer and die. What I can state, from personal experience, is that they were completely uninterested in doing anything with what was at the time the only decent EV going, and workers and management at Think thought that this might have been part of their “agreement” with Ford.

    I had some dealings with people from Think back in 2004 – we considered the car ideal for suburban and gated communities (35 million Americans live inside gated communities). And we were in touch with developers who when they were told of the car couldn’t wait to place orders. But Kamcorp didn’t bite …

    In the end, Think as it existed under Kamcorp was declared bankrupt, and new management has taken over. They, unfortunately, went for the Tesla boondoggle and thought they would get batteries from that collaboration. Now they have sought other suppliers for the battery-package, and they have a notion to be leasing battery-packs to those who buy the vehicle.

    If Ford had looked into the future, as Toyota did, then Think City, and subsequent spin-offs, would have been rolling along too numerous to count now.

    Think will have a tougher time of it, given that a number of major carmakers have finally seen the light and are retooling for EVs. Mitsubishi’s offering is particularly interesting.

  • avatar
    CarShark

    @hwyhobo:

    I think there’d be almost no market for this car. For a car that small, I think people would expect a small price tag. If it becomes “cool”, maybe it’ll catch on a bit, but I’m not holding my breath.

  • avatar
    Geotpf

    Carshark: Agreed. Electric cars can’t cost three times their gasoline equilvalents (the Think City is about the same size (or smaller) than, say, a Chevy Aveo or Toyota Yaris). The technology for an electric car that would be acceptable to the public is still not there. In any case, pure electrics are a dead end except in fleet and second vehicle situations, due to the whole “you can’t drive from LA to Vegas in one” bit. Plug in hybrids are the way to go.

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    I may remember things wrongly here, but it seems that Fords initial plan was to literally scrap all the cars, GM EV-1 style. But that some norwegian investors prevented that by byuing the existing stock of cars, complete with plans and blueprints, whilst promising not to hold Ford liable for any problems, and never to export the car from Norway. I don’t know what has happened from there, but with some further r&d, Ford could have had that car up and running five years ago.

  • avatar

    @Ingvar

    The car was up and running five years ago. I drove a very nice one in 2004.

  • avatar
    y2kdcar

    I drove one of the prototypes when Ford was working to Federalize it around 2000. It was quite a bit of fun to drive, with plenty of pep at low speeds and good handling, and had ample space for two people. I thought that Ford had a winner on its hands and was very disappointed when they stopped development and sold the company.

  • avatar
    tulsa_97sr5

    @hwyhobo

    oh, I never said I’m an early adopter, I’m doing everything in my power to convince my wife to hold out for a next gen prius. Just saying the pricing is maybe close enough to look at for certain people.

  • avatar

    http://www.salon.com/comics/opus/2008/06/29/opus/

  • avatar
    Andy D

    the solution to Peak Oil is the electric car. The US has the coal,uranium, wind , solar, etc to generate the electricity needed to keep the batteries charged. The sooner a coherent energy policy is developed, that is based upon available resources and technology, the better off the country will be.

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    Andy D :

    the solution to Peak Oil is the electric car. The US has the coal,uranium, wind , solar, etc to generate the electricity needed to keep the batteries charged. The sooner a coherent energy policy is developed, that is based upon available resources and technology, the better off the country will be.

    Don’t forget, it requires oil to make things out of steel, plastic, copper, aluminum, and rubber. All of these things are in every car, whether gasoline or electric powered.

    Even when you figure in conservation and efficiencies due to new technologies, it’s pretty much like this: Quantity of oil used is directly related to the number of humans using oil. We basically double our consumption of oil every generation. How many more “doublings” before the end of oil is upon us?

    I wonder if the “solution” to Peak Oil, if there even IS one, may just be “fewer people”? Scary stuff.

    Yes, I think we do need a coherent energy policy, but I am not looking to incompetent government politicians and bureaucrats to create one. When was the last time you tried to get a permit to improve your property, or waiting for the inspector to arrive…or maybe you were in the license bureau, or at the DMV? These are the same people who can’t do the math regarding Ethanol. So now we all pay more for gas AND more for food. And parts of the world have less food because we are burning it instead of selling it on the world market.

    No, the government is just going to protect its own, and getting away with it because of our own WILLFUL ignorance.

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    I am hoping for a viable, reasonably inexpensive EV vehicle that I can charge in my garage overnight, and use at least 3 or 4 days per week.

    An alternative would be the Honda Insight. Small, 2-seater, very fuel efficient.

    A few of my requirements:

    1. Crashworthy
    2. Freeway-capable
    3. Air Conditioning (I live in Florida)
    4. A 200 mile range, depending on speed and AC usage
    5. A mid $20K price range
    6. Not manufactured by GM, Ford, or Chrysler (sorry; I just don’t think I can trust any of them to do a competent job AND to support their work)

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    I drove the Th!nk City and found it to be like driving tupperware. It was really, really small, low and felt as safe as, well driving a piece of tupperware, which actually made it quite fun. I’m not sure how valuable the work Ford did was to make the car production ready. There was a poorly funded, disorganized team working on it well off the corporate radar. It is too bad Ford didn’t invest more and stick with Th!nk.

  • avatar
    shaker

    They should convert it to a single rear-wheel drive (so it can be classified as a motorcycle) reduce the weight (and some of the crash-worthiness) and offer it for 20-25k.
    They’ll sell every one they can make; the people that are riding motorcycles and scooters to save money will actually appreciate the body shell and climate control.

  • avatar
    mdf

    ZoomZoom: “Don’t forget, it requires oil to make things out of steel, plastic, copper, aluminum, and rubber. All of these things are in every car, whether gasoline or electric powered.”

    The content of the following URL needs to be much more widely known:

    http://peakoildebunked.blogspot.com/2008/01/326-detailed-breakdown-of-us-petroleum.html

    In effect, the amount of oil used for plastics — 10% — is almost ignorable. Even aviation and trucking is dwarfed by the amount of oil that is burned in cars and light trucks.

    The lesson here is simple: get cars off oil!

    We basically double our consumption of oil every generation.

    http://peakoildebunked.blogspot.com/2008/06/364-other-peak-oil.html

    Japan, Israel, Germany, Denmark, Italy and Sweden are all on declining consumption curves — some for a decade. Rapid up-take of EV’s will push those curves into a precipitous decline indeed.

    Now then … what were you saying?


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