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Th!nk City: “The iPod Car for the Google Generation”

| Wednesday June 4th, 2008 | 13 Comments

TH%21NK-i-city-i_large.jpgAs the cost of oil continues to soar, and as big names like GM and Ford plan to focus production on smaller, more fuel-efficient cars, Norway’s Th!nk City car couldn’t be entering the US at a more opportune time.
The Th!nk City is a compact, electric car capable of going up to 100 km/hr (approx 62 mph) and travel 180 km (approx 112 mi) on a single charge. The company recently announced plans to enter US markets, specifically focusing on California and several other key targeted markets. With it’s body made of recyclable ABS plastic, the City will cost around $25,000, making it both competitive with other EV alternatives such as Zap and AMP, as well as more popular, gas-powered vehicles like the Mini.


In 2006, Norwegian entrepreneur and millionaire, Jan-Olaf Willums, bought the company after nearly a decade of ownership changes and failed to-market ventures (most notably by Ford in the late 90′s), and decided to make it a more “web 2.0″-type company. And, in keeping with the spirit of that kind of company, Willums soon found himself in Silicon Valley knocking on doors of venture capital firms.
Introductions by Joel Makower soon led to talks with Martin Eberhard, CEO of Tesla Motors, and Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway Scooter. In the end, Th!nk found backing from General Electric as well as venture firms Rockport Capital and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, who’s resume is smattered with several big-name tech giants such as Netscape, Amazon, and Google.
As the Wall Street Journal reports, the car is just hitting the market in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, where general driving practices (fewer, shorter trips) could make Th!nk a huge success. However, in the US, the story could be very different, and the rising though still debatably tepid reception of Zap and AMP cars could serve as precedent. Regardless, even from the failed EV-1 way back when, no electric car has been in a better position to be successful than the Th!nk now, both in terms of the socio-economic climate of the times as well as the pop-culture status it is generating. In addition to it’s simple, eco-friendly design, it is also wifi and internet capable, can only be bought online, sends you emails when it needs servicing, and allows you to text message the car to the check the battery’s charge. According to search engine blog, Pandia, Th!nk is the “iPod car for the Google generation.”
And the company’s connection to Google can’t hurt either, especially if the cars are eventually added to Google’s fleet of intercampus vehicles, as Pandia reports.
(Photo Source: Th!nk.no)
(More perspective on Inhabitat)


▼▼▼      13 Comments     ▼▼▼

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  • http://www.greenenergytv.com Pete

    I am going to buy one of these cars. I first saw this video on http://www.GreenEnergyTV.com and after seeing it, I knew I wanted it!
    Go Electric!
    Pete

  • MARY ANN WAGNER

    I DO NOT THINK THIS CAR WILL BE A BIG SUCESS HERE IN THE USA. MAYBE TO A FEW WHO TRAVEL ABOUT TOWN, BUT TO PEOPLE LIKE ME WHO CLIP OFF ABOUT 500 MILE A DAY WHILE ON VACATION AND ABOUT 250-300 TRAVELING FROM TOWN TO TOWN THE ENERGY JUST IS NOT THERE. ANOTHER CONCERN WOULD BE THE LIGHTNESS OF THE CAR ESPECIALLY DURING RAIN AND SNOW SEASON. AND THEN IT BEING MADE OF PLASTIC, I WONDER!!!

  • Ashwin

    Hi Mary,
    To clarify on one note, the frame isn’t made completely of plastic, but more accurately, integrates recycled plastic into its metal frame. Thanks for pointing that out!
    And though your arguments about longer distance travel are completely valid, and it may not be the right car for you, I think the makers were trying to cater the car towards a more city driving market, where one might make shorter trip to grocery stores, etc. Personally, I can imagine in crowded cities, the size of the car will be useful in terms of finding parking.
    As for its weight, it weighs 1397kg (or approx 3000 lbs), and is about the same, if not heavier, than some Mini Cooper models.
    Thanks for your comment!

  • Ray

    Mary – it’s a strange psychological problem americans have that they always think they’ll need a car for that 500 mile trip – kind of like thinking they need 4wd and 6000lbs of extra metal. This can, in fact, serves 95% of the needs of at 95% of commuters. Without high gas prices, you’re right, this car wouldn’t be popular, but since gas is going to be $4 a gallon for a while, this WILL be popular, and it’ll start to change peoples minds about what they think they need.
    PS – you shouldn’t write in ALL CAPS, it makes it look like you’re screaming :-)

  • Tormod

    You say it will cost about $25 000 but doesn’t Th!nk charge an additiional monthly fee for leasing the batteries? I’d love a think car but the lease rate (here in Norway) still cost more than double of the amount i would pay for gas.

  • Ashwin

    You’re right, there is a monthly lease for the battery. However, in places like San Francisco where gas has risen over $4 per gallon, that lease rate may be well worth the opportunity cost. Also, according to the makers, the lease will allow for easy upgrades of new battery technologies during the lifetime of the car. We’ll see if that’s actually true, or just a clever marketing spin.

  • Tormod

    I guess it depends very much on how far you drive. As I mentioned what I am considering is Norwegian terms where gas is close to 10$/gal and still that comes cheaper than the lease rate, which is about NOK 1200/month which roughly equals $240. But my commute is only about 20 miles a day and I sometimes use the bike :-)

  • Ashwin

    Wow! I didn’t realize the price of gas was so high in Norway. That’s incredible. I can definitely understand why the battery lease may not make economic sense for you. Hopefully technological (or other) advances make it more cost-efficient in the near future. Thanks for your comment!

  • http://www.insightcenter.net Diane

    I drove a Think City in the US a few years ago. There were about two hundred of them here.They were available to lease at a Palo Alto car rental agency and many private parties in the greater SF Bay area leased them. I spoke with a sales rep and was on a wait list to buy one. Next thing I heard, Ford bought the company and 1)they were not going to be available for purchase and 2)they were going to recall the leased Thinks. The internet was abuzz with revolutionary chit chat, e.g. let’s refuse to turn in our Thinks, ‘let’s hide them in the desert’, etc., etc. The Thinks were loved by all! There is no need to lease the batteries! This will cripple sales! I want to buy one, battery and all! BTW, I’m not google generation, I’m a baby boomer soon to be on a fixed income; lease a battery? Boo!

  • zeeev

    leasing a battery sounds absurd. what that means is the current batteries just aren’t up to snuff yet.
    the car’s range and charge time are still insuffic ient for many americans, except those whose lives are contained within a dense suburban-metro radius

  • anon

    The batteries are fine . . . they just cost a lot of money, so leasing is a way to hide the cost

  • The Future

    The range is fine for a commute car. If you commute more than 100 miles a day, you need to move. 100 miles per day is some 25,000 miles per year. If your car gets 25 mpg & you pay $4/gal, that is $4000 per year in gas alone!
    I think pure electric cars are great for a second car. Families will still need another car that has long range and fast fill-ups for family trips . . . preferably a plug-in series hybrid like the Chevy Volt. :-)

  • Justice

    I too, though American, have always been bemused and mystified by the big car fixation. I think the rational during the Hummer craze was that being bigger was the only way you could assure you couldn’t be hurt by another car, as silly as this sounds. What really protects from impact (outside good driving, of course) is good safety technology. The cars all the way up to the 70′s were safety nightmares despite there weight. Not to mention how increadibly inefficient carrying all that weight around is.