What do giant RVs that you can live in for weeks on end have in common with a tiny, plastic car that seats four and can only go 110 miles before it needs to be recharged? Their birthplace, according to U.S. News Rankings & Reviews.
The New York Times says, “Elkhart, Ind., has been dubbed the ‘RV Capital of the World’ because of the concentration of recreational vehicle manufacturers there. That industry has been hard hit by the recession, however, and it is a sign of the times that one former V. factory will become the United States home of the Norwegian electric carmaker Think.”
Think manufactures the Think City, an electric car. Larger than the Smart ForTwo, but smaller than a Mini Cooper, the City’s body is made of plastic — which is fitting because the car’s styling is reminiscent of a toddler’s toy car. The Think City can seat two adults and two children, has a top speed of 68 mph and can travel about 110 miles on a single charge. After a $7,500 tax rebate, the final price of a Think City in the U.S. is expected to be about $30,000. The Think City is only the second fully electric car, after the Tesla Roadster, to be fully highway certified and crash-tested.
According to Automobile Magazine, the Think factory “will now build as many as 20,000 Think City vehicle each year. Factory renovations are expected to cost more than $43 million, and production could begin in roughly a year.” The Think City is currently built in Finland, at the same factory that produces the Porsche Boxster and Cayman. The Indiana factory will only build U.S.-spec cars, Automobile says. Delivery of the Think City in Europe began in December.
So, why Indiana? According to the Wall Street Journal, “Think’s Indiana plant will be near its Indianapolis-based lithium-ion battery supplier, EnerDel. Ener1 Inc., the parent of Enerdel, is a 31% equity stakeholder in Think.” The Associated Press reports, “After teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, Think was saved in August by a group of investors, including Ener1 of the US, the owner of Enerdel which supplies batteries for the Think cars.”
Also adding to Indiana’s appeal were the incentives that the state offered, and the burgeoning electric car industry fermenting there. The New York Times says, ” The Indiana Economic Development Corporation has offered Think North America more than $3 million in performance-based tax credits over 10 years (and there are local tax advantages, too), but Mr. Canny [Think’s CEO] said that the state’s vision of ‘a Silicon Valley for electric vehicles’ was more of an incentive to locate there. Think plans to employ 415 people by 2013.”
The Indianapolis Star adds, “Company officials said 70% of the car’s components likely would originate in Indiana, Michigan, Illinois and Ohio.” Though the concept of a plastic, electric city car seems very European, it looks like the Think City will have a thoroughly American heart.
Indiana’s electric car heritage goes back a ways. General Motors’ original electric car, the EV1 had its electric systems developed in Indiana. The Think City is expected to go on sale in select U.S. cities next year.