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Think Global Gets Investment from GE, Launches TH!NK City, Introduces New Crossover EV Concept and Signs Li-Ion Supply Deal with A123Systems

5 March 2008

Thinkcity
The TH!NK City.

At the Geneva Motor Show, Norwegian electric car manufacturer Think Global presented a new investment relationship with GE, which is putting $4 million into Think via GE Energy Financial Services to further ramp up GE’s efforts to enable global electrification of transportation.

Think also launched its TH!NK City electric vehicle, unveiled a five-seat crossover concept car—the TH!NK Ox—and announced a commercial supply agreement with lithium-ion battery manufacturer A123Systems. The TH!NK City now offers a choice of three battery packs: a 28 kWh Zebra sodium nickel chloride pack, a 26 kWh Li-ion pack from Enerdel and a 19 kWh Li-ion pack from A123Systems.

GE Energy Financial Services announced it has also invested in A123Systems to help the company roll out batteries for Think. GE is now A123’s largest single cash investor, having put more than $20 million into the company.

The GE Global Research Center has been working with A123 on the development of safe and reliable battery-powered transportation, and this has allowed us to accelerate delivery of advanced battery solutions to Think. Our newest collaboration with Think helps us achieve the large-scale production of batteries and integrate them into commercially available electric vehicles.

—David Vieau, A123Systems’ President and CEO

A123 is now drawing on the research and technology development expertise of GE Global Research in Niskayuna, New York. The joint research will support A123’s battery development, including batteries for Think’s vehicles.

The TH!NK City. The reborn TH!NK City is a three-door, two-seat (two additional rear seats are available as an option) electric vehicle powered by a 30 kW electric motor and a choice of the three battery packs.

Top speed for the vehicle is 100 kph (62 mph). It accelerates from 0-50 kph (31 mph) in 6.5 seconds, and from 0 - 80 kph (50 mph) in 16.0 seconds. Range, which varies with battery pack, is from 130 to 180 kilometers.

TH!NK city will feature a “Mind Box”—a small computer containing both GPS and GPRS functionality. The system transmits state of charge and other vehicle statistics directly to a mobile phone or personal computer. The Mind Box will give the driver direct connection to a customer service function, and will automatically call for assistance when an airbag is deployed. Fleet managers are able to both locate and control the charge rate for all fleet vehicles.

TH!NK City Battery Options
SupplierMes-DeaA123SystemsEnerDel
Type Sodium nickel chloride (Zebra) Li-ion
(doped Nanophosphate)
Li-ion
(layered manganese oxide)
Capacity (kWh) 28 19 26
Storage System Density (Wh/kg) 114.3 73.1 100
Range (km/miles) 170/106 130/81 180/112
Nominal Voltage (V) 370 370 370
Weight (kg) 245 260 260

Think Global will own and maintain the battery. The customer pays a monthly fee—approximately €200 (US$305)—which includes a full maintenance service agreement, carbon offset payments and, in some countries, all electricity used, and insurance. Think will exchange the battery when necessary.

Sales begin this spring initially in Norway, followed by Denmark and Sweden later in the year. As production volume ramps up, Think Global will target the main European cities in 2009, starting with London, Paris, Berlin, Milan and Amsterdam. The car will be sold for approximately €20,000 (US$30,500).

Thinkox
The TH!NK Ox.

TH!NK Ox. The TH!NK Ox Crossover is an electric five-seat car close to the size of a sport utility vehicle but lighter and more aerodynamic. The Ox is a platform concept, designed for electric drive vehicles, for both the European, North American and Asian markets. It is the basis for a variety of vehicle styles, starting with the TH!NK Ox Crossover 5-seater.

A space frame concept features the main crash structure and the batteries centrally placed in two compartments in the lower frame. The TH!NK Ox Platform design allows two different standards of battery packs:

  • High stack: two compartments, allows use of low cost, high range sodium batteries;

  • Low stack: gives space for flat Li-ion packs, allows lower/upper frame for sports car and flat flow applications.

