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Power Toys Technology

Small Electric Car May Usher In Big Changes 575

Posted by kdawson
from the clean-and-green dept.
An anonymous reader sends us to a profile in CNNMoney.com on a Norwegian car company that is building a compact, plug-in electric car, the Think City, that will go on sale in Europe early next year. It could hit US markets in 2009. The CEO is working with Silicon Valley VCs and with Google, Tesla Motors, PG&E, and Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway. Plans are to sell the car only on the Web. No dealers, cheap manufacturing plants, and a battery pack that you lease, not buy — there's potential here for shaking up the auto industry the way Dell did PCs.
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Small Electric Car May Usher In Big Changes

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  • Big Changes, huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ExploHD (888637) on Tuesday July 31, 2007 @04:07AM (#20054583)
    Are those "big changes" similar to Segway's "Big Changes"?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      People need automotive transportation. There are plenty of good economic reasons for a car like this, especially these days, and once someone Does It Right(TM) they'll be raking in the cash.

      They don't need rolling gyroscope toys. There are few good economic applications of Segway; it's niche and its hype was, well, hype.
      • Good economic reasons? I keep laughing when I hear people look to plug-in cars as being economical. I live in NY and the electricity costs are so high a plug-in car would be even MORE expensive than gas. Is there anyone else who lives in an area where this is the case or is it just my section of NY?
    • This is the main cause why this will most likely fail. Because of the size of the United States. People in Europe, Asia and New York City, Don't really apreate the size of the United States. Geographically The United States is a little smaller then all of Europe. There is a far amount of distance people needs to cover from residentual areas to comerical areas. For me it is about Ten Miles (I am considered to be living close to the cities) For other people they will need to drive Twenty Miles to get to the
  • ummm, no. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Cutie Pi (588366) on Tuesday July 31, 2007 @04:12AM (#20054607)
    Dell succeeded because they simplified and streamlined the computer buying process, and had good prices for PCs with reasonable features, compared to the rest of the market.

    Other than possibly streamlining the car buying process, how does electric car company compare to Dell? It's not like people in the US are jumping to replace their SUVs and trucks with little electric cars.
    • Re:ummm, no. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by evilviper (135110) on Tuesday July 31, 2007 @04:48AM (#20054769) Journal

      It's not like people in the US are jumping to replace their SUVs and trucks with little electric cars.

      Almost...

      Several years ago, when gasoline prices doubled, I noticed a hell of a lot more old and small cars on the road... Cars that you could barely sell months before, seemed to be at every stop light. Their only possible positive attribute being their 35MPG fuel economy.

      Hybrids have been a huge hit over the past couple years. So, given the lack of any fully electric cars, that's about as close an equivalent as you can get. I'd say people are at least clamoring for SOMETHING different. The rich aren't going to toss their leather-clad Hummers, and those that need trucks will continue to buy them, but I expect there's a whole lot of demand in the market for some, ANYTHING that doesn't use up lots of gasoline.
      • and their bottom mileage figures are going to be closing in on 20mpg... at that point many who thought of switching when gas gets over $3 are simply going to get a hybrid tech'd SUV.

        Combine this with the fact that many new technologies being developed to create hyper efficient small cars can also easily be adapted for big vehicles and pretty soon you'll be back to where you started.

        In fact, its far easier to make the big SUV and trucks this way. They have more slack in their price than small cars meaning
        • by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Tuesday July 31, 2007 @07:39AM (#20055899)
          VW's Toureg can already get up to 25 MPG, real world. Semi trucks can see 7-8 MPG, as good as a Hummer and they're actually pulling a load.

          Diesel is going to make a bigger impact that hybrids in the coming years.
          • by hcdejong (561314) <hobbes@xm s n e t.nl> on Tuesday July 31, 2007 @09:05AM (#20056901)
            Diesel is going to make a bigger impact that hybrids in the coming years.

            They already have, in Europe. Diesels account for 50% of car sales in some countries. But diesel isn't without its problems. Governments worry about particulate emissions (and are considering road tax increases to dissuade people from buying diesels).

            There's nothing to prevent hybrid systems where the ICE component is a diesel. There isn't one available now, because the European car makers were concentrating on diesels instead (and on catching up with the Japanese in manufacturing efficiency and reliability). They were caught off guard on the whole hybrid idea.

            A hybrid drivetrain can be more efficient than is possible with an ICE (petrol or diesel) only.

