Th!nk Open electric car convertible
TH!NK Open is cabriolet version of Norwegian-built electric car. It's hardtop version will cost about the price of a Toyota Prius and be available for sale in North America starting in 2009. It is highway capable. Range depends on battery selection.

Return of the TH!NK

Th!nk North America operations manager Vicki Northrup talks about the return of the Th!nk electric car to America

By EV World

"America is ready for this," enthuses Vicki Northrup, Th!nk North America's new operations manager.

The car she is talking about is the long-labored Th!nk City (Model A306), a battery electric car that is now slated to be re-introduced in America after a six year hiatus. A fully-crash-tested, highway-capable two seater, the car is now ready for the times in which we live.

EV World first was introduced to its predecessor, then called the 'City Bee', when it was the centerpiece of an experimental 'station car' program in San Francisco. Even in its early incarnation -- with all its idiosyncrasies -- the people who got to drive it developed a fondness for it. While it was shuttling drivers efficiently between home and the BART station, its parent, PIVCO, was busy developing a follow-on vehicle that was considered a big improvement over the little Bee.

This new model, dubbed the A286, sported a number of innovations, the most obvious being its beer cooler-like rotocast thermoplastic body panels that were rust-proof and dent-resistant if not particularly attractive. Again, it was in San Francisco that it made its debut in 1998, but the company was in trouble and bankruptcy followed the following year.

Ford would buy into the company in late 1999, assuming majority control in 2000 and renaming it Th!nk. Eventually after spending an estimated $150 million dollars in re-engineering and restyling the car -- known internally as the A306 model -- as well as upgrading its manufacturing plant in Norway, Ford came within months of starting to sell the car in America. It even payed for a series of television commercials that aired nationally extolling the benefits of the car.

But it wasn't to be and in the summer of 2002, Ford announced it was going to sell the company and the dream of a Ford electric car that dated back to Henry Ford, himself, slipped into a comma Swiss-based Kamkorp would keep the company on life support for several more years, but eventually it too was forced to declare Th!nk bankrupt.

The problem wasn't the car or its sodium nickel chloride Zebra battery. It was the times. The market for a mid-priced electric car simply wasn't there in the view of carmakers and more importantly in the minds of most car buyers, especially in North America where gasoline prices have remained relatively cheap for the last century.

How th!ngs have changed. Even the President of the United States is now saying he wants to see city dwellers driving on electricity instead of gasoline.

Rising fuel prices, an unpopular war, concerns over national security and climate change are catalyzing public interest in a spectrum of electric drive vehicle options from conventional hybrids to plug-ins to electric cars. And one of the few electric cars ready to respond is Th!nk.



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