The crossover is designed to use a 60 kW motor and a range of 200 km (124 miles) with a top speed of 135 kph (84 mph).

GE announced its electric transportation investments at the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference in Washington, DC. The investments were made by GE Energy Financial Services’ recently expanded seven-member venture capital group, with offices in Stamford, CT; San Francisco, CA; and Munich, Germany. That group has invested nearly US $100 million in 12 companies during the last 18 months.

GE’s electric transportation research includes a US$5.6 million US Energy Department contract to develop smaller, lower cost, higher performing hybrid drivetrain motors for hybrid electric vehicles. In addition, GE is working on a US$1.2 million project to develop advanced high temperature, high energy density capacitors. GE researchers are also engaged in a US$13 million project with the US Federal Transit Administration and other industrial partners to build a prototype lightweight, battery-dominant zero emissions hybrid fuel cell bus.

March 5, 2008 in Batteries, Electric (Battery) | Permalink | Comments (37) | TrackBack (0)

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Now this is genuine green car news. When Think car announced they selected Enerdel (an inexperienced startup) I was really worried that they would ever be able to get the batteries they need to produce 10000 a year by 2009 or 2010. Now that they also got A123 I guess that this issue is not going to be a problem anymore. Think is really innovative in a lot of car related issues just like Apple is in their business and I hope that they will be just as successful. Finally, a highway capable car has arrived that is zero emission and completely independent of energy from various dictatorships around the world.

Ok, EUR 20000 + 2400/yr * 10yrs = EUR 44000. Assume this is in a country in which this cost includes the electricity.

A similarly small car with an ICE, like the Citroen C1 1.0L, costs around EUR 10000, is exempt from London's congestion charge and consumes around 5.5L/100km in city traffic. Assuming its a commute car racking up 10000km/yr, that's 550L of gasoline at ~EUR 1.40/L = ~EUR 770/yr in fuel cost. Add to that the expected cost of maintenance for 10 years, e.g. ~EUR 4000. Total EUR 21700.

That means the Think City costs roughly twice to own as a Citroen C1, even before insurance.

If they put their new Ox concept on the road it'll be even bigger genuine green car news.
http://www.autobloggreen.com/2008/03/04/geneva-08-th-nk-announces-the-ox-a-new-5-seat-electric-car/
This thing's sweet!!!

Zebra batteries:

When not in use, zebra batteries typically require being left under charge, in order to be ready for use when needed. If shut down, a reheating process must be initiated that may require up to two days to restore the battery pack to the desired temperature, and full charge. This reheating time will however vary depending on the state-of-charge of the batteries at the time of their shut down, battery-pack temperature, and power available for reheating. After a full shut down of the battery pack, three to four days usually elapse before a fully-charged battery pack loses all of its significant heat

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molten_salt_battery

Very interesting on the Zebra batteries.. this car seems like a good idea.. The $300 a month fee they mention is just for the battery or it also includes the car, insurance and so on?

How much does a Zebra battery of that size cost?

@ Herm -

the Zebra batteries are rugged and work well even in cold climates, but power/kg is only about half that of Li-ion systems.

Louis Palmer, a Swiss adventurer currently on a round-the-world expedition with his Solar Taxi, gives a price tag of EUR 8000 retail for the 14kWh pack he's using.

http://www.solartaxi.com/technology/zebra-battery/

The Think City has a pack twice that size, so over a 10 year period leasing rather than owning the battery pack will set you back an extra ~EUR 8000 - enough to buy a conventional small car.

The battery lease fee does not include vehicle insurance, license fees etc. It's not clear if it includes maintenance service for anything other than the battery system.

High price, low performance, limited range--I don't see it. I like the city car idea, but I think the price needs to be reduced by 1/2 or more before it could go mainstream as a dedicated in-city commute car, at least here in the USA. Perhaps the Norwegians are just a lot richer than we are.

I'm a little surprised by the high price of the car (30,000 $CD) given that the really expensive part of the car, the battery, is leased. The price of the base car should only be half of that.

