EV maker Think hopes latest rebirth leads to elusive long-term success

Douglas A. Bolduc is News Editor of Automotive News Europe
There is a moment of truth for every Think electric car that is reminiscent of when Dr. Frankenstein awakens his creation, but without all the lightning and negative side effects.

“This is where the car comes to life,” said Karl Turner, project manager for Think's operations in Finland, while explaining how a 244kg (538 pound) sodium-nickel-chloride battery is installed into the City minicar.

After the massive rectangular battery is bolted into the space under the front seats, the City is woken up for the first time by hooking it up to a computer.

It takes about 15 minutes for the computer to run all its checks on the battery to make sure everything is functioning properly.

Then the car is driven for the first time under its own power.

A year ago, it was unclear whether any more units of the Think City would be built. The long road to recovery has brought Think's car production from its factory in Norway to contract manufacturer Valmet Automotive's plant in Uusikaupunki, Finland.

Valmet got the job because it is one of the investors that helped rescue Think from financial peril in 2009 – it was the third time the company nearly collapsed in its 19-year history.

The reinvigorated Think invited journalists to Finland last week to drive the City and see where it is made.

After so many starts and stops, Think's top executives are confident that this time the tiny niche carmaker is ready to flourish. They are bullish because the company has something no one else offers in Europe right now: an EU homologated and crash tested full-electric car that is actually rolling off a production line.

The company also is aggressively marketing its expertise in electric drivetrains. Think already has two potential customers in Japan. This side business could prove to be very lucrative as carmakers and suppliers look to avoid the huge r&d costs to develop their own systems.

The bottom line is that Think has a legitimate product on the road, sought-after know-how and strong partners. It is gaining traction right as the pressure mounts to reduce CO2 emissions in Europe and around the world.

It would be surprising to see Think's latest attempt at success turn into another horror story.