"So about those free cars you donated to us..."

The city government of Evansville, IN, which was given five all-electric City cars by now-bankrupt electric-vehicle maker Think USA, says that only one is functional because the other four vehicles' computer memories were erased because of improper recharging, the city's NBC affiliate reported on its website.

Evansville, which received the cars seven months ago, is using only one car – for parking meter service – and the other four are idle. City officials said they weren't informed that the car's batteries were not supposed to be recharged from a 120-volt outlet and required a 240-volt source, according to WFIE Channel 14. This is the first we've heard of this sort of damage from a standard outlet, and goes against the 110V-plug on the included charging cord (see picture here).

Evansville representatives are hoping to get the four disabled cars reprogrammed so that they can be used for water, sewer and building commission services.

Norway-based Think, which went bankrupt last June even after receiving a $118.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, made its U.S. battery-electric vehicles in Elkhart, IN, about 350 miles north of Evansville on the other side of the state. Lithium-ion battery maker Ener1, an investor in Think, subsequently went bankrupt in late January, and has since announced plans to emerge from bankruptcy.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 31 Comments
      brotherkenny4
      • 3 Years Ago
      Most states have codes that prevent 120V plugs from being used for 220V. So if it has a 120V plug, that is what's to be used. Besides, most electric cars are able to detect the input voltage and adjust the charging scheme. In reality a slower charge from a 120V circuit should be lower current, and a longer time, but should also make the battery life longer (lower current typically makes the batteries last longer). Lower current at relatively high states of charge is especially beneficial to battery life. You've heard the statement that an 80% charge can be gotten in 20-30 minutes. It's 80% because above that level of charge the charging has to slow down, or risk hurting the battery. Maybe this is just Ener1 putting out some negative battery spin into the public media to try and make amends for trying to produce an electric vehicle battery, without even contemplating a PHEV battery. Now that they have put out some really weird noninformation like everyone else, they fit in with the looney tune world.
      DaveMart
      • 3 Years Ago
      They possibly did not realise it was a potential problem as 110 volt would not be used for charging in Europe where the car was developed, and just did not think to test, not having a huge development budget. Another example of assumptions making an ass of you and me.
      George Voll
      • 3 Years Ago
      I bet they didn't charge the batteries as often as they should have been and the batteries went bad, leaving them with a brick.
      EZEE
      • 3 Years Ago
      An under powered charger does this? How odd. Hey 2wheel, please explain this. I don't think I ever built anything that would be damaged by not enough power. Sure, too much power fries every time, but too little? Kthxbai
        JakeY
        • 3 Years Ago
        @EZEE
        Under-voltage can lead to data corruption (not necessarily hardware damage; I believe in this case the hardware was not damaged, just the data in the memory): http://www.protech2u.com/ac-main-line-problem.html I find it hard to believe that an EV designed for the US market doesn't support 120V charging (esp. when they include a cable for 120V sockets). It shouldn't be that difficult to design the charger to support both (most travel chargers support both).
        EZEE
        • 3 Years Ago
        @EZEE
        Thanks! I assisted with the design of satellites and rockets, and I guess we knew the power would have specific, exact requirements (such as in the circuitry), or may have a variable source (such as a solar panel), but in either case power levels were factored in. We knew the solar panels would not be consistent, so that was factored. In the case of a rocket liftoff, for example, everything had to work (when it didn't the results were quite spectacular), so a power variation was addressed. Of course, useful life was designed into mere minutes, but still.... I am probably over analyzing, but under powered...that just never had the issue that too much power did. Stuck on the 'data corruption' thought now....
        Letstakeawalk
        • 3 Years Ago
        @EZEE
        "I don't think I ever built anything that would be damaged by not enough power." Speakers (esp. tweeters) can be damaged by clipping resulting from using an amplifier without enough power... but that's an entirely different kind of situation.
          EZEE
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Letstakeawalk
          Good point though...there may be some system we are all missing. I would still throw in a simple sensor at the front end that would warn of the low voltage. That, I know, would be simple enough to design.
        Dan Frederiksen
        • 3 Years Ago
        @EZEE
        no good reason why it should be damaged by it, especially if it comes with the plug
        Rotation
        • 3 Years Ago
        @EZEE
        Some power supplies (and chargers are glorified power supplies) don't auto switch between 220V and 110V and instead require manual switching. Perhaps that happened here? If you supply 110V to a switching power supply that is expecting 220V and doesn't adjust for it, it will draw twice the current it is supposed to and that can damage it. I've had a few power supplies in my house die due to undervoltage (brownouts). One burned a hole in its case.
          JakeY
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Rotation