I am very happy to hear that the Think City is about to make its debut on the road. Finally a car which reduces our dependancy on oil. We have been waiting for this far too long! Think has also its own unofficial forum on http://www.ecocarforum.com since a few months!

this car has to cost no more than 12000 euro in Europe otherwise
its dead in the water , without the environmental aspect its pitched
at about the same price as the mini cooper , which one are you going
to buy ?

Damn reality bites. $300 bucks a month for a battery payment on top of a car payment and an overly high car payment to boot. I really hope Mitsubishi makes their car affordable for normal people.

A123 isn't really a good fit for this car. A123's claim to fame is power density and cycle life but BEV designs are driven by energy density and cost. The Think City's 30 kW motor can only use about 5% of the A123 pack's power.

Economic comparisons are a little silly. The Think is expensive due to limited production -- even without batteries it costs twice as much as Rafael's Citroen.

Car and batteries price depend a lot on where they are produced.

Norway-USA-Canada +++ may not be the ideal places to produce those vehicles & batteries.

Mass production cost could easily be cut by half if or when produced in China-India-Brazil, Eastern Europe etc.

High labour cost countries could do the R & D, design and protoytypes but leave mass production to others.

A Think would then cost about $20,000 (with batteries) and satisfy many more buyers.

Rafael is right. The price of the Think City is twice that of a comparable ICE vehicle. However, the attraction of the Think City is that it is pollution free and its use doesn’t support suppressive regimes anywhere. This is what people that can afford the luxury of these ideas will pay extra for. Think Global is not marketing their vehicles as any other vehicles. Their name “Think” screams it out. Whether we may like it or not people who buy an emission free car like the Think City will fell more worthy and responsible than other people driving ordinary ICE cars. And many other people will judge them as exactly that. I know I will. People who have everything else in life love to spend money on stuff that can make them feel like that. This is why I believe Think City will make it in spite of its high price tag.

A suggestion to make the car more attractive is to use a larger motor that can take advantage of the super high power of the lithium batteries. The 30 kW motor I presume is designed for the lower power of the Zebra battery that was the only one available at the time of engineering. I don’t believe that Zebra battery will be favored by many because it consumes energy constantly just to be ready for use. This is OK for commercial vehicle use like the Smith vehicles but not for private use. They should drop that battery now to simplify their offering. It cost a lot to explain potential buyers the difference and the confusion will cause many customers to be lost. Just forget it and use a bigger motor.

30,500 plus battery fee of 300 a month?
You are almost buying a Tesla.
Well maybe when GM starts mass production if that
EVER happens

Henrik ,
I would really love this car to sell well and reach the numbers
that they are hoping for , but I just do not see it happening at this
level of pricing , I am afraid the majority of people are going to walk
out of the showroom when the price of 20000 euro +200 euro per mth
comes up .
There are just too many good small conventional cars around
that have low enough C02 figures to become exempt from congestion
charging in cities like london and milan . The REVA is selling well in
london, but there the price of 15000euro includes the batteries .
Think have said that they want to target countries where a
subsidy is given by the respective governments against the purchase
of a zero emission car , thats all very well but here in italy we have
such a subsidy up to 65% , however only companies and local authorities
can claim , so even though here we have several companies making
BEV´s from FIAT cars, the price is pitched excessively high out of the
reach of the public !
Maybe in countries like Danmark and Norway where car prices
are about 100% higher than in the rest of europe there might be a tax
advantage with a zero emission car , lets just hope so .

Henrik,

Considering A123 is months late in getting a pack to GM, I wouldn't rest easy just b/c A123 is supplying the packs.

Andrew,

A123 has been delivering cells to GM since last year and Continental has been delivering battery packs to GM since January.

