Th!nking about a better electric car for London

30 June 2007

Th!nk car
The popular G-Wiz, rare Maranello4 and lesser-spotted Mega City electric runabouts will shortly face a new and potentially devastating rival on London’s streets. Not, sadly, a cheap version of the fabulous Tesla electric sports car, but almost: a city car powered by a Tesla powerpack wearing Th!nk badges.

Th!nk might be familiar to some – it has what biographers tend to label a chequered history.

Starting life as a startup called Pivco, Norwegian company Th!nk was acquired by Ford in early 1999. According to Tesla, the big blue oval “pumped well over $100 million” into the company – much of which went into “radical improvements” to the crashworthiness of the little car.

But the redesigned Th!nk was never launched. Changes in California’s zero-emissions vehicle policy dented Ford’s enthusiasm for electric motivation, and the venture was sold early in 2003 to KamKorp Microelectronics of Switzerland. And whatever plans the Swiss had, they didn’t work.

At the end of March 2006 Th!nk Nordic was acquired from bankruptcy by Norwegian investment group InSpire – and outfit including Pivco founder Jan Otto Ringdal as a partner.

“This was a brilliant move, because the majority of the engineering work was already bought and paid for,” wrote Tesla chief executive Martin Eberhard. “The biggest opportunity to improve on the Ford-designed Th!nk was to upgrade its batteries.” Thus Th!nk chief executive Jan-Olaf Willums found himself in California shaking hands on a power-pack deal with Tesla.

The Tesla pack – called an ESS (Energy Storage System) by Tesla – is built from a large number of small, off-the-shelf lithium-ion cells. In the roadster, 6,831 roughly AA-size cells are used but the Th!nk city car will use about 3,000. These cells warm up when charging or discharging, and so are cooled by water/glycol antifreeze mix pumped around the ESS just like the coolant in a petrol engine. This allows Tesla’s charging and power management system to maintain optimum battery life by carefully managing temperature.

So when will we be able to buy Tesla-powered Th!nks in the UK?

Sadly that’s not yet clear. We contacted Th!nk and spokeswoman Kine Kværum said: “Due to production capacity limitation and a desire to become very visible in the markets we enter, we will sell exclusively in Norway and the UK in 2007 and the first few months of 2008. Most likely the cars will be sold in the London area, however the specific date of the launch is not yet decided.”

It’s also not clear if Kværum is talking about the Tesla-powered version, or one powered by Th!nk’s other battery supplier, Zebra. She gave the following figures for the upcoming car’s performance: “It has a range of 110 miles, a top speed of over 60 mph and has comfort and convenience features you would expect of a normal car such as, A/C, electric windows, mirrors, etc.” These are the figures quoted on the Th!nk web site for the Zebra-powered version.

It seems we shall have to wait a while for more news of when the uprated Th!nk will start crawling the congested streets of the UK capital.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How many electric cars are now running in London because of the congestion tax? Is it really as high as 14,000 which is what "The Economist" article stated?

Did you know that Vancouver, Canada has the world's first licensed electric pickup truck that has a "zero-cost" battery -- runs entirely on discarded batteries that considered dead or unusable. There are *three* battery breakthroughs in this electric pickup truck, as well as a half-dozen workarounds/fixes to the (usual) weak components found on electric cars.

Here's what the Global TV evening newscast aired, from a Youtube download:

Also, check out the EV Album entry for this electric pickup truck, with a Google search for EVALBUM FREEB or WORLD'S FIRST REVIVED BATTERY PICKUP DIARY.

Why bother to revive dead batteries for the electric car? In British Columbia, Canada, 80% of 4-wheeled electric cars are sitting unused because they are TOO EXPENSIVE to run, costing 2X-10X more than gasoline. One member of the Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association got less than 900 kilometers from his EV battery pack before it needed replacement, at some $1,700 cost. Therefore, it's quite possible that Londoners will be abandoning their electric Reva G-Wiz, Maranello-4, Mega City, Th!nk, cars, too. The "FreeB" in Vancouver runs off cost-free discarded batteries. Would London electric car or electric scooter or electric bike owners like this, too?

Please reply by email to:
Rob Matthies
Vancouver, BC, Canada
or phone Canada:
(604) 739-7717 [with Jajah, call us free, we're on Jajah, too]

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