Click above for high-res gallery of the EnerDel Th!nk City

In the back corner of the EDTA Conference last week was the EnerDel booth featuring the prototype Th!nk City with EnerDel's lithium battery pack. We chatted with Ener1 Chairman and CEO Charles Gassenheimer about the car, the battery packs and the future (Ener1 owns EnerDel).

Gassenheimer told AutoblogGreen that 2009 is the year that EnerDel will turn the corner from a "science project" (as some call it) to a profitable company. EnerDel has received a purchase order for $34 million battery packs for next year, about half of EnerDel's $70 million contract with Norway's Th!nk. EnerDel isn't saying the actual price of its packs, but Gassenheimer said that, "Analysts have estimated that we're selling packs for about $17,500 per pack, so quick math tells you that's about 1,900 to 2,000 packs for next year."

Aside from the Th!nk order, Gassenheimer said EnerDel has, "shipped a battery pack to one of the largest Tier 1s in Europe and they've already installed the pack into a vehicle for testing. What we've done is tried to diversify our customers a little bit so we're not just solely dependent on Th!nk. I anticipate we will be able to announce fairly substantial programs and get into volume production in 2009."

Read more after the jump.

EnerDel will also make a large PHEV pack for an unnamed European manufacturer that's due by the end of March. OK, the company has a name, but Gassenheimer can't say who it is, just that it's "one of the largest auto manufacturers in Europe."

As for the car that was on display in DC, it is the only Th!nk City in the US and was one of Th!nk's rejects that the company shipped to EnerDel to use for battery testing. The car is not being tested on American roads, but it is used on the company campus in Indianapolis and for form testing. The EnerDel pack inside is a 26 kWh pack that can move the vehicle about 112 miles on a charge. That translates to 100 watt hours per kilogram, Gassenheimer said. EnerDel has also shipped about 20 packs to Norway for "mileage accumulation testing."

"The entire car is designed around the battery, which is why this is an excellent electric vehicle versus Tesla where you're trying to take a Lotus and convert it to an electric vehicle; it is a much harder task," he said.

Under the Th!nk's hood, there is a lead acid battery to help run the radio and air conditioning. The lead acid box is a holdover from the Th!nk City's original design when it used sodium Zebra batteries, which need to operate at about at 250 to 270 °C, otherwise they lose their charge. The lead acid battery helped keep the temperature up. Gassenheimer said that the lithium ion battery is much more practical for consumer applications and it's not yet certain that a lead acid supplement would appear in the final production version of the City. You can see one of the li-ion battery packs in this picture.

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