Ric

Andrew, indeed I think that Denmark offers a nice tax break for electric vehicles. Basically they don’t pay registration tax at all only WAT which is 25%. The Danish registration fee is 120% or close and they even require that the WAT is calculated on top of the base price + registration fee. Think Global say the city car will be available in Denmark during the year. I will report the price when I see it. I also like the small city car concept. However, to me it would be painful knowing that I was sitting on a super powerful battery that will never be used as it should because of a small 30kW motor. Wouldn’t it be possible to fit in a 90kW motor, make the car stronger and it could probable do 0 to 62 mph in 6 or 7 seconds? That would be awesome and would make the car a real option for me. Think about it. You sit in a small car that looks like it can’t do anything and all of a sudden you speed away from everybody else. That would make me smile a little more every day.

Time will show if there is enough customers for their offering at the current price. With the price they charge they should be able to go down as they increase production volume and the price of the batteries drop.

It is sad that just as a production car that uses The ZEBRA battery enters the market and TH!NK publishes a table showing the comparison between the batteries it offers, that the betard.uk website of the people that spent many years developing the ZEBRA battery has dissappeared. For publicity purposes alone, they should have pretended that a small homeopathic percentage of lithium improved their battery.

Few people realize that the existance of the ZEBRA battery means that light-rail vehicles no longer require a catenary. Batteries at the stops can quick charge the vehicle battery and the cost of the batteries can be traded against the cost of the catenaries. Parry People Movers uses a big flywheel as did a Swiss bus company. CAPSTONE turbines or other generators can provide for longer, very low pollution trips on biodiesel if necessary.

From this article it is clear that present LIon batteries are inferior in energy storage per unit weight than Nickel-Clorine-Sodium even including the Vacuum Insulation Case. Some have read my messages promoting ZEBRA batteries and might find it unusual that I was surprised that the ZEBRA batteries had so much less(actually any less) weight than production LIon batteries of the same capacity. The A123 battery gives about half the miles per pound as the ZEBRA. Lots of money invested in the ZEBRA would give you a design for any horse power you wanted. The many thousand small cells of a lithium car battery compare to the simplicity of a few hundred in a ZEBRA but give it more horsepower but less range. Flywheels would be much cheaper to build and more reliable.

The internal high temperature of the ZEBRA means that it can be cooled easily in any ambient climate and the heat can be used to heat the car. There is also no danger of it failing dangerously by over heating as with Lithium batteries. The required high internal temperature of the ZEBRA is not lost rapidly so it can remain operational for a few days without being plugged in. The version of the battery used in some cars could be equipped with higher power electric heaters so that the temperature can be brought into the operational range much more quickly, and the car could be equipped with loud alarms to warn of inadvertent disconnection from the mains. The regular losses of lithium batteries are higher than combined heat losses and electrical losses of the ZEBRA battery so that when a car is used every day, the ZEBRA battery is more efficient.

As stated below all electric cars should have a combustion generator, and such could keep the battery hot. If a ZEBRA cools off fully charged, it retains its charge forever and only requires heating up not charging. The electrical energy alone in a ZEBRA could keep it hot for about seven days if it were so used. It does not automatically do that.

If the battery were integrated into the electrical grid as many propose, the issue of keeping the battery warm is reduced. The TH!NK ZEBRA could keep a house air-conditioner running for about ten hours at the time when California power is expensive, and grid failure could be ignored with the car supplying the power, After a failure of 24 hours the garage door could be opened and the engine operated to charge the battery and run the house. A home battery could be used as well and also for quick charging the vehicle battery. A generator running on natural gas could heat the home while charging the car and house batteries. Honda already makes a device that could be reprogrammed to do just that for a high percentage of greenhouse gas reduction for car travel combined with house heating.

With the availability of Flywheels and Ultra-capacitors, the maximum horse-power of a battery is not as important as its mileage capacity. Australia has developed a Lead Acid battery Capacitor combo for that purpose. ZEBRA chemistry cells with high power have been tested but are not needed for cars, trucks or buses. The average horesepower of a car motor is much less than people would imagine. At forty miles an hour city street driving, CALCARS figures give about 8kw or 11 Hp for the Prius+.

