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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 TH!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."
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