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Ener1 in Chapter 11 Despite Federal Energy Grant

Both Democrats and GOP could face political fall-out.

by on Jan.27, 2012

Ener1's finances took a serious turn for the worse when major client Think went broke last year - the Think City battery car shown here.

Ener1 Inc., the ambitious New York-based maker of lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles and energy storage, has filed for bankruptcy despite receiving $118 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Energy — and lavish-support from the Republican-controlled state of Indiana, home to one of the company’s principal factories.

The “pre-packaged” bankruptcy was filed after the company reached agreement with its primary investors and lenders on a restructuring plan “that will significantly reduce its debt and provide up to $81 million to recapitalize the company,” Ener1 officials said in a statement released after the filing.

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Though Ener1 expects to continue operating and still hopes to eventually profit as battery car demand grows its bankruptcy filing could turn into a political football with both Democrats and Republicans pointing fingers.

The company’s statement said Ener1 expected to maintain its current employment level of approximately 700 and eventually repay creditors.  It has 275 employees in Indiana.


Battery Maker Think Gets New Start

Bankrupt brand finds new owner.

by on Jul.25, 2011

Think will be reborn as Electric Mobility Solutions.

Bankrupt battery car maker Think Global could get a second – make that fourth – chance, a Russian investor getting court approval to re-launch the brand, which went belly-up last month.

The new owners plan to rename the long-troubled company Electric Mobility Solutions AS but will continue to operate it out of Norway – with subsidiaries in both the U.S. and United Kingdom.  Those operations continued even while the Norwegian parent faced the possibility of a court-ordered break-up.

“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,” Russian investor Boris Zingarevich said in a statement.

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“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,” he added.


Think Files for Bankruptcy – Again

Maker hoping to survive latest setback.

by on Jun.23, 2011

The Think City has fallen short of sales goals.

This is an updated version of the story that first appeared on on 6/22/11

Long-struggling electric vehicle maker Think Global has filed for bankruptcy – again – following the breakdown of its relationship with U.S. battery maker Ener1.

The Norwegian-based automaker had been hoping to turn its fortunes around with the launch of a new version of its little Think City battery car.  It is unclear whether the latest setback will end the company’s quixotic quest to be a major player in the global electric vehicle industry — but initial indications suggest it will be difficult to pull through the current crisis, which marks its third time in receivership in just a decade.

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The latest setback resulted from Ener1’s decision to sever its four-year relationship with Think, for whom it served as both supplier of lithium-ion batteries and a key investor following the automaker’s emergence from its previous bankruptcy.  But Ener1 management determined their investment was “impaired,” and sought to find a way to recover as much as possible, it appears.


Indiana Aiming to Be EV Central

Why Think thought Indiana was the right site.

by on Apr.07, 2010

Think-ing of you. The Norwegian maker will open an Indiana assembly plant next year.

When the Norwegian electric vehicle maker, Think, started looking for a site to build a U.S. assembly plant, it was deluged by offers from states and communities lined up coast-to-coast.  In the end, it chose the Northern Indiana town of Elkhart for the plant, which will begin rolling out a version of the Think City two-seater next year.

These days, any deal that can deliver jobs and investments is likely to be greeted with gusto – and the offer of government assistance, and the Think project was no exception.  In the end, state and local officials cobbled together a package of assistance worth $43 million for the battery car maker.

That certainly didn’t hurt, admits Think CEO Richard Canny, not for a long-struggling company that had just emerged, a few months earlier, from bankruptcy proection.  But even with what he describes as a “competitive” package of incentives, the executive says that wasn’t the clincher when it came to choosing Elkhart.  “You don’t choose a location just based on incentives,” Canny explains.

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What sold Think was the fact that Elkhart had a pool of experienced labor – workers who were more than happy to get a good-paying job considering that the region’s traditional manufacturing base, the recreational vehicle, or RV, industry, has all but collapsed – along with an existing battery car infrastructure.


Think Fast! New EV Fast Charge Method Announced

Zero-to-80% charge in 15 minutes, said to be a new standard.

by on Jan.26, 2010

A new time joins the zero-to-60 mph number, minutes from depleted to mostly recharged.

Electric vehicle manufacturer Think will announce later today  that it will join with AeroVironment, Inc. (NASDAQ: AVAV) to jump-start the fast-charge infrastructure in the United States.

The announcement will come at a 15-minute news conference at the Washington Auto Show.

Fifteen minutes is the time it will take to charge a Think City electric vehicle from completely depleted to 80% using an advanced fast-charge system, establishing what Think thinks is a new benchmark for the rapidly developing electric vehicle industry.

“This is a major leap forward for electric vehicles, according to Think CEO Richard Canny. “ The development and deployment of very-fast-charge stations will help speed the electrification of automobiles in the United States and globally.”

