Think Global Jump-Starts Race to Go Electric
The Think, a squat, battery-powered city car, celebrated its official production launch in Aurskog, Norway, late last month. After presiding over a modest ribbon-cutting ceremony, Jan-Olaf Willums, Think Global's chief executive, took a visitor on a careering, skidding spin through the factory's icy car park.
Asked whether the car - barely three metres long - was safe, Mr Willums cited the $150m spent on it by Ford Motor, the brand's former owner, including on developing a crash-resistant steel frame that will help the car meet European and US safety standards. But were the electric cars, with their plastic panels, durable? Mr Willums smiles before delivering a swift karate-style kick to the side of the car, leaving no mark.
Norway, with high wages and fewer than 3m vehicles on the road, does not seem a logical place to build cars. However, automaking executives from as far afield as China and Brazil have made the trek north to Aurskog to call on Mr Willums and his colleagues. And the 61-year-old entrepreneur has been hitting the road to see investors and potential partners as far away as Silicon Valley.
With oil prices rising, concerns about global warming, traffic congestion growing and hybrid petrol-electric cars such as the Toyota Prius selling well, the race to develop viable all-electric vehicles with an acceptable driving range and retail price is accelerating.
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