06.14.2010 - by Linda Nicholes
Think it’s a Go

Think City Test DriveEight Plug In America EV drivers recently lined up to test drive a demo Think City electric vehicle. Tim Cunningham, Sales Manager for the Western Region, met the group on June 9 at the Costa Mesa ASG Renaissance Regional Headquarters parking lot for a Q & A huddle prior to our test spins.

I was delighted to put the sprightly little red EV through its paces, but admittedly disappointed to learn that this particular demo car was actually powered by a ZEBRA sodium battery pack rather than the EnerDel 24.5 kWh lithium ion batteries that will purportedly power upcoming production Thinks. I wonder how such divergent battery chemistry may effect performance — although I suspect the ultimate effect will be positive.

Merely by virtue of its huggable good looks and the fact that the car is 100% electric, it was fun to drive. I noticed that the center-mounted shifter had two drive positions. In “D” mode you could top out at 47 ponies– in this older ZEBRA demo anyway — and you can engage regenerative braking in “E” mode. This particular demo car didn’t have power steering, but Tim assured me that power steering will be a standard feature in American Thinks.

Think City group The lithium ion Think City will have an EPA estimated range of 112 miles with a real-world driving range of a probable 100 miles — comparable to that of the trusty Toyota RAV4 EVs some of us are still driving. Test driver and PIA videographer Colby Trudeau quipped that since the Think will have over a 100-mile range, “It should be called the Think County. It’s really an around-the-county car because you can go anywhere within a 50-mile county radius.” Check out Colby’s great test drive video.

The new and improved Think will be built as a two-seater model with optional roll-back sunroof. This tiny tot is actually a foot longer and a couple of inches wider than the Smart Car with a surprising 29 cubic feet of rear storage capacity. The recyclable matt-finished plastic body is supported by an extruded aluminum frame. The car is currently undergoing full homologation crash testing and battery validation. Mr. Cunningham assured our cluster of eight that charging would be at 240V level 2 from 20 to 30 Amps along with 120V charging capabilities.

New product development headquarters are located in Oslo, Norway, and Think is expecting to open a factory in Elkhart, Indiana in 2011. According to Tim, Think has already sold 1,000 cars in Europe with a few thousand additional drivers awaiting delivery. American fleet sales will begin in 2010 and consumer sales in 2011. MSRP has not yet been announced.

You wouldn’t expect the Think to have light speed acceleration, of course and — of course — you’d be right. Top speed will be 70 mph, and it may take you awhile to get there at zero to 60 in slightly over 15 seconds. The Think should, however, grant you reasonably safe freeway access.

Although I found the Think to be well appointed with good fit and finish, and I loved the spunky spirit of the thing, I’m probably not the most unbiased nor the best test driver for this electric car. I freely admit it: When it comes to sheer speed and torque, the Tesla roadster has spoiled me rather rotten. But I admit this too: The pint-sized Think City is a smooth, stylish-in-its-own-right, much improved urban ride that will likely join other mass-produced plug-in cars on the road to America’s hopefully brighter transportation future.

Post by Linda Nicholes

Photos by Colby Trudeau

1 comment on “Think it’s a Go”
  1. Øyvind Lunde says:

    You should not blame the zebra battery for the cars performance. Zebra is lighter, about 50kilo and contains 28,3kWh energie(Enerdel 22?). It has a rated maximum output power of 50kW. Software reduces the power output to about 30kW.
    The power potential in the Enerdel battery is much higher but i doubt that they would do more than at symbolic adjustment (+2-5kW?). Thats because its å very smart move to restrict avalible power to improve practical range, and the fact that the design of the car probobly can not handel much more torque and power.

    Enerdel litium and Zebra Sodium nikkel batteri have different capabilities regarding outside temperatur, self discharge challanges and Internal resistense. In Norways cold winters i would prefer Zebra IF you need maksimum range. Lithium is more energyefficient but in this car with relativaly low output its not a very big deal.

    I have one with Zebra and it is not very hard to drive 200Km + (up to 250) But almost impossible to drive less than 150 ;-)I drive 30 000Km + a year and its not any problem at all.

    Other issues is the fact that chargingtime in less then two is a problem with Zebra. Enerdel can manage doen to 15 minutes on an external fastcharger.

    All in all its a very fun car to drive with both alternatives, enjoy ;o)

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