This morning at the Michigan Information Technology Center in Ann Arbor, Th!nk finally gave the media the details of it's planned expansion into the U.S. market. The short version: by 2010, Th!nk North America hopes to be building electric vehicles in the U.S. These City models (seen above) will be able to go around 70 mph, pass all required safety standards and be targeted at fleet customers, initially. Th!nk NA will be submitting a loan application to the Department of Energy on March 31, and its U.S. plans are dependent on getting this money. By that date, Th!nk hopes to narrow its discussions about actually building a production facility down to one or two states (this week, Th!nk is talking with representatives from eight states) and will also know by then exactly how much money they will ask for to build EVs in the U.S. As of today, Th!nk isn't giving out that number, but thay are saying they could employ up to 900 people and build up to 60,000 electric vehicles a year in the U.S. Price to buy one of these cars? Well, Th!nk officials were hesitant to put a firm number out, but Th!nk CEO Richard Canny said that the price to consumers, after government incentives, would probably be under $20,000, but you'll need to figure in an $80-90 per month fee to lease the battery.
We'll have many more details later this afternoon, including the highlights from Th!nk's slide presentation. For now, you can click through it yourself in the gallery after the jump.
Think Announces U.S. Factory Plans
Ann Arbor, Mich., USA, March 12, 2009
Think meeting with eight states to host Think EV plant.
Norway's pioneering electric car maker, Think, plans to open a new manufacturing plant and technical center in the United States. The company is currently in discussions with eight states, including Michigan, hoping to host the facility, which will initially employ about 300 workers with a starting capacity of 16,000 cars per year. The technical center will provide jobs for another 70 engineers and electric drive specialists. Plans ultimately call for up to 900 employees and a capacity of 60,000 electric vehicles per year.
"The U.S. is quickly overtaking Europe as an attractive market for EVs and is an ideal location to engineer and build EVs," said Think CEO Richard Canny. "We see ourselves playing a small but potentially growing role in re-inventing the U.S. auto industry by bringing back new manufacturing jobs to the U.S. to replace internal combustion engine vehicles that are expensive to operate and maintain with clean, efficient electric vehicles."
The plant will build the innovative THI!NK city, a sophisticated, high-tech compact electric vehicle recently nominated for England's prestigious Britt Design Award. The all-electric car can travel up to 112 miles on a single charge. The car is designed, engineered and produced to have the lowest possible carbon footprint with recyclable plastic body panels and a fully recyclable interior. U.S. production is expected to start in 2010, with the first-year volume of 2,500 units being available to pilot and demonstration fleet projects.
Canny and other officials from the company's subsidiary, Think North America, are in Ann Arbor this week meeting with representatives from the state of Michigan and seven other states to discuss options to bring electric vehicle manufacturing jobs to the U.S. The program includes a ride-and-drive event with the production level version of the TH!NK city electric car presently on sale in Europe.
Think North America also plans to apply for low-interest loans from the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program, which was created in 2007 to help develop U.S. production capabilities for the highly fuel-efficient vehicles needed to meet long-range energy security and environmental challenges.
Think is also collaborating closely with battery makers Ener1, Inc. and A123, which are already under contract to supply compact, high-powered lithium-ion power systems for the TH!NK city. The two companies are part of a growing U.S. supply chain serving the electric vehicle and plug-in hybrid car markets.
"We're seeing a whole new system of suppliers and producers taking shape in this country to create a new high-tech manufacturing base," said Ener1 CEO Charles Gassenheimer. "Having an important partner like Think here will help us continue to push the technology and develop this new industry even more quickly. It's also going to give us an edge against our overseas competitors."
Canny also welcomed Kleiner Perkins as a shareholder in Think Global. Kleiner Perkins partner, Ray Lane, expressed his support for Think's increased emphasis on the North American market.
"Electric vehicles like the TH!NK city represent an opportunity for the U.S. to become more energy independent," said Rockport Capital Partners Co-Managing Partner Wilber James. "Based on the production rate of 30,000 electric vehicles per year, the TH!NK city fleet would replace 900 million gallons of oil over ten years."
"The auto industry is poised for a revolutionary transformation enabled by fundamental advances in power electronics and battery technologies," said Dr. Jim Lyons, CTO of Think NA and partner at Novus Energy. "EVs are inherently simpler and cleaner as exemplified by the TH!NK city – a next generation solution to urban mobility."
Battery powered electric vehicles provide a number of advantages for the administration seeking to increase energy efficiency and security. Electric powertrains are about three times more efficient than gasoline counterparts.
Battery electric vehicles are also cheaper to maintain and operating costs for charging range from $2 - $3 for 100 miles at average U.S. electricity rates. The TH!NK city vehicle draws on the company's 17 years of experience in EV development and production and more than $100 million invested by Ford Motor Company during the four years the company held a majority stake in Think.
Think will also continue production of the TH!NK city in Europe. Think started producing the new generation TH!NK city at its Norwegian assembly plant in limited volumes last year.
Think designs, develops, manufactures and markets environmentally friendly vehicles and technologies. Think has been developing and producing urban mobility solutions since the early 1990's. In 2008, the company launched the TH!NK city, the latest generation electric vehicle designed and engineered by Think. Think vehicles are designed to be smart, flexible and continuously updated to deliver state-of-the-art urban mobility. Currently, the company operates production facilities in Aurskog, Norway with a plant capacity of 5,000 units per shift (max. 16,000 units/year).
About Novus Energy Partners
Novus Energy Partners is a clean energy fund established in 2008, with offices in Alexandria, Va. and Oslo, Norway. Novus focuses primarily on investments in wind, solar and electric transport technologies. Its partners include founders of REC, GE Wind Energy, and PowerSicel.
Some of the Th!nk City live photos in the gallery are copyright ©2009 Sebastian Blanco / Weblogs, Inc.