Electric economy car rolls off line; company gets $25 million

blog A company working on an all-electric commuter car has accepted $25 million in funding.


Think Nordic is on the move.

The Norwegian company, which plans to produce a line of all-electric sedans, produced its first car last week, said company President Jan-Olaf Willums at the Cleantech Forum taking place in San Francisco this week. Think will start mass producing this summer.

It's got money too. Last Friday, the company began to seek venture funds. It got commitments for $50 million in funding and accepted $25 million, he said. Later in the spring it will try to raise an additional $50 million.

The cars will first be sold in Norway and England in the fall of 2007 and then come to the U.S. in 2008. Willums was a little vague on the pricing. Consumers would buy the cars and also pay a monthly fee to lease the battery from Think Nordic. The company is leasing the battery as a way to provide more security to buyers. If a battery fails, the company will take it back.

The company will also team up with insurance companies to sell policies directly to its customers.

Th!nk is the first company among the new crop of carmakers to market a mid-range, general-purpose electric car. Tesla Motors right now is booking orders for its $92,000 sports car, but won't come out with a sedan until 2010. Zap Motors has kicked off a project with England's Lotus to develop a $60,000 sedan, but it won't be out for a few years. (Zap makes a commuter car now, but it tops out at 35 miles per hour and can't go on the freeway.)

How did Think get to market so rapidly? Ford actually developed the car and spent over $50 million designing and testing it.

Think's car won't be for everyone. Although it can drive at freeway speeds, it has a range of about 110 to 130 miles. Recharging the battery takes about six to seven hours, he said.

"We don't manufacture a car that will go from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe. You can have another car for that. We will give you the best car from San Francisco to Palo Alto (a distance of about 30 miles)."

The relatively high cost of batteries means that electric cars cost more than their gas counterparts. Incentives in Europe, however, are helping erode the cost delta. In London, electric car drivers don't have to pay certain taxes and can park for free. That can come to 8,000 pounds in savings a year. The additional cost of the car can be paid in two years, he said.

"The city incentives are just amazing," he said. Other European cities are considering similar measures.

The company is battery agnostic, he added. The company will get . Willums, however, also said that the company is working with a Swiss company that makes a submarine battery.

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