Under New Ownership, THINK Continues Electric Car Production

With a history of financial woes, THINK Global AS has once again been revived from bankruptcy. The electric car manufacturer was sold to industrialist and entrepreneur Boris Zingarevich. This means the company will continue its operations at locations around the world, including a manufacturing plant in Elkhart, Indiana. THINK vehicles will be sold under the new brand, Electric Mobility Solutions.

In addition to buying THINK, Zingarevich has forged agreements with Ener1, a lithium-ion battery manufacturer in the US, and Valmet, an automotive engineering company based in Finland that assembles a variety of cars, including the THINK City EV.

The THINK City includes a lithium-ion battery designed by Ener1, also based in Indiana. The battery gives the car a range of 100 miles on a single charge. And since 1999, customers and drivers have driven THINK City EVs an estimated 35 million road miles. The City EV features minimal environmental impact, low cost of ownership and maintenance, durability, and maneuverability.

THINK has been manufacturing electric cars since 1991, when they unveiled the first prototype of the THINK City EV. From 1999 to 2003, Ford invested $150 million in THINK which allowed them to produce and sell the THINK City EV in Europe and avail the cars for lease in San Francisco. In 2003, however, Ford dropped out of the electric car market and cut their support for the electric car company. Shortly after, THINK ended up in bankruptcy.

In 2006, Norwegian energy entrepreneur Jan-Olaf Willums and his partners purchased THINK and received support from a number of companies such as General Electric and Ener1. However, as the Willums-owned THINK produced and sold new City EVs, the electric car company struggled because of global economic troubles and increasing number of major auto companies wanting to develop their own electric vehicles instead of lending their support to smaller companies like THINK.

Despite the struggles, in December 2010, THINK shipped the first batch of City EVs built at the Elkhart plant. THINK CEO Barry Engle says that these 15 US built vehicles are the first step to expanding EV usage in America. Although EV charging infrastructures are currently not very accommodating for mainstream consumer use, Engle believes for fleets and government agencies, EVs are a very viable and cost effective means of transportation. Since they travel set routes, it is easier to plan when and where EVs can be charged.

Zingarevich believes THINK should continue on and its contributions to the electric car industry should not go to waste because of a few financial setbacks in the past. Says Zingarevich, “Having achieved the position of one of the world’s most highly regarded electric vehicle products, the Think brand is a valuable asset that deserves to continue its key role in the global shift to electrification.”

Since April 2011, THINK’s operations have slowed drastically after filing for bankruptcy. A shortage of parts resulted in reduced production and a decrease in the number of employees at the Elkhart plant. According to THINK North America spokesman Brendan Prebo, the company expects to hire up to 27 employees at the Elkhart plant. To receive some tax relief from the city, THINK proposed that by 2011, the company would have 100 employees at the Elkhart plant and 415 employees by 2013. Elkhart mayor Dick Moore believes that goal is achievable and would boost the local economy, in addition to the increased production and availability of their line of electric vehicles in the US.

Along with Ener1 and Valmet, Zingarevich believes THINK’s future will be bright this time around. Says Zingarevich, “With the potential of working with the leading American automotive lithium-ion battery maker and Europe’s top automobile engineering and manufacturing company, I believe we could have exactly the right combination and value chain to ensure that the brand will be increasingly competitive in the worldwide electric vehicle market.”

Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/jurvetson/4734230764

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