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Think will also announce that it has chosen EnerDel, the Indiana-based lithium-ion battery manufacturer, to be the exclusive battery supplier for its City electric vehicles sold in the U.S. through 2012. EnerDel also will also supply at least 60% of the batteries for City electric vehicles sold in Europe.     (more…)

THINK to Open EV Assembly Plant in Indiana

First battery cars to roll out in early 2011.

by on Jan.05, 2010

Think will launch production of the U.S. version of its City commuter car in early 2011.

Think will launch production of its City commuter car at a new U.S. plant in early 2011.

The small battery car maker, THINK, is heading back to the U.S., and this time, it plans to produce its electric vehicles at an all-new plant going up in Elkhart, Indiana.

THINK, which emerged from bankruptcy protection last year, plans to invest $43 million in the Midwest facility, and hopes to start production of its urban commuter car, the THINK City, during the first quarter of 2011.  When the facility reaches full capacity, in 2013, the maker hopes to be turning out as many as 20,000 battery-electric vehicles, or BEVs, annually.

The schedule is “pretty aggressive,” acknowledged THINK CEO Richard Canny, during an interview with, “but the modular construction of the vehicle lets us get production up and running pretty quickly.  We’ll hit 70% local content by 2013,” he added, suggesting, “it will be local content equal to or higher than many of the Big Three models.”

Founded in Norway, THINK has ridden the proverbial roller-coaster during its two-decade existence.  It was purchased by Ford Motor Company, a decade ago, then sold off as part of the U.S. maker’s back-to-basics strategy.  That led it to abandon the U.S. market, in 2002.  Financial woes forced it into Chapter 11, but with rising industry interest in battery power, new investors came to the rescue last year.  That includes Ener1, Inc., which now owns a 31% stake in the BEV maker.

Ener1’s Indianapolis-based subsidiary, EnerDel, will now provide the new lithium-ion, or LIon, batteries for the THINK City.  That will allow the maker to boost range for the U.S. model to 100 miles, and increase the BEV’s top speed to at least 70 mph.  An imported version of the City will go on sale this year, before the Indiana plant gets up-and-running.

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Initially, Canny said the U.S. version of the THINK City will go for around $30,000, after factoring in a $7,500 federal tax credit.  But he told TheDetroitBureau that his battery costs are expected to drop by at least 7% annually, while other efficiencies will help reduce the cost of the City by 3 to 4%.  The goal, by mid-decade, would be to bring the price of the THINK City down, he said, to “the low-$20,000 range.”


EV Maker THINK Back in Production

First THINK City urban battery cars roll off new line in Finland.

by on Dec.10, 2009

The First THINK City battery cars roll down the line at a new plant in Finland that also produces Porsche Boxsters.

First THINK City cars on the line in Finland.

Struggling to recharge its business after a brush with bankruptcy, the Scandinavian battery car maker, THINK, has resumed production of its little electric two-seater at a new assembly plant in Finland.

The 18-year-old company has struggled for most of its existence.  But company officials – and THINK’s new investors – are betting that the growing demand for high-mileage and alternative fuel vehicles will help turn the company’s fortunes around.

In the near-term, the City will be the key to a turnaround.  There are currently “around 2,300” backorders for the subcompact battery-electric vehicle, THINK reports, the “majority” going to various European municipal governments and utility partners.

Catching up on that backlog will be the responsibility of THINK’s new lead shareholder, Valmet Automotive, best known for running a specialty automotive assembly complex in the tongue-twisting Finish town of Uusikaupunki.  That facility assembles both the Boxster and Cayman, for Porsche, and will next year launch production of the Fisker plug-in hybrid, the Karma.

A separate line today began rolling out the City, with key customers to begin taking delivery before Christmas,says Richard Canny, the maker’s CEO.  “our first priority is to deliver to these customers now that our vehicles are rolling off the production line again. Our next priority is to build on this order book with continued expansion in Europe and around the world.”

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That comment reflects THINK’s long-standing goal of returning to the U.S. market.  In a conversation with, earlier this year, Canny noted his hopes of modifying the current City model to meet American expectations.  Among other things, that will require increasing the little vehicle’s range from around 112 miles to 15, and boosting top speed from 62 miles per hour to 75 mph.

(Click Here for a review of the THINK City battery car.)


Think – Again

Norwegian EV maker exits bankruptcy, resumes operations.

by on Aug.27, 2009

Norwegian battery car maker Think has emerged from bankruptcy and will resume production of its City electric vehicle.

Norwegian battery car maker Think has emerged from bankruptcy and will resume production of its City electric vehicle.

The struggling Norwegian electric vehicle manufacturer, Think, is back in business, with the approval of a Norwegian court allowing it to exit bankruptcy production and resume production of its pint-sized TH!NK City battery car.

