By on March 12, 2009

Say you’re a small electric car maker in bankruptcy restructuring. You have no current production, you’ve only ever built a couple thousand street-legal cars and you’re operating on $6M in interim financing. With credit markets in turmoil and the car biz taking a beating, what’s a game changer to do? Luckily for you, the various governments of the United States seem to have acquired the reputation of being run by the kind of people PT Barnum would have loved. And as Autoweek reports, this opportunity has even the tiniest mice in global auto game warming up their vocal cords, hoping to pull off an American taxpayer-assisted roar.

The scenario above represents the very same conditions that Norwegian Ford spin-off Think finds itself in. Think’s CEO Richard Canny tells AW that his firm is “in talks” with eight US states in hopes of establishing a US technical center and assembly plant. Why? “Federal and state incentives for the manufacture of batteries and electric vehicles are a factor in the firm’s decision to expand its North American presence.” And “in talks” sounds so much better than “looking for the biggest sucker.” Canny also revealed plans to file for Department of Energy Section 136 loans.

The plan, as such, is to introduce Think’s updated EVs to the US market; to fleets and demonstrators in 2010 and the retail market in 2011. Current production capacity is 5k per year. In Norway. Think’s current model is an updated version of the vehicle offered in California by Ford, and is fully compliant with European crash test standards. The EV’s battery range is currently 100 miles, with top speeds hitting a heady 62 mph. But, says Canny, “the company aims to increase top speed to 70 or 75 mph and to further improve driving range and acceleration.”

“The technology is ready, there’s expanding awareness and interest in the marketplace, so all it takes is the financing to make it happen,” says Think’s plucky CEO. “Unfortunately, the global economic crisis arrived just as the company was entering its most capital-intensive phase.” Not that Think is looking at an all-government solution to this problem. “We’re still pursuing private investment,” says Canny. “The Department of Energy loan is not something we see as a substitute for capitalization, but a supplement that makes our operating plan going forward more effective.” But since private loans aren’t exactly readily available right now to firms in Think’s precarious (to put it nicely) postition, it’s up to governments to blink first.

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14 Comments on “Think About It...”


  • avatar
    folkdancer

    Cost a lot less to bail these guys out than GM.

    And these would be great cars to sell through Best Buy.

  • avatar
    superbadd75

    Hell, you could drive this thing from the garage straight onto the golf course. No inconvenient stopping to rent a golf cart!

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    “In the UK we’ve got this one-eyed Scottish idiot evaluating our electric cars.”

  • avatar
    paulb

    @superbadd75:

    Hell yes! The company can sell that as one of it’s main features :)

    They should act fast though. MINI E is already off the starting blocks.

  • avatar
    Stein X Leikanger

    Oh, we tried with the previous bunch at Think – but Kamkorp were never serious with that EV. God knows what kind of deal Ford made with Kamkorp.

    That EV you see right there – plus a platform they developed called Public. Perfect for US gated communities, colleges, golf clubs, country clubs.

    There are 35 million Americans living in private residential areas – and they want silence, as well as no exhaust from vehicles on the grounds. Most such communities have prohibitions against vehicles being used before 10 or 11 in the morning, for maintenance work, deliveries, etc.

    Enter the silent EV. Both in the Think City version as an airconditioned (! – yes, it is) run-about vehicle that’s also capable of scooting outside the community for shopping trips, etc.
    And then the Public platform, with a drone vehicle that you can attach a variety of trailers to, with different functions, storage compartments, etc. – to be used by all the services and utilities depts. in the community.

    And all of them making use of the various charge points distributed throughout.

    But do you think Think will go for this? For some damn reason they want to get out on the highway, instead of building a market in such communities.

    Sure, the economy is in a downturn, but Think had a niche. When we got in touch with various developers, communities, New Urbanism architects, and traffic planners, they were ready to jump on a plane to check out the Public platform there and then.
    One developer wanted 7.000 vehicles “yesterday” – pre-bailout, for sure, but the demand is still there.
    On average, those living in such residential communities have over 3 vehicles per household … and they’re using open golf electric golf carts or GEMs to run about inside the compounds today. (As well as some incredibly expensive Hummer golf carts that defie belief. http://www.luxurycarts.com/images/custom_carts/h2_6_passenger_front.jpg)

    Think could have had it all – still can.

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    Stein X Leikanger:

    I think they probably want a highway compatible vehicle because, in the gated community, NHTSA safety standard exempt, electric vehicle market there is some strong Chinese competition (and this is what a very small importer/converter can offer):

    http://www.zapworld.com/electric-vehicles/electric-cars/zap-truck-xl

    http://www.zapworld.com/electric-vehicles/electric-cars/zap-van-shuttle

  • avatar
    Stein X Leikanger

    There’s nothing at all wrong with having it highway compatible – but the sell-in should be for the community advantages. There they had no competitors, on the highway they are just above a three-wheeler in peoples’ perceptions.

    The response the concept got was amazing, and that’s what carmakers dream about. Unfortunately, the Kamkorp people were just treading water.
    This was back in 2004 — things were looking really good, then.

    It’s still perfectly possible. But now, as you point out, there’s stiffer competition.

  • avatar
    andrichrose

    so much more relevant then bailing out GM, its a car for the times !

  • avatar
    wsn

    Communism is not about shared wealth or shared women.

    Communism is about the government making the choice for you, because party (GCD,GOP,etc) officials are supposed to be more intelligent than you.

    This is Communism.

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    @ Stein X Leikanger:

    Agreed. The Th!nk City is never going to be a volume seller to people who drive on highways. That thing is beyond tiny. It has the just above 3 wheeler image because you feel like you are in a Tonka product while cruising with SUV’s and Camry sized vehicles with no more than flimsy plastic between you and 245/65/18″ tires. For the community market and to get around small densely populated cities it makes sense.

  • avatar
    King Bojack

    So let me get this straight, our government is going to loan cash to a foreign company to help them get their relatively unsuccessful business started in America? Why not just agree to give some domestic upstart the benefits and say fuck it to the foreigners?

  • avatar
    tesla deathwatcher

    Th!nk is one of those zombie companies that just will not die. They suck up resources from the living, eat them up, and then look for more.

    One would hope that the United States government would be smart enough to see that money given to Th!nk would be money thrown away. But I doubt it.

  • avatar
    tankd0g

    Like we need another premium golf cart on the road enjoying temporary easements of the rules and regulations that were put in place to keep people from getting killed.

  • avatar
    TaxedAndConfused

    But Tata will be there first.

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