The purchase price of the TH!NK is indeed expensive, but so would your share of the petroleum extraction, refining and distribution system be expensive if you had to pay for it up front. The leasing of the battery reduces the initial cost, but both the low production numbers of the car and the batteries of any type, make them both several times more expensive than very high production cars.

At the present prices, the puchase of a TH!NK is not economical, but few people buy new cars based on economy; A SAAB or MERCEDES is not economical. The motor and electronic drive alone of the TH!NK probably cost more than the recently announced cheap Indian car.

The original CALCARS PRIUSplus design would not allow for the low horse-power of a single ZEBRA standard battery pack, but a newer design that left the standard battery in place has been shown to work, and with the Zebra battery from the TH!NK, it would get at least 140 miles of full electric range until the engine was required.

The Zebra battery has been in test use in cars and buses for over ten years, and for many of those years is has been in commercial production. During those years the automobile manufacturers have been saying that there are no batteries available for long range electric cars and when LIon batteries become available electric cars might be technically feasable.

As before written, full electric cars should not be built, and all large battery cars should have a small engine or two installed with a fuel tanks in spare corners. The engines could weigh less than ten pounds and the fuel can weigh sixty pounds or less depending how many miles are wanted between refills. You may never use the engine or fuel for the life of the car, like many never use a spare tire, but you or the manufacturer or public or media would also never be able to say that the car can only go 100 miles or less. Ten gallons of gasoline with a standard efficiency small generator can give you about 350 miles of travel or more between refils just like a regular high efficiency car. The car could be designed to run slowly with power from the generator alone if there were a battery failure, and combined with an ultra-capacitor or small flywheel, you could have near normal speeds.

The engine can be small and lightweight, since it can run at very high constant speeds, see OPOC. They might even be able to build an air lubricated tiny turbine generator of about ten HP for cars that has sufficient efficiency and a rotor that spins at 200,000 rpm. See CAPSTONE for their 40 hp unit. They have a unit that actually removes pollution from the air on a highway; Since I breath out CO2 every day, along with every live plant and animal, and never can be converted to hydrogen, I do not consider CO2 to be a pollutant any more than water is.

Norway is one of the five largest producer countries of petroleum products in the world, and their gasoline is more expensive than in the US, and they must pay carbon taxes as well. Most of their electricity is hydro-electric. The are now using hydro-electric power to pump natural gas to Europe from one of their large North Sea platforms after installing sixty kilometers of undersea cable or more. It produces less CO2 to burn the gas on land and ship the power back if it became necessary to use a natural gas combined cycle power plant. Norway can now ship power in from mainland Europe's combined cycle gas power plants on an undersea cable.

I love the Ox. Great styling, decent specs, and the practical long hatchback form factor I need. Just get the price down and I'm there. Per Rafael's comments, I'd pay a certain premium to drive guilt free, let's say 25% more the equivalent gas car. Assuming less maintenance than an ICE, it might work out the same.

Here is a thought about the Th!nk electric car: If you are willing to settle for a car that has a top speed of only 100 kilometers per hour and takes 16 seconds to accelerate to 80 km/hr, how many miles per gallon (regular unleaded gasoline equivalent) could you get with a spark-ignited engine, parallel-hybrid vehicle designed to this performance?

And, how many MPG (gasoline equivalent) would you get from a Diesel hybrid designed to said performance?

I cannot help but wonder, if the reason GM and other automakers are putting so much effort into plug-in hybrids is to avail themselves of a clever way to get around draconian CAFE laws.

In areas where fossil fuels account for a large percentage of electric power, we need to ask ourselves if CO2 from PHEV's or pure electric cars is less, or greater than a non-plug-in HEV. If the latter, than we should look into Th!nk-style cars with a parallel-hybrid or perhaps a Prius-style propulsion system.

the Zebra batteries have been 10 years in development, any chance they can drop the price in mass production to something like $3000 or so?.. for a 15kwh pack I hope.

Herm ,
the problem is they are made by only one company
situated in Switzerland , and they do not want to make them
more economically .

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