While the company continues to look for a potential U.S. production site, it will now partner with the Finnish Valmet Automotive to produce the City at a plant in the town of Uusikaupunki.  That same plant rolls out Boxster and Cayman sports cars for Porsche AG.  Production is scheduled to start sometime during the fourth quarter of the year, according to Think.

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The old Think plant, in Aurskog, Norway, will be closed, impacting 85 jobs.  But the makers headquarters, design and engineering operations will remain in Oslo.

The Norwegian courts gave the go-ahead to a plan that will not only write down Think debt but allow it to add an additional $47 million in capital, which it plans to use, among other things, for the development of future products and improved battery technology.


First Drive: Think City EV

Ready to Plug-n-Play.

by on Mar.25, 2009

Will the little City get American motorists to TH!NK more positively about battery-electric vehicles?

Will the City get American motorists to TH!NK more positively about battery-electric vehicles?

We’ve been reading – and writing – a lot about “electrification,” lately, especially here on  To hear the proponents, everyone from General Motors’ retiring car czar, Bob Lutz, all the way up to President Barack Obama, batteries are the future of the auto industry.

Sure, as our new review of the third-generation Toyota Prius suggests, the hybrid-electric vehicle is quickly coming of age.  The latest gasoline-electric technology is nearly seamless and, for many – though clearly not all – American motorists, hybrids are a sound choice.  We’ll have to wait to see if the even more advanced plug-in hybrids, like Chevrolet’s much-heralded Volt, will be equally enticing.  Certainly, there’s a tremendous appeal to the idea of being able to run your daily commute solely on battery power, while still having a gasoline engine to fall back on should you need to make some detours.

But is there a real future for a car with nothing but a battery and a motor under its hood?  That is, arguably, the ultimate goal of the electrified automobile.  Forget gasoline, diesel, ethanol, used cooking grease, or whatever else you might otherwise need to tank up with.  Simply find a plug, charge up and go.

Reality caught up with concept, back in the early 1980s, when California regulators tried to force the first Zero-Emission Vehicles, or ZEVs, down the throat of a reluctant auto industry and a skeptical public.  Back then, the only way to meet the mandate was with the relatively inefficient batteries of the day, heavy lead-acid packs that hadn’t changed much since the legendary Thomas Edison tried to design a better battery for Henry Ford’s wife, Clara, who preferred her clean electric runabout to Henry’s smoky Model T.

California rescinded the original ZEV mandate in a messy politicized process, though their persistence in promoting clean air and better mileage has encouraged automakers and battery manufacturers alike to keep looking for solutions, and the Nickel-Metal Hydride chemistry used in the Prius and other current hybrids is far more efficient than older lead-acid batteries.  Next up, we’ll be getting cars powered by the same, basic Lithium-Ion, or LIon, technology that we find in most modern cellphones and laptop computers.  If the original GM EV1 had used LIon technology, some estimate it could have gone from 50 miles range to somewhere between 150 to more than 200 per charge.

We’ll soon find out, as an assortment of manufacturers are rushing a new generation of battery-electric vehicles to market.  The Silicon Valley start-up, Tesla Motors, has already weighed in, though its $100,000 Roadster will only find a home with the most affluent of green-minded motorists.  Nissan plans to weigh in, by 2011, with a more mainstream BEV.  And others will follow – many of them non-traditional players, like Tesla, who see an opportunity to enter the normally closed automotive market, and a small wannabe named THINK.


Th!nk Again!

EV maker survives setbacks, looks for U.S. plant site.

by on Mar.13, 2009

Despite a variety of financial setbacks, the Norwegian EV maker, Think, is gearing up to open a U.S. assembly plant for its plastic-bodied battery car.

Despite a variety of financial setbacks, the Norwegian EV maker, Think, is gearing up to open a U.S. assembly plant for its plastic-bodied battery car, the Th!nk City.

By now, most folks might have bet that the long-struggling electric vehicle manufacturer, Think, would have come unplugged.

Yet despite the fact that the Norwegian company is in the Scandinavian equivalent of Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Think is getting ready to set up a U.S. manufacturing facility in one of eight states now under study.

The maker is looking to start marketing to U.S. fleet customers, in 2010, and open up a retail distribution chain a year later, according to CEO Richard Canny.

If some observers remain skeptical, there’s good reason.  In the 17 years Think – or Th!nk, as the company prefers – has been operating in the U.S. market, it has sold a grand total of 2000 electric vehicles.  It’s future seemed bright, a decade ago, when it was acquired by Ford Motor Co.’s hard-charging former chief executive, Jacques Nasser.  But in 2003, following his ouster, Think was sold off as part of Ford’s “back to basics” strategy.