            The next trend that's going to have a big impact is smaller, more efficient petrol engines. We're seeing the first cars come out now where a 2-litre engine has been replaced by a 1.4 with a turbocharger, with the same max. power output while using less fuel and better emissions figures.
          • by MightyYar (622222)
            Diesels are more efficient, but some of the perceived "efficiency" is actually that diesel is a more dense fuel. A gallon of diesel contains more carbon than a gallon of gas, and thus releases more CO2 when burned. It also takes more crude to make it.

            Don't get me wrong, I am very excited that clean diesels are coming to the states, and that more diesel cars are available - diesel engines are more efficient... I just wanted to point out that comparing MPG is kind of meaningless, since diesel crams more energ
    • by gig (78408)
      Before Dell, people weren't clamoring to buy PC's online either. You probably just don't remember.
  • "Not a car" (Score:3, Informative)

    by jonoton (804262) on Tuesday July 31, 2007 @04:18AM (#20054629)
    In europe these vehicles are not classified as cars and as such do not have to subject themselves to the Euro NCAP.

    Recently Top Gear magazine paid for one of these to be subject to the most basic testing - the results were pretty horrific.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by rvw (755107)

      In europe these vehicles are not classified as cars and as such do not have to subject themselves to the Euro NCAP.

      Recently Top Gear magazine paid for one of these to be subject to the most basic testing - the results were pretty horrific.

      If so, they are not allowed to go faster than 40 KM/H. That's the same speed as a moped or scooter may do. I prefer to be in one of those stupid electric vehicles than on a moped when in an accident. Furthermore, if this would really become big, security will improve fast, and city traffic speed will become slower.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by clonmult (586283)
        The car in question (G-Wiz) will reach a top speed of around 40mph. They say that "you will rarely hit such speeds around town". Sure, you're doing 30mph, car coming towards you is doing 30mph, closing speed of 60? You're almost guaranteed to die in a G-Wiz accident, but the other vehicle will hardly notice the bump.

        Would you prefer to be in a vehicle that, in the event of an accident (head on at least) will keep you trapped, with crushed legs and chest, that can take an eternity to get out of, or a mope
        • by amorsen (7485)
          Sure, you're doing 30mph, car coming towards you is doing 30mph, closing speed of 60?

          If both cars are equal weight and the collision is straight-on, they will both experience a deceleration from 30mph to 0mph. Exactly the same as if they each hit a wall at 30mph.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Calinous (985536)
            If you have a 4 tons Hummer and a 1 ton car. Each runs at 30 mph.
                  After collision, you will have a (Hummer+car) construction, going 18 mph in the direction the Hummer went (assuming the cars lock in accident, and won't jump back).
                  So, the Hummer just hit a wall at 12 mph, while the other car hit the same wall at 48 mph.

                  Better to be in the Hummer
        • In your scenario with the moped your body would take the full blown 60kmh deceleration onto the pavement. or on the car front. At least with those small car a bit would be taken by the structure, even if it is minimal, it is certainly better than on a moped.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by arivanov (12034)
      That may change by next year. The entire quadricycle loophole may be removed. The horrific results of the test have put the wheels of the Eurocracy in motion. It may take a while for them to start moving, but it is nearly impossible to stop them once they do.

      The reason for the horrific tests results for the Wizz was a horrible design. It is not something that is specific to electric cars in particular. The pseudoengeneers from one well known country who designed the Wizz have built it around the battery. Th
    • Strawman argument. (Score:5, Informative)

      by nietsch (112711) on Tuesday July 31, 2007 @05:42AM (#20055037) Homepage Journal
      these vehicles are not the same as the vehicle that the article is about. It is not about to go on sale this year or the next. There is nothing that you can order yet, so there is nothing you can crash test. The test was with a totally different vehicle. If one SUV did bad in a crash test (like killing some bystanding dummies that were not even in the test), does that make all SUVs bad? (well OK, SUV are still bad, but for other reasons).
      Some other poster pointed out your strawman is called g-wiz(made in India), which is a different vehicle ,made in different factory. Or are all electric vehicles the same?
    • by An Onerous Coward (222037) on Tuesday July 31, 2007 @10:20AM (#20057941) Homepage
      The Top Gear test [topgear.com] was performed on a G-Wiz [wikipedia.org], and has nothing to do with the Norwegian cars being discussed. The G-Wiz basically an electric scooter with a metal enclosure, has a top speed of 40MPH, and isn't intended for highway use.

      According to the article, the Think cars have a top speed of 62MPH (which their agreement with Tesla hopes to raise to 85-90MPH. It will very much be a highway car, and therefore subject to American and European safety standards. Lumping the Think and the G-Wiz together as "these cars" is like lumping your pet rabbit and your sister-in-law together under "these animals". Did that analogy make sense? No? That's my point: it's nonsensical. If Chewbacca lives on Krykkit, you must acquit.
  • While I am a big fan of the electric cars, I think that we can expect prices on the batteries to go up in the next year or 2.
  • Get real (Score:2, Interesting)

    by davmoo (63521)
    $15,000 *without* the battery?! A $100 - $200 monthly fee?!

    Bawhahahahaha!!!

    That's a good joke, they should take this act to Vegas.
    • by Cutie Pi (588366)
      No kidding... They are using this mobility fee to help people stomach the car's price. I don't know how car buying works in Europe, but at least in the U.S. many people view a car's price just by the monthly payment they need to make. (I just bought a car recently, and the salesperson tried to deal by quoting me monthly payment amounts. He seemed surprised when I asked for the actual amount financed).

      A 5-year loan on a $15000 car will be around $300/mo (5% APR). That extra $200/mo adds 66% to the total mont
    • You will pay approximately the same for a smart [smart.com] and even more for something like a Volkswagen Polo, and that's without gas! (Today about $1,80 for a liter at my nearest gas station!) The price is reasonable for Europe.

      • you pay less for a daihatsu cuore and cuore is bigger and faster.
    • personally I bike everywhere now, but most people that I know who commute with a car fill the tank once or twice a week.

      at current prices, even for a small car, that's $35-$40 a tank. generously, that's $140 a month for gas.

      $100 monthly fee for a battery? sign me up! there's flexcar or rentals for long hauls.

      twice in the last 6 years I've had commutes of between 40 and 60 miles, which was costing me upwards of $80 a week, and that was at lower prices. this is well within the range of one of these cars.
  • Carbon Free? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JuanCarlosII (1086993) on Tuesday July 31, 2007 @04:25AM (#20054669)

    ..carbon-free electric driving machine
    I appreciate that looking forward a larger proportion of our electricity will come from sustainable and green sources, but given the current situation I can;t see how they can claim an electric car to be 'carbon free'. Admittedly the car itself emits very little carbon, but this just means that the carbon emissions are being diverted to the power generation (unless of course, the electricity is being generated using a perpetual motion machine [slashdot.org]). Also:

    He points to the black steel chassis of a City standing on a nearby pallet; it's shipped preassembled from Thailand. At one station, workers attach the car's aluminum frame -- made in Denmark -- and drop in a French motor. At another station, prefabricated rust-and dent-resistant polymer-plastic body panels produced in Turkey are hung on the frame of a nearly completed car.
    I'm not sure how shipping in different parts from all corners of the world necessarily helps the 'carbon-free' thing either. Basically, my thinking is that until electricity supplies are all (or at least mostly) from renewable and sustainable sources then a small electric car is no more or less environmentally friendly than say a small diesel car.
    • Re:Carbon Free? (Score:4, Informative)

      by WegianWarrior (649800) on Tuesday July 31, 2007 @05:04AM (#20054857) Journal
      You're forgetting two things.

      First, this car is produced in Norway, where the overwhelming majority of power is generated by hydro-electric plants.

      Secondly, the manufacturer was bought out by a company that specialices in solar energy.

      So yes, it makes perfect sence for them to talk about a 'carbon free' car. Off course, the marketing blurb, reality in Norway and reality in [country of your choice] isn't always the same thing...
    • Nuclear + Wind (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Nicolas MONNET (4727) <nicoaltiva@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Tuesday July 31, 2007 @05:41AM (#20055031) Journal
      Current technologies exist to generate electricity carbon free.

      Nuclear (70%+ of all electricity around here)

      Wind is already competitive price-wise with coal. Its main problems are that they require massive initial investment, and that it takes A LOT of time to get over all the Nimbys. Wind also happens to be unpredictable, but that's a non issue as far as battery charging is concerned. All that's required is a broadcast flag to tell the charger to stop sucking current when not enough power is available.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Alioth (221270)
      A small, efficient electric car even powered by conventional electricity sources will be pretty efficient.
      Unlike the diesel, it doesn't have to idle when stopped. Unlike the diesel, it can use regenerative braking and not waste energy to slow down. Unlike the diesel, one huge powerplant is much more efficient than lots of very small powerplants (our local power station, a combined cycle gas turbine which uses any remaining waste heat to heat the nearby swimming pool has a pretty amazing thermal efficiency -
  • This is car enough (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zeromorph (1009305) on Tuesday July 31, 2007 @04:30AM (#20054703)

    I think it's a good idea with a lot of potential here in Europe, maybe not in the US.

    For me it's definitely enough car. For most people it would make a great second car.

    From their homepage: [think.no]
    Range: 180km
    Speed: max. 100km/h

    A max. speed of 120km/h would be nicer, but range and speed are sufficient for all of the routes on which I prefer car over train.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Enderandrew (866215)
      If I hadn't already posted in the thread, I'd mod you informative.

      There are already plenty of electric cars, but most don't go past 120 miles, and neither does this one. I have a small car with a small gas tank, and I have to refuel every 250 miles and I find it a hassle. Some electric cars can only go 70-80 miles before a recharge, and when you factor in having to drive home, that means driving 40 miles out and 40 miles home.

      In a city like LA where people often live pretty far out from where they work, i
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by MichaelSmith (789609)

        In a city like LA where people often live pretty far out from where they work, it just isn't feasible.

        How much of the driving in LA is at slow speed in heavy traffic? Under those conditions a petrol engine will be less efficient, and an electric drive line will be more efficient.

        • L.A. traffic (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Mal-2 (675116)
          My drive home -- about 32 miles -- fluctuates wildly between a dead stop and 50-55 mph. If I am lucky enough to hit a relatively open freeway, I may hit 70-75 mph, but that is by far the minority of the trip. Acceleration is crucial. I know electric vehicles have plenty of acceleration when required, but just how much does this reduce the operating radius?

          For an electric car -- or fuel cell, or anything else -- to be practical for me, these are the requirements:

          * 0 to 60 mph in 11 seconds, max. This would p
      • by gig (78408)
        You are talking about electric only. The Dean Kaman part is to make it a hybrid on order to increase the range. At the same time you could turn the Stirling off to take a quiet scenic drive.
      • All it takes is enough plugs to be available. You don't have to refill, just to plug the thing in when you park. Surely you can spare 30s of your time every day?
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Enderandrew (866215)
          Assuming that there is an outlet where ever I have to park, which simply isn't the case. And how long does it take to recharge?

          Do you think cities are going to put outputs in front of every parking spot in a city? Who is going to pay to install them? Who is paying for electricity used to recharge the cars?

          Frankly, a plug-in car can really only be charged at your house. And until they can go 200 miles (100 mile each way) before a recharge, I don't believe they are feasible.
          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by phozz bare (720522)

            Do you think cities are going to put outputs in front of every parking spot in a city? Who is going to pay to install them? Who is paying for electricity used to recharge the cars?
            You don't have parking meters where you live, do you? You'd have the same thing, but with an electrical outlet. You will pay for the electricity. The city will make money off it, paying for the initial setup.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Enderandrew (866215)
              They only have parking meters downtown. And the company I work for just did some massive construction downtown and it was a nightmare getting approval to do anything underground, so getting all the wiring done underground for an entire city is no small feat. And there is a different between plugging a quarter or two into the meter to park and paying to refuel my car. I imagine it will take a sizable amount of electricity and I can't simply pay for it with pocket change.
      • by AGMW (594303) on Tuesday July 31, 2007 @06:06AM (#20055179) Homepage
        What I'd like to see is the Goverment doing something useful for a change (in the UK at least) and allow companies to charge their employees electric vehicles for free (ie a tax free perk) - sort of an green update on the old company car scheme.

        So, drive 40 or 50 miles to work and plug the sucker in. It charges all day and you drive it home. A small overnight boost will get you back to work again!

        Doing something like this would be a useful kick-start to the technology, and once it becomes more commonplace it should also get cheaper and drive the technology forward!

    • i like it.
      and if they sell it for a good price, i'll buy it next summer - it would be the perfect car for me.
    • I got to the part about $15,000 to $17,000 U.S. PLUS 100-200 dollars a month in fees.

      You can buy a, very fuel efficient compact import for a third less. Frankly, that thing makes a Kia look cool. Any savings in fuel are utterly obliterated by the cost of leasing the battery and "fees". I want an electric as much as anyone else, but that's a lot of cash to lay out. I'm sure they'll sell some to people who just want an electric car, but novelty isn't going to drive an industry.

      I hope they're around long enoug
      • by gig (78408)
        You're forgetting that the cost of electricity to run the car is like paying 50 cents per gallon instead of $3.50, and notice that gas really costs you ten times more through taxes and environmental damage and desert military adventures and asthma and so on.
        • by tgd (2822)
          But, to be fair, you then need to add in the fact that most states charge you 2-3x more in property taxes or registration taxes if you run electric because they do not get the gas taxes to maintain roads.

          Also add in the eventual expense of electricity as demand grows. Much of the US is at peak demand for large chunks of the year. There is not excess capacity on the grid for a large number of people to be charging electric cars. Electricity prices will skyrocket with demand.

          Electric cars are not a magic bull
      • oh. that is too much. i'll buy one for 7000, but not for more.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      Well, if it's payable.... Meaning much less than for example a Smart car, I'm all for it. When I was young and crazy, I bought an small roadster, which really is a gas guzzler at 10l/100km (~23.5mpg according to Google) and I still have it to this day. Selling it won't bring me enough money to buy an eco-friendly car and I don't want to invest in a new car. I mean if I have to add another 15k€ on the selling price, it'll take years before the savings start to kick in. It's stupid to replace a perf

  • Stirling Engine (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Tuesday July 31, 2007 @04:44AM (#20054749) Homepage Journal
    If I were to design a car these days, I would do as these guys did and use an electric motor for propulsion, and a Stirling engine for power generation. For those not in the know, Stirling engines [wikipedia.org] are engines that run on heat. They can be powered by pretty much anything that generates enough heat, including but not limited to fossil fuels. Compared to conventional combustion engines, they Stirling engines are more efficient, but they take a lot of time to increase or decrease speed. That is a problem when using them for driving the wheels, but not when generating elcetricity.

    Thanks to AKAImBatman for pointing me at Stirling engines; I first read about them on his blog.
    • by evilviper (135110)

      Compared to conventional combustion engines, they Stirling engines are more efficient,

      Pretty much EVERYTHING is more efficient than old gasoline ICEs.

      Turbo Diesel engines (which are Internal Combustion), however, certainly can be more efficient than Sterling engines, not to mention cheaper.

      Turbines can thoroughly beat Sterling engines on efficiency as well.

      There are problems external combustion engines as well. You're going to have to have an impressive engine assembly to withstand the extremely high tempe

  • by More_Cowbell (957742) on Tuesday July 31, 2007 @04:51AM (#20054791) Journal
    I fill my tank for ~ $70 a month (currently $3.45/gal), and I commute 30 miles round trip on workdays. True, there are plenty of people that can afford this (remember, the fee does not include electricity to charge), but this seems to be an elitist car at the moment.

    Please wake me when I can help save the environment without declaring bankruptcy.

    • by Aladrin (926209)
      They are using the 'mobility fee' as a way to get the car's price down to manageable levels. If you simply think of it as a $50k car, but with lifetime batteries (which are insanely expensive), the real cost of the car comes clear. ($34k battery and ~$16k car.) In addition, when viewed as monthly fee, they can't charge you interest on the $34k, but only the $16k for the car. For anyone who can afford this car, this is a very good deal indeed.

      For the rest of us, no. It's insane. I want to spend ~$8k-$1
    • by simong (32944)
      In most of the rest of the world, gasoline is more like $7 a gallon (currently about £0.94-0.99 a litre in the UK) and the cost of gas in the US has doubled since I was there four years ago, so if that's not a problem, I don't know what is.
  • by ScorpFromHell (837952) on Tuesday July 31, 2007 @05:03AM (#20054843) Homepage
    did we ever discuss about the Indian electric car company Reva [revaindia.com] any time in the past? Their latest variant, Reva i [indiaenews.com], released this month costs around USD 9K (at exchange rate of INR 40 per USD).

    Sure, it can only do a top speed of around 50MPH with a range of 60 Miles per charge, but I guess that's enough for city driving? I don't know, but is USD 9K too much for a small electric car that can carry two adults & two children in your place? In India, it is a viable option as a second car, for the growing numbers of nouveau rich at least.
  • by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Tuesday July 31, 2007 @05:09AM (#20054883) Homepage Journal
    For those of you who are about to RTFA: be warned, it contains businessspeak.

    I have no idea what they mean by describing the car as "open-source". Also, they can't seem to decide whether it's a car, a glorified terminal, a power generator, or an iPod.

    I also get the eerie impression that it is vaporware. Golden mountains are being promised, but will they be delivered? With so many rich people being enthusiastic about it, there is just a chance, but still, I don't want to get my hopes squashed again.

    All in all, it looks very cool. I want one.
  • by ptbarnett (159784) on Tuesday July 31, 2007 @05:28AM (#20054965)
    Selling via the web may sound cool, but at least one state (Texas) requires that a retail automobile purchase be conducted through a brick-and-mortar dealer.
  • Think cars [wikipedia.org] have been around in Norway for quite some time. They have a number of supporting measures from the government, such as lower taxes (taxes on a new car are about as much as the car itself over here), they can use reserved lanes and are exempt from city toll rings (fairly common, even if they removed the one where I live).

    A thing you will have to get used is not to rely on your ears when crossing a road. These cars are very silent, once I almost got run over by one because it was so silent that

  • They suggest they will be using a Li-ion battery. I sincerely hope for them they will be using LiFePo chemistry, as ordinary Li-ion and Li-polymer batteries only last around 200-500 cycles.(NiMH is similar and weighs two times more) That means you'd have to buy a new battery every one or two years. The batteries as produced by a123systems can handle 1000-2000 cycles according to the manufacturer. These batteries are a bit heavier, but live longer, don't 'explode' in a crash and are a bit cheaper at ~$1/Watt
  • Email from Think (Score:5, Informative)

    by meador (618932) on Tuesday July 31, 2007 @06:08AM (#20055185)
    I emailed Think with a few questions after they announced their battery pack deal with Tesla.
    Here's the text:

    Dear xxx,

    Thank you for your e-mail and interest in Think!

    Think is currently in the process of preparing the new TH!NK city for production in the fall of 2007. The new TH!NK city meets all US and European homologation and safety requirements. It has a range of 110 miles, a top speed of over 60 mph and has comfort and convenience features you would expect of a normal car such as, A/C, electric windows, mirrors, etc.

    Due to production capacity limitation and a desire to become very visible in the markets we enter, we will sell exclusively in Norway and the UK in 2007 and the first few months of 2008. Unfortunately, I am unable to confirm the timing of a US launch.

    About your questions:

    1) How many miles / years will the batter pack last? --> 7 to 10 for Norway
    2) Can the top speed governer be altered? (Part of my daily commute is on the highway) --> NO
    3) Do you have any plans to bring the Think back to the US? --> YES
    4) What is the cost of the car and cost for the replacement battery pack? --> Not yet known for USA, in Norway 200.000 NOK

    I have added your name to our list of interested parties and we'll send you information on prices and launch dates as they become available. Please contact me if you have any further questions. For more information please visit our website: www.think.no.

    Thanks for your interest and all best.


    Kind regards

    Alejandra Hagbartsen
    Market assistant

    THINK GLOBAL AS

    Sandakerveien 24
    0473 Oslo
    www.think.no

    Tel: +47 23 40 84 04
    Mob: +47 993 88 329
  • Clueless (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SoupIsGood Food (1179) on Tuesday July 31, 2007 @06:18AM (#20055249)
    Tiny cars don't sell well. They're difficult to schlep kids to school and a dozen bags of mulch home from Lowe's. Small cars are seen as unitakers, and most americans need their cars to fill a number of roles.

    Plus, without a way to recharge the battery in roughly the time it takes to fill up a gas tank, what the hell are these things good for? Short distance commuting? Corbin already tried it, with a better looking mini-car, and failed. Miserably. Americans generally have no use for automotive unitaskers - most of them have long highway commutes and the occasional road-trip, and they want to do both in the same car.

    Ugly cars also don't sell well. I don't mean "Quirky styling" like the Scion xB or Suzuki Aero, or bland styling, like a Chrysler Sebring or Toyota Corolla. I mean, East German levels of "Couldn't Be Bothered With It" styling: truly and deeply misguided design choices no-one paused to give a second thought to, complete with panel gaps you can see with the naked eye from low earth orbit and colors chosen for their complete inability to catch the eye.

    Efficient and cheap isn't going to get you anywhere near public acceptance. It's got to offer a lot more... the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius look goood, they're slick productions with a lot more to offer than 50mpg. The Prius in particular has been successful because it offers near-luxury comfort and conveniences with econobox mileage and futuristic styling. (The other hybrid makers are also having a hard time grokking this, so we get Hybrid Civics and Mariners no-one is particularly enthusiastic over.)

    The Smart FourTwo is a tiny, inexpensive car with great styling and sybaritic creature comforts, and Daimler =still= won't bring it to the US because there's no real market for it here. The Think, an ugly plug-in doo-dad, is doomed before it even starts. Dell? Try Osbourne.

    SoupIsGood Food

       
    • Re:Clueless (Score:4, Informative)

      by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Tuesday July 31, 2007 @06:45AM (#20055415) Journal
      Really? Most Americans I know have at least two (if not more!) vehicles - for example, a normal car, a giant SUV and a pickup. The normal car is used for nothing but the man's commuting. The wife uses the giant SUV and the pickup gets taken on camping trips. So at least one of the vehicles is a "unitasker" already.

      When I lived in Houston, I was quite unusual amongst my friends having only one vehicle.
    • Damned Right! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Overzeetop (214511)
      Why does every damned economical car have to _look_ like an economy car? Why not put an all-electric concept into a Miata, MR2, RX-8, S2000, or other coupe (or coupe+)? Give me a damned spyder hard-top. I would really like an electric car. I drive a 5.4L V8 F150 for work - and I need it for some of the construction sites I'm on - but it gets absolutely horrible mileage, about 14mpg. I commute about 1 mile to work (yes, I do bike from time to time, and walk occasionally, too) and many of my in-town meetings
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by StrawberryFrog (67065)
      Tiny cars don't sell well. ... most americans

      That's why a European company is doing this. In Europe. Where small cars sell.
  • by frisket (149522) <peterNO@SPAMsilmaril.ie> on Tuesday July 31, 2007 @06:31AM (#20055327) Homepage
    Lease or buy isn't important. What's important is that batteries become standardized. Recharge at home by all means, but when your car is running out of juice on a trip, you pull into a juice station, slide out the battery, slide in a recharged one, and slide your discharged one into a rack for recharging. You pay for your "refill" like you pay for a tank of gas, and drive out.

    OK, so maybe we need small, medium, and large batteries, plus a couple of bigger sizes for trucks, buses, RVs, and those 4x4s needed for all that rugged terrain around the suburban malls :-) but the last thing we need is some dipshit marketing droid inventing new and proprietary batteries that you have to get from the manufacturer. Suppose you bought a Toyota but you had to go to a Toyota garage to get your gas...

  • by hcdejong (561314) <hobbes@xm s n e t.nl> on Tuesday July 31, 2007 @06:44AM (#20055413)
    The notion of not having a showroom sort of makes sense, but the savings will be limited. After all, they're going to have to set up that car-sharing franchise instead, and that franchise will have to employ someone who can talk to prospective owners, and they'll have to vehicle available, which may mean investing in a demo car.

    Also, where will these vehicles be maintained? Independent garages aren't usually the first to invest in new equipment and training to service unusual cars (e.g. handling high-voltage equipment and large batteries that can discharge at 1000 A).

    I expect these cars will need less maintenance than internal combustion vehicles, though. I just had my car in for its 15 Mm checkup, and of the E 370 bill, maybe E 40 was for items unrelated to the engine (an interior filter and balancing two tires IIRC). This means routine stuff could be handled by any garage (or tire fitter, for that matter). It's just the high-voltage electric stuff that needs a specialist.
  • by Dachannien (617929) on Tuesday July 31, 2007 @07:16AM (#20055673)
    ...with selling such a tiny car in the US is that "Escalade" is French for "trash compactor".

  • by rAiNsT0rm (877553) on Tuesday July 31, 2007 @09:14AM (#20057025) Homepage
    I sold my turbo'd Focus for a 2006 Scion xA in 2005 just to realize some savings in fuel costs, then when things went even higher I was feeling pretty good about the little bugger. I thought I'd miss a lot from the performance/power side of things but honestly it's grown on me. I don't think I could go back to less than 35MPG, and it has become a past time to see how much I can get (44MPG is my best so far). I get the same or better mileage as a Prius, paid ~$8,000 less than a Prius, and have no battery or complexities to worry about.

    Now for this plug in vehicle. I am a strong believer that any company who can bring back the $10k new car will clean up. My father works for GM and I know it can be done, but has been squashed just about every step of the way. If this vehicle could get to $10k (even 11k) and include the battery fee for the first year, then I'd buy one in a heartbeat.

    I have a odd car dealer by my house that sells replica's and oddballs of all sorts (Once I almost bought a Delorean there) and they have been selling the Mercedes smart cars. People are flying in from all over the country daily for them and the waiting list is up to 18 months right now. The price? $60,000. Honestly, people are dying to drop 60 g's for a tiny smart car like this one... the market is there at any price, but for mass adoption and disruption of the market $10k would be it.
  • by TeknoHog (164938) on Tuesday July 31, 2007 @09:14AM (#20057037) Homepage Journal
    Killed? It's not dead, it's pining for the fjords.
  • by avi33 (116048) on Tuesday July 31, 2007 @09:48AM (#20057465) Homepage
    It's funny, every time details about some "cutting edge" idea or business model surface, this forum (which used to be populated with physicists, engineers, and geeks of all stripes) piles on with their own particular angle on why it won't work.

    Good thing slashdot isn't a frickin' VC company...I can just imagine the comments:

    • Are you kidding, no one will pay half a billion dollars for a site that just has free web-based email. I could knock that out in a weekend with perl...
    • No way anyone will pay two billion dollars for a video sharing site...I could knock that out in perl in a week
    • What? *Another* search company? Who needs that? We already have Lycos and yahoo, and their results are pretty good...besides, I could knock one out in perl if I really needed to...
    • An overpriced mp3 player with 5 buttons and a scroll dial? L4m3.


    No, instead, we have the run of the mill peanut gallery, with their particularly ignorant insights. Don't get me wrong, a strong dose of skepticism is a healthy thing to have, but do you really think that Sergey and his band of PhD.s are not quite as clever as you when it comes to spotting and growing ideas? I'm no fan of the Segway, but you have to admit, much of the pesky unwanted energy in our machines shows its face in the form of heat, and if you can find a *relatively* cheap way to convert it to some other form, well, that seems like a pretty handy little model...

    But slashdot has all the answers...it's too small, too expensive, the batteries should be $free, it's failed x times before, it's a toy, it's not safe, Joe sixpack wants a hummer, ponzi!, l4m3, FUD, w00t...whereas a couple of commenters actually get it: this could work in x conditions, but not in y, for z reasons...at least there are still a couple people left around here that haven't grown up thinking a forum is a place to pile on, the snarkier, the better.

    I'm not saying it will succeed just because some heavy duty investors are behind it; plenty of ideas that fit that bill haven't made it. The point is, it could, and maybe one day something will happen that might cause people to think about energy differently, and this model will be ahead of its time, or at least some lessons will have been learned. Like a HOWTO on overclocking your chip with a stirling engine that charges your iPod...

    Instead of analysis, we have negative comments modded as insightful. I suppose it's true what The Onion says, it turns out that a majority of Americans are actually NOT entitled to have their own opinions...
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jpatters (883)
      It's funny, every time details about some "cutting edge" idea or business model surface, this forum (which used to be populated with physicists, engineers, and geeks of all stripes) piles on with their own particular angle on why it won't work.

      Far be it from me to stick a pin in your nostalgia, but slashdot has never been any different, really. And in this case, we're right, this product has "going nowhere" written all over it.
    • by Shadowlore (10860) on Tuesday July 31, 2007 @03:58PM (#20062961) Journal
      It depends on the article. If the article makes grand claims, it deserves a nitpick or two. Grand claims require grand evidence.

      In this submission it was questioned whether this would "Usher in Big Changes" in the automotive world. The veracity of that is entirely up for discussion and if you've evert tried to get funding for company, you'd want to post the idea here. That way you'll know all the possible failure modes.

      Will this make a big change in the automotive world? No. It is not cost effective nor space effective for most people.

      For single persons having two cars that carry the same amount of people is wasteful, and takes up more parking spaces in their apartment complexes - spaces they may not have available. Most families of >2 members already have two vehicles, so this would make a third one. Again most families have at most a two-car garage (and many of those are actually wide opening single-car garages). Thus the space issue hits home, no pun intended, for them.

      Further, the cost of this car versus their current car makes it cost more to buy and use than to continue driving their existing car, for most people that it is alleged would be the target.

      All that boils down to who the real market, targeted or not, is. People who only need this car and are OK with it's limitations (all cars have them). That market is demonstrably small. I
      d even suggest that teenage drivers make the most logical target market. These markets are a small, small measure of the overall market. From this standpoint the answer to "big changes" is a flat "no".

      On the standpoint of whether the method of selling will usher big changes, again, no. The reasons are different here. The existing model consists of manufacturers selling their product to dealers, who then sell it again. The automaker is already selling direct in this model. Selling directly to the customer would represent a breach of contract with their dealers. It would also put them in competition with their largest block of customers. So no, that won't change either.

      It isn't a matter of opinion as to whether or not the questions asked represent a likely future, it is an analysis. Just as with the hype of the Segway. Does the Segway work as a means of transportation? Yes, it is functional. Is it cool? arguably, yes. Did it represent a fundamental shift of how we the people would get around? No. Did it cause a "rethinking" of how we get around? No.

      See, that is the problem. Every "new idea" is touted as a funadmental shift, a paradigm change, a "world changing idea", or some such notion. So of course, we the thinkers, analyze that. And due to the nature of the frequency of truly world changing ideas, more often than not the answer is "no it is not a world changing idea". An idea can be a good one without being a world changing one.

      Then again, if you believe that the majority of people are not entitled to their opinions, you probably believe they are entitled to your opinion.

Mediocrity finds safety in standardization. -- Frederick Crane

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