          You are right that switched mode power supplies can possibly burn out from drawing more current to make up for the lower voltage. Luckily I haven't have that happen to me yet though in brownouts. However, it doesn't appear to be what happened here. The memory was erased instead.
      Spec
      • 3 Years Ago
      That is so sad. This is a good example of government waste . . . if they can't use the cars competently then sell them to someone that will use them.
        EZEE
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Spec
        looks like we are in Bizzaro world, because I am going to defend the government guys while you criticize them! My defense would be that is the glove fits, you must acquit! In other words, I would assume they plugged it in, because the plug fit. If the result is so serious, I would make the plug not fit, a huge warning tag, or maybe an audible alarm. Makes me think of the 'bricking' problem. Something should be there to warn them. EZEE the hippie who defends government workers... :D
          DarylMc
          • 3 Years Ago
          @EZEE
          EZEE You are absolutely right. If it's able to be plugged in someone is going to try regardless of any instructions. That's not even counting the demographic who are going to get inventive with pliers and grinders to make it fit, lifting their middle finger to 100 years of design and engineering. It's taken a century of trainig to get people to put fuel, oil and water into vehicles and even that doesn't go so well at times.
      Roy_H
      • 3 Years Ago
      This should be a lesson to those selling the remaining stock of Th!nk EVs. Despite the new low price (about $20k I think), if there is no competent service network, the car is worth nothing. I find it totally inexcusable that this problem has been unresolved in 7 months. This is definitely "buyer beware", if you cannot service this car yourself then don't buy it.
        Spec
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Roy_H
        Some people can service things themselves.
      Autobiologist
      • 3 Years Ago
      One more reason to like ICE! No idle no brick! Kill those EVs
        Ryan
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Autobiologist
        Talk to my aunt, she managed to brick one. Transmission or cracked blocks can mean the junkyard for many old cars.
        ScubaChris
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Autobiologist
        Are you sure you're on the right site here?
          Autobiologist
          • 3 Years Ago
          @ScubaChris
          Mr Scuba, I s a i d truths. EVs with this current battery technology deserved to be killed.
          EZEE
          • 3 Years Ago
          @ScubaChris
          Trolls....
      Jamie Houk
      • 3 Years Ago
      If a product is designed to operate at 110 Volts 50 Hz it will not last long if operated on 110 Volts 60 Hz. On large Scandinavian dishwasher manufacturer I deal with learned this the hard way a few years ago.
      • 3 Years Ago
      trickle charging with 110V shouldn't hurt the vehicle. Sabotage, perhaps? Intuitively stating the obvious, has anyone checked the fuses?
      • 2 Years Ago
      It sounds to me like there are a couple of problems involved here. First off, the 120v charger if no intended to be used as the primary charger, it is for when you are away from a charger and need power. you are supposed to plug it in to a 240 volt charger as a primary source (yes, Think does say this and tell you this). If you only use the 120v charger the battery will not properly ballance and you will have lower battery capacity. Second, it is likely that te main trouble is not the main battery but is with the 12v battery. A number of them have failed from sitting and need to be replaced. It sunds like these cars were handed to a government agency and no one there knows anything about them an really does not want to. As a referance: I personally am a Think owner (awsome little car) and I work for the government (no the one listed above). The person talking to the press likely has zero understanding of anything to do with the car, just a desk person who was told the cars are "broken".
      HVH20
      • 3 Years Ago
      I can't see any logical reason why a 110v outlet would corrupt the vehicle, other than if there was some charging flag error that was thrown and it stopped charging. Then slowly discharged and "bricked" the battery pack to a level where the VCU couldn't run, and it lost its temporary memory storage... Other than that, its just hogwash.
      DarylMc
      • 3 Years Ago
      This story sounds a bit fishy. How could the vehicles be supplied with 110V charging leads if they are not suitable? Making EV's foolproof is going to be a huge challenge for manufacturers and this wont be the last anyone hears of people screwing things up. I remember years ago a young town planner friend telling me of an incident with his government vehicle. He pulled into a garage and decided to check the oil. On inspection inside the oil filler cap he couldnt see any oil so he proceeded to pour in 16 litres or thereabouts to top it up. The story was even funnier listening to him recount just how many of those 1 litre glass pouring bottles it took. (Maybe everyone can picture the ones I'm talking about before everything came in it's own plastic container) Fortunately the attendant picked up the problem as he was making payment. There is a whole world of pain and suffering ahead for EV's and their creators once the general public gets hold of them:)
        Spec
        • 3 Years Ago
        @DarylMc
        Yeah, something is fishy. Those 120V leads in the picture should work fine. 120V and 240V outlets have different shapes to prevent people from plugging the wrong thing in.
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