Spiraling gasoline prices, concerns about CO2 emissions, and improvements in battery technology are bringing a renewed interest in battery electric vehicles. For example, Think City EVs are again rolling off Th!nk Global's production line in Aurskog, Norway. A former Ford Motor Company acquisition and part of a now-defunct Think division at Ford, the Think City was short-lived in the States with production halting in 2002 after just 1005 cars had been assembled.

The revised Think from Th!nk Global has emerged with a more stylish design than the earlier iteration. It features ABS brakes, dual airbags, and is designed to meet all European and U.S. safety requirements. The electric car has a range of just over 100 miles and a top speed of 62 mph. Creature comforts include air conditioning, power steering, sunroof, and electric windows and mirrors. Think has even shown a convertible prototype. The modular, front-wheel-drive battery electric car has dent-resistant polymer-plastic body panels mounted on an aluminum frame and a steel chassis.

EnerDel will supply the Think's lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries. Tesla Motors was to have supplied these batteries, but recently that deal fell through. The supply agreement between EnerDel and Think Global is the largest Li-ion battery contract in the automotive industry to date. EnerDel's Li ion batteries reportedly have higher energy density than ones for hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), thus providing greater range between recharges. To keep the purchase price down, the battery pack will be leased rather than sold to Think purchasers. Previous Thinks used nickel cadmium (NiCd) batteries.

Initial cars will be used for quality assurance, trials under Norwegian winter conditions, and for crash testing. Sales will start in Norway sometime in the first half of 2008 with other European countries and perhaps the U.S. to follow.

Think sales could get a big boost from a proposal by Norwegian lawmakers banning the sale of gasoline-powered cars. Cars operating on biofuels would be the likely approach that major cars makers would take. Norway is already very EV friendly and electric vehicles are exempt from taxes, enjoy free parking, are exempt from tolls, and can be driven in bus lanes to avoid congestion.

Think Global plans to build 7,000 to 10,000 cars annually by 2009. To accomplish this, it has hired Porsche Consulting to bring its lean manufacturing experience to bear with the Th!nk factory's layout, as well as its handling and logistics expertise to make the Th!nk operation one of Europe's most cost efficient assembly plants. The Porsche factory is the most profitable factory of its type in Europe. In 2008, the Th!nk factory is expected to reach full production capacity, equivalent to 3500 cars per shift. The factory has capacity for double shifts.

Think production has had its ups and downs. Norwegian Jan Otto Ringdal founded Pivco (Personal Independent Vehicle Company) in 1991 to build the City Bee electric car. By 1996, Pivco had produced 120 City Bees - also called the Citi - 40 of which participated in the San Francisco Bay Area Station Car Demonstration project from 1995 to 1998. In 1999, Ford acquired a 51-percent share in the now bankrupt company and changed the name to Think Nordic. Ford sold Think Nordic to Swiss-based Kamkorp Microelectronics in 2003. Under Kamkorp, the carmaker went bankrupt in 2006. A group of Norwegian investors that included Jan Otto Ringdal bought Think during its liquidation. The investors have contributed significant new capital to the company, which is now called Think Global.

Think CEO Jan-Olaf Willums has some interesting plans for marketing Think City cars including selling them online and only building a car when full payment is made. Every car will be Internet- and Wi-Fi-enabled. Th!nk City cars will also be able to communicate wirelessly with its driver, other Think owners, and the power grid. Segway's Dean Kamen has even proposed a Stirling engine as a range extender for the Think.