Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels (left) and Think CEO Richard Canny – Click above to enlarge

We just got some more details on the Think's upcoming electric car plant in Elkhart, Indiana that was announced yesterday. The company expects to bring over 400 jobs to Elkhart, but not right away, and to make 20,000 Think City electric car there per year once full production is reached in maybe 2013. The lead times are long, but that's what needs to happen, Think chief executive officer Richard Canny told AutoblogGreen today.

Canny said that what's happening with his company is "just kind of gearing up" in the U.S. right now. There is a team working in Dearborn, Michigan, and the Indiana facility doesn't need workers just yet (sorry). The company's tentative schedule is as follows:
  • Going on now: establishing the supply base in the U.S. by talking to parts suppliers
  • Second quarter of 2010: start taking applicants for the Elkhart facility
  • Third and fourth quarter of 2010: begin training Elkhart workers, begin importing "slightly enhanced" vehicles from Europe
  • First quarter of 2011: the first Elkhart cars come online
  • 2013: hope to be using all of the plant's 20,000-unit capacity.
Find out more details after the jump.

Considering Think's long-standing partnership with Ener1, it's no surprise that the batteries for the cars made in Elkhart will be made in Indiana. The cell will be made by Ener1 in Indianapolis, and the the pack will be made by Ener1's subsidy EnerDel just outside of Indianapolis and shipped to Elkhart. As time goes on, more and more of the parts used in the cars will be sourced from the U.S., including the sheetmetal, the seats and the interior trim, but Canny said that would probably not be in place by Job 1.

About that first Elkhart car: the vehicles made in Indiana will be slightly more powerful than the Think City vehicles sold in Europe. Even the vehicles that will be imported from Finland at the end of this year will be "slightly enhanced," Canny said. This means, at the very least, that they will have a higher top speed. The Euro-spec models have a top speed of 62 mph, but Canny knows that's not fast enough for Americans. "We realize that today's car is very much a European car," he said. "Of course we wouldn't sell a car with a top speed of 62 in the U.S." Think does have prototypes with a 70-75 mph top speed running in Norway right now, but exactly how fast the U.S. Thinks will be able to go will be decided later after the engineers calibrate the top speed with battery use considerations.

Looking a little further down the line, Canny said that future vehicles will likely be built on the City car platform, so don't expect the Think Ox any time soon. Canny said an electric car should be small, seat four and the "sweet spot" is a 100-mile range. Bigger and heavier cars might need range extenders, which ads weight, he said, and is just not reasonable yet.

Speaking about reasonable, Canny said that there are two big electric vehicle myths out there: "range anxiety and this silly argument that the infrastructure has to come first." As soon as there are EVs on the road – and the first cars will be business cars that return to base or will be owned by early adopters who know to charge overnight – businesses (shopping centers, movie theaters, etc.) will do everything they can to try and attract these vehicles. There will be a market pull, he said, and EV owners will have a reason to go to these places because, Canny believes, "15-minute fast charging will become the norm in the next 2-3 years." He said there are examples of this sort of quick-charging around today and, provided that battery cooling is well managed, 15 minutes "will become pretty routine."


PRESS RELEASE

Indiana Attracts Global Electric Car Maker
New plant will bring 400 jobs to Elkhart County by 2013

ELKHART, Ind. (Jan. 5, 2009) – Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and local officials joined executives from electric car manufacturer THINK today to announce the company's decision to locate its North American production facility in Elkhart, creating more than 400 jobs by 2013.

A leading international manufacturer of pure electric vehicles (EV) based in Norway, THINK is scheduled to begin selling the THINK City, one of the world's first highway-ready EVs, in the U.S. later this year. The company plans to invest more than $43 million in building improvements and equipment in Elkhart. The plant is slated to begin assembling vehicles in early 2011. THINK's investments in Elkhart will support manufacturing capacity for more than 20,000 vehicles a year. The company started delivering the latest generation of its THINK City model to customers in Europe last month, where the company has more than 1,500 cars on the road.

"We've said we're out to make Indiana the electric vehicle state. It's beginning to look like the state capital will be Elkhart County," said Daniels.

The THINK City can travel at highway speed for more than 100 miles on a single battery charge with zero tailpipe emissions. The vehicle is currently in production in Finland at the site of THINK's manufacturing partner, Valmet Automotive, which also houses assembly facilities for Porsche AG's Boxster and Cayman models. European production of the THINK City will continue at Valmet to support European market demand.

"Indiana is quickly becoming an international leader in advanced, clean technology manufacturing," said THINK chief executive officer Richard Canny. "Electric vehicles are right at the future convergence point of the auto and energy sectors. We're very excited to play an important role in reinventing U.S. auto manufacturing."

In choosing Indiana for its North American manufacturing location, THINK joins Indianapolis-based lithium-ion automotive battery maker, EnerDel, a THINK supplier. EnerDel parent company, Ener1, Inc. (Nasdaq HEV) is a 31% equity stakeholder in THINK.

"We can not be more pleased that THINK North America has chosen Elkhart as the location of its first North American manufacturing facility," said Mayor Dick Moore. "Companies have long realized that Elkhart is a wonderful place to start and grow businesses. This is another vote of confidence in our economic recovery. We look forward to working with THINK and their suppliers to help them be successful members of our community."

The Indiana Economic Development Corporation has offered THINK North America up to $3.04 million in performance-based tax credits and up to $65,000 in training grants based on the company's job creation plans. The city of Elkhart has approved additional tax phase-in at the request of the Economic Development Corporation of Elkhart County.

"Growth and diversity in Elkhart County is our goal. Think helps establish a strong potential for our economic future. The Indiana Economic Development Corporation has been a close partner throughout the entire attraction process," said Dorinda Heiden-Guss, president of the Economic Development Corporation of Elkhart County.

THINK has an active application before the U.S. Energy Department under the $25-billion Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan program designed to spur development of more fuel efficient vehicles, including pure electric and hybrid electric vehicles.

About THINK
THINK is a pioneer in electric vehicles and a leader in electric vehicle technology, developed and proven over 19 years. It is one of the few companies that is currently producing fully electric vehicles for sale anywhere– the THINK City. With its market-leading range, driveability and recyclability, the THINK City is the first vehicle of its type to be granted pan-European regulatory safety approval and CE certification. THINK is also a leader in electric drive-system technology, and was the first to market a 'plug and play' mobility solution in the business-to-business sector. With its Scandinavian origins and sustainability mindset, THINK is one of the most carbon efficient car companies in the world.

About IEDC
Created by Governor Mitch Daniels in 2005 to replace the former Department of Commerce, the Indiana Economic Development Corporation is governed by a 12-member board chaired by Governor Daniels. Indi Mitch Roob serves as the chief executive officer of the IEDC. For more information about IEDC, visit www.iedc